You might have noticed the All-Star ballot has launched later than in recent years, and this is a welcomed change for those of us who prefer this part of the polling not be merely a celebration of awesome Aprils but rather a representative of a bigger, more statistically stable picture.
• VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot
The later release has allowed for teams to adjust their positional offerings to account for the realities presented by injuries and the unexpected, and it has allowed us discerning voters a little more time to properly evaluate our options.
Now that the MLB.com ballot is open for business online and on your mobile devices (fans can vote for All-Star starters up to 35 times, including a maximum of five ballots cast in any 24-hour period), there is plenty to consider among the candidates. We'll have ample opportunity in the coming weeks to really dig into the nitty gritty of who is most deserving at which spot for the July 17 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park, and which guys maybe aren't getting the kind of love their seasons merit.
But for right now, in this first flash of voting, here's a look at 10 players on the ballot who have never been All-Stars but stand a decent shot this time around.
Francisco Cervelli (Pirates), National League catcher
There are equally strong statistical arguments to be made for fellow would-be first-timers J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins and Willson Contreras of the Cubs to potentially unseat Buster Posey here, but Cervelli sticks out as a 32-year-old who has long been considered a dependable defensive catcher and suddenly made an offensive leap here in 2018. He's turned in an OPS (.936) well north of his career norm (.747) by drastically cutting down on ground balls and increasing his percentage of fly balls, and he's a big reason why the Buccos are surprisingly above .500.
Video: SF@PIT: Cervelli hits go-ahead 2-run homer in the 6th
Mitch Moreland (Red Sox), American League first base
The AL's first-base ballot isn't exactly overflowing with deserving candidates, and Moreland only became the Sox's regular starter at first when Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment. But the 32-year-old Moreland does have a .302/.368/.612 slash through 41 games, so he's worth a look in a weak field overall.
Ozzie Albies (Braves), NL second base
Where did the Braves come from? And where did this kid come from? Not that Albies didn't give us a window into his talent at the tail end of 2017, but his power production has been a real revelation this season. A guy who homered just 16 times in 390 career Minor League games has cranked out one of the highest extra-base hit totals in the big leagues. There are other NL second basemen with equally strong statistical arguments. The Reds' Scooter Gennett is off to a sizzling start and has never been an All-Star, and two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera of the Mets is playing well. But Albies has been one of the best stories on one of baseball's biggest surprise squads, and that's what the All-Star Game ought to represent.
Gleyber Torres (Yankees) and/or Jed Lowrie (A's), AL second base
A certain reigning AL MVP lords over this position, but if for some reason you don't vote for Jose Altuve, either of these guys has a compelling case -- even though they are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of career arcs. Torres is the hot young prospect who has performed miles beyond his experience and made a big impact in a small sample, earning AL Player of the Week honors last week. Lowrie is a 34-year-old who has bounced around with a few different clubs and generally struggled to stay healthy enough to build on a solid offensive profile. But this year he's given the A's a big boost with his .299/.362/.493 slash line.
Video: OAK@SEA: Lowrie belts a game-tying 2-run jack in 8th
Trea Turner (Nationals), NL shortstop
Whereas the AL shortstop field is overloaded with quality candidates, the NL side is still waiting for somebody to step up, especially with Corey Seager and Paul DeJong on the shelf. Turner right now has as good a case as anybody, especially with the All-Star Game taking place in his Major League "hometown." He's given the Nats speed and defense and, perhaps most importantly, health. Beyond Turner, other first-timers like Chris Taylor (who replaced Seager on the ballot) and Trevor Story offer arguments.
Video: WSH@MIA: Turner plates Severino with a double
Eugenio Suarez (Reds), NL third base
It's hard to imagine Suarez outpacing either Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado in the vote totals, but he's hanging with them statistically. Suarez missed some time early in the year with a fractured thumb, but that hasn't disrupted him from building off his 2017 breakout with a .982 OPS and NL-high 43 RBIs in his first 40 games this year.
The Brewers' Travis Shaw is another guy searching for his first All-Star appearance at this position while powering the Brew Crew to the top of the NL Central standings.
Nick Markakis (Braves) and Tommy Pham (Cardinals), NL outfield
Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge simply aren't going to offer much room for opportunity for the likes of Mitch Haniger, Nomar Mazara and Andrew Benintendi to get voted into their first All-Star Game (there's always the bench, fellas). But in the NL, even when we assume Bryce Harper seals a spot on his home turf, the door could be open for these dudes. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN pointed out that Markakis is about to become the first player since World War II to have 2,000 career hits, 400 doubles and 1,000 runs (he was at 999 entering Friday) without making an All-Star team. But in a 2018 season in which the 34-year-old is on pace for his highest homer total in a decade while getting on base at north of a .400 clip, he's due for a boost at the online ballot box.
Video: PHI@ATL: Markakis hits walk-off three-run shot in 9th
And while Pham isn't quite up to the standard of his unexpected .306/.411/.520 slash in a breakout 2017, his standout stats over the last calendar year are worth rewarding. Pham, who is slashing .269/.368/.469 this season, came up too late to catch up in the All-Star bidding a year ago, so this would be an overdue honor.
Video: CHC@STL: Pham launches a 3-run moonshot to left
Shohei Ohtani (Angels), AL designated hitter
This … could get interesting. By rights, this spot should go to J.D. Martinez, who had more than 100 more at-bats and better numbers (1.030 OPS) than Ohtani (.929 OPS) as of Thursday. But if you're so swept up in the Shohei circus that you can't stop yourself from voting for him and keeping the dream of him both hitting and pitching in the Midsummer Classic alive, well, who could really blame you?
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. 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, DC, 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, please 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.