The top spots in the National League are unchanged in the latest 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star ballot update released Monday. But the races at catcher and second base, in particular, are much too close for comfort.
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With 2 1/2 weeks remaining before the July 5 conclusion of balloting for the starting spots in the 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, to be played on Tuesday, July 17, at Nationals Park in Washington., it's a three-way battle both at second base with the Braves' Ozzie Albies, the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Reds' Scooter Gennett at second and at backstop with the Giants' Buster Posey, the Cubs' Willson Contreras and the Braves' Kurt Suzuki.
The reborn Braves, one of baseball's biggest and best surprises in the first half of the season, continue to lead all NL clubs with three players in position to start the Midsummer Classic. And first baseman Freddie Freeman remains the leading vote-getter among all NL players.
Here are the latest NL totals:
Video: PHI@SF: Posey homers over the left-field wall
1. Buster Posey, Giants: 686,253
2. Willson Contreras, Cubs: 596,111
3. Kurt Suzuki, Braves: 557,692
4. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 366,271
5. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers: 333,549
Posey's still on pace to make his fourth straight start behind the dish for the NL. But Contreras, who entered the week with a higher OPS (.803 to .773), is within about 90,000 votes, with Suzuki fewer than 40,000 votes behind Contreras. Grandal is a new addition to the top five, bumping the Pirates' Francisco Cervelli from the leaders.
Video: SD@ATL: Freeman clubs a solo jack to left-center
1. Freddie Freeman, Braves: 1,433,140 votes
2. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 566,382
3. Brandon Belt, Giants: 363,361
4. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers: 294,418
5. Joey Votto, Reds: 189,364
Freeman is well out in front here, and more than a quarter of a million votes ahead of the next-highest vote-getter in the NL. It's a well-deserved standing for one of the game's most consistent hitters. Freeman hasn't been an All-Star since 2014, and he's never started the game. But he entered the week leading the league with a .427 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage and ranked second with a .337 batting average to put himself in the early MVP conversation. The rest of the top five here is unchanged from last week.
Video: NYM@ATL: Albies launches a grand slam for his 16th HR
1. Ozzie Albies, Braves: 915,736
2. Javier Baez, Cubs: 767,417
3. Scooter Gennett, Reds: 743,979
4. Joe Panik, Giants: 194,634
5. Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets: 173,567
Panik pushed past Cabrera, but that's the only change here. It remains a three-way race between three fascinating players. Albies has taken the league by storm in his sophomore year, entering the week with the league's highest extra-base-hit total (39). Baez has come into his own as a more consistent power producer (.514 SLG) to go with his dynamic defensive presence. But neither guy has outpaced Gennett's .909 OPS.
Video: SF@LAD: Crawford makes smooth pick on sharp grounder
1. Brandon Crawford, Giants: 1,120,031
2. Dansby Swanson, Braves: 568,400
3. Addison Russell, Cubs: 475,091
4. Trevor Story, Rockies: 315,532
5. Trea Turner, Nationals: 279,071
No changes here. Story has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball in June (.365 average, 1.071 OPS) but remains a distant fourth. The only thing stopping Crawford in the midst of his best offensive season (.315/.370/.492 slash line) was a brief paternity-leave break.
Video: COL@PHI: Arenado makes a great diving stop at third
1. Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 1,124,563
2. Kris Bryant, Cubs: 677,185
3. Johan Camargo, Braves: 395,389
4. Eugenio Suarez, Reds: 228,806
5. Evan Longoria, Giants; 221,100
Longoria bumped Justin Turner from the No. 5 spot this week, though his broken hand and subsequent surgery that will cost him up to two months is bound to impact his vote total moving forward. Anyway, the story here remains Arenado's march toward his second straight start. He's having a typically outstanding season, with a .310/.401/.551 slash line.
Video: SD@ATL: Markakis dives for stellar game-ending catch
1. Nick Markakis, Braves: 1,173,653
2. Bryce Harper, Nationals: 1,002,696
3. Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 925,697
4. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies: 678,831
5. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves: 617,151
6. Ender Inciarte, Braves: 528,943
7. Jason Heyward, Cubs: 447,359
8. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs: 442,471
9. Ben Zobrist, Cubs: 434,943
10. Christian Yelich, Brewers: 364,286
11. Corey Dickerson, Pirates: 313,558
12. Odubel Herrera, Phillies: 263,903
13. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers: 242,827
14. Andrew McCutchen, Giants: 241,652
15. Matt Adams, Nationals: 237,165
Markakis is one of the best stories on this ballot. In 13 seasons, he's played north of 1,900 games, logged more than 2,100 hits, driven in more than 900 runs, scored more than 1,000 runs and drawn nearly 800 walks, but he's never been an All-Star. Not only is he on track to change that with a power resurgence in his age-34 season, but he's now overtaken Harper as the leading outfield vote-getter. But Harper is still on track to start in his Washington "hometown," and Kemp's comeback season continues to garner love at the online ballot box. The only other change of note here is McCutchen joining the top 15, bumping the injured A.J. Pollock, but it's going to be hard to catch Markakis, Harper and Kemp.
Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot until Thursday, July 5, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark mobile apps. Each fan can vote up to five times in any 24-hour period, for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.
Following the announcement of this year's All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Final Vote for the final player on each league's roster. Then on Tuesday, July 17, while watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.