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On Thursday, the All-Star ballot was released. I am old enough to miss the little punch cards you got to fill out at the game, but it’s difficult to argue with the efficiency and expedience of the current ballot. You can fill out a kneejerk, top-of-your-head ballot before the soup you’re eating even cools off.
So let’s give it a try. With the ballot just released, let me fill out my own version. Everybody has their own weird little rules about All-Star ballots -- that’s one of the primary reasons they’re so fun -- and here are mine:
No “on principle” votes. Mike Trout isn’t going to be healthy enough to play in the actual All-Star Game, so I’m not voting for him.
The first half of the season is the most important factor, but not the only one. You want to reward players for being terrific for the first few months of the season, but you also should be careful about putting a journeyman in the All-Star Game just for a brief hot streak.
Star power matters. If Fernando Tatis Jr. and [insert random guy having a good two months] are tied, the tie goes to the guy I want to see on baseball’s biggest stage. Stats matter. But I want to see stars. It’s an All-Star Game.
This is just a ballot for starters. My colleague Mike Petriello, every year (well, every year but last year), does a terrific look at what the roster should look like in total, with the pitchers, reserves and every team accounted for. I’m just voting for starters here.
So: Here’s my ballot, as of this exact second:
American League: Salvador Perez, Royals
National League: Buster Posey, Giants
Who says baseball is a young man’s game? Both of these guys were on the All-Star Game all the way back in 2013. (Other players in the 2013 All-Star Game include Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Brandon Phillips, Allen Craig, Jason Grilli, Edward Mujica, Steve Delabar, Jesse Crain, Brett Cecil, Chris Tillman and Jeff Locke. Oh, and Mariano Rivera.)
Perez is building off his excellent final month of 2020 and, frankly, doesn’t have a ton of competition in his league. The National League is a lot more fun, not least of which because Posey’s main competition might be Yadier Molina, the guy he’s been battling for NL All-Star status for more than a decade now. Though Carson Kelly, J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith and Willson Contreras are also all entirely acceptable picks.
American League: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
National League: Max Muncy, Dodgers
Vlad Jr. is the easiest pick on this entire ballot: He’s got that incredible name and pedigree, he’s a giddy blast to watch and, oh yeah, he’s the best hitter in baseball. This should be just the first of many, many All-Star Games for him.
The National League actually isn’t much more difficult of a pick. In a down year for some of our biggest names, Muncy -- the best hitter on the Dodgers this season by a good margin -- is the easy choice. The only problem is that he isn’t currently playing first base. But that’s where he is on the ballot, so that’s where I’m picking him.
American League: Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
National League: Jazz Chisholm Jr., Marlins
It might seem a little weird to have the whole right side of the infield be players for a fourth-place team, but Semien is having a fantastic first year in Toronto, er, Dunedin, er, Buffalo. It’s tempting to reward Whit Merrifield, but not that tempting.
The National League is a lot tougher, with no real bold-faced names standing out. (It’s a real bummer that Ozzie Albies, whom I instinctively want to vote for, is off to such a wretched start.) There are many players who deserve consideration, though, annoyingly, two of the top ones (Adam Frazier and Ryan McMahon) are on bad teams. Jake Cronenworth and Tommy Edman are worthy picks, but I’m going to go with my heart here: I’m going to take the electrifying young player who, sure, has missed some time so far but is going to be back soon and should get another month of playing time under his belt. I reserve the right to change this if Chisholm struggles over the next month, but when I look at all these guys, he’s the one I want to see.
American League: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
National League: Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
If you don’t think the National League pick is Tatis Jr., I’m not sure we can be friends.
In the American League, this is a bummer of a time for Tim Anderson to not be getting off to a great start: He’d be a killer combo with Tatis Jr. Carlos Correa keeps it close, but the Red Sox have surprised everyone with their start, and Bogaerts is one of the primary reasons why, despite a recent slump.
American League: José Ramírez, Cleveland
National League: Kris Bryant, Cubs
It’s a good thing the Cubs have been playing so well, or we might have ourselves one of those Manny Machado situations, where all anyone wants to talk about at the All-Star Game is when one of the stars is going to get traded. Bryant, clearly, is having a resurgent year at just the right time, just edging out division-rival Nolan Arenado.
Third base is more complicated in the American League, where it’s a three-way race between Yoán Moncada, Rafael Devers and Ramírez. This is where the star power breaks the tie: Ramírez is a perennial MVP candidate and one of the best hitters in baseball for a few years now. But there’s still some movement to be made here, in both leagues, really.
All right, so, lots to unpack here.
First off, yes, Buxton is still on the injured list, but he’s scheduled to start a rehab assignment soon, which means he’ll be back before, say, Trout. Considering Buxton has played half as many games as any other AL outfielder and still leads them all in WAR, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. (Particularly because I love watching him play, too.) Judge is there because he’s playing great and because he’s Judge. And García’s monster May gets him in surprisingly easily, the ultimate “having an amazing first-half player.” The AL is surprisingly thin on alternate options -- Mark Canha? Cedric Mullins? Austin Meadows? Mitch Haniger? Kyle Tucker? -- so García slides through.
Acuña is an obvious pick, an incredible player having a great year who we all need to be watching all the time. Betts hasn’t reached his heights yet this year, but he’s been more than enough to get in as, you know, Mookie Betts. The third spot has a few options, from Trent Grisham to Jesse Winker to Mike Yastrzemski, but Castellanos is having a mammoth year and is always entertaining to watch. It sure does hurt not to put Juan Soto in his first ASG, though.
American League: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
I love J.D. Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera and Yordan Alvarez and especially Yermín Mercedes as much as anyone -- this has to be the most stacked DH ballot in years? -- but seriously, you all better choose Ohtani here.