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These five players surprised us all and became potential All-Stars in 2017

of the Cincinnati Reds against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 1, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Andy Lyons)

Don't look now, but the 2017 MLB All-Star Game is right around the corner. In turn, the most likely participants for the Midsummer Classic have begun to crystallize, thanks in part to their performances on the field, but also based on the support demonstrated in the All-Star fan vote. It's not too uncommon to have a surprise All-Star or two (looking at you, Adam Duvall), but this year's ballot is littered with out-of-nowhere breakouts and career resurrections (and you can still vote for your favorite players here).

Five, in particular, stand out as being especially shocking -- even more so if you consider what their on-field performance looked like last season. Let's take a moment to reflect on the wonderful surprise of these players appearing near the top of All-Star Ballots and humbly accept that you can't predict baseball.
(All projections according to Steamer)
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals
What he did in 2016: .218/.272/.370; -1.3 WAR
What he was projected to do in 2017: .260/.322/.447; 0.6 WAR
What he is actually doing in 2017: .347/.387/.661; 2.1 WAR

Only three active players (David Wright, Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina) have played for the team they debuted with longer than Ryan Zimmerman has been with the Nationals -- this is his 13th season in DC! After nearly a decade of high-end production, injuries sent Zimmerman into a quick decline, as the proverbial Face of the Franchise torch was passed down to younger players like Bryce Harper.
The former Gold Glove, Silver Slugger third baseman was now a first baseman without guaranteed playing time. Or so we thought. Unlike the other four surprise All-Stars on this list, we have seen Zimmerman play at an elite level in the past. But this is new, even for him.

Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds
What he did in 2016: .252/.308/.425; 2.5 WAR
What he was projected to do in 2017: .247/.299/.390; 1.4 WAR
What he is actually doing in 2017: .320/.404/.562; 2.8 WAR
Cozart isn't exactly the new kid on the block. This is his sixth season as the Reds' everyday shortstop, and he's earned a reputation as an elite defensive infielder and a capable, yet unremarkable hitter. Furthermore, trade rumors were swirling around Cozart as the Reds fell out of contention, with him nearly being dealt to Seattle during last year's deadline. Cincinnati surely must be thrilled to have kept him around, as his performance has skyrocketed to new heights in 2017.  

In the golden age of dynamic under-25 shortstops, it's the 31-year-old Cozart who leads the majors in WAR at the position -- not Corey Seager or Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts or Francisco Lindor. Plus, how can you not root for him to start the All-Star Game? Joey Votto will literally buy him a donkey if he makes it!

He was recently placed on the 10-day DL with a strained quad, but his injury shouldn't derail his quest to earn that unusual gift.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
What he did in 2016: .179/.263/.345; -0.3 WAR
What he was projected to do in 2017: .248/.324/.446; 1.2 WAR
What he is actually doing in 2017: .333/.443/.704; 4.5 WAR
It may be difficult to recall what the world was like before Aaron Judge started making major league ballparks look like Little League fields. But, believe it or not, it wasn't that long ago that Judge was a promising, yet entirely unproven player entering his rookie season with relatively modest expectations. Sure, the 6-foot-7, 282-lb Judge has always looked like the ultimate create-a-player from your favorite baseball video game, but we had yet to see his production match his undeniably impressive physical appearance. Fast-forward a few months, and Judge...
1. Is leading the majors in home runs with 24
2. Is leading the majors in WAR by almost a full win
3. Hit both the farthest and hardest hit home runs of the season according to Statcast -- in the same weekend!
4. Has his own cheering section at Yankee Stadium
5. Has made batting practice appointment viewing

  1. Has somehow outdone teammate Gary Sánchez's outrageous 2016 rookie season
    7. Is now the leading vote-getter among AL outfielders. Yes, even ahead of Mike Trout.

All rise.
Honorable mentions: These guys aren't the leading vote-getters at their positions, but they are a whole lot closer than we may have expected back in March.
Starlin Castro, 2B, New York Yankees; 2nd among AL second basemen
What he did in 2016: .270/.300/.433; 1.1 WAR
What he was projected to do in 2017: .224/.313/.407; 0.1 WAR
What he is actually doing in 2017: .322/.359/.507; 1.9 WAR

In his age-27 season -- the mythical prime of a player's career -- Castro has been putting on an absolute show both at the plate and in the field in 2017. He may be overshadowed, both literally and figuratively, by Aaron Judge, but his breakout performance should not be ignored.
Avisaíl García, OF, Chicago White Sox; 5th among AL outfielders
What he did in 2016: .245/.307/.385; 0.5 WAR
What he was projected to do in 2017: .262/.321/.412; 0.3 WAR
What he is actually doing in 2017: .339/.382/.553; 2.5 WAR

While Garcia earned the nickname "Mini Miggy" during his tenure in Detroit for his remarkable likeness to Miguel Cabrera, he has never quite displayed the performance has never quite lived up to such a comparison. But Avi's 2017 has been his most fitting tribute to Miggy yet. Check out how Garcia's season compares to Miguel Cabrera's at the same age:
Garcia: .339/.382/.553
Cabrera: .324/.396/.547
Not a bad impression! What do you think, Miggy?

It remains to be seen how many of these first-half performances will be rewarded with a trip to Miami. But there are few things cooler than a surprise All-Star, and 2017 has offered us more than enough worthy candidates.

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