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5 All-Star underdogs in the NL West

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- The big names headed to this year's Midsummer Classic? You already know them.

But with 68 spots to fill on two rosters, the All-Star Game always features its share of upstarts. They're as much a staple of the event as the superstars.

SAN DIEGO -- The big names headed to this year's Midsummer Classic? You already know them.

But with 68 spots to fill on two rosters, the All-Star Game always features its share of upstarts. They're as much a staple of the event as the superstars.

• VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

That should be especially true in the National League West this season, where a handful of those stars have either struggled (think Cody Bellinger, Evan Longoria, pre-June Paul Goldschmidt) or succumbed to injury (Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Wil Myers).

Sure, Buster Posey and Nolan Arenado are probably headed to D.C. But the NL West could also see a handful of under-the-radar candidates emerge. Here's a look at one from each team.

Video: ARI@SF: Descalso lines a 2-run double to right field

D-backs: Daniel Descalso
The case for him: With the D-backs beset by injuries, Descalso has played all over the diamond, seeing time at third, second, first and left field. (He also pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning during a blowout loss to save the bullpen.)

At the plate, Descalso has been just as versatile, having started games at every position in the batting order but ninth. He owns a career-best 132 OPS+ and has seven homers in 178 plate appearances. He's been big in some clutch spots for the D-backs as well.

Descalso's name isn't on the ballot, and that's just as well. If he keeps up his solid start to the 2018 season and is good enough to earn an All-Star berth, it would only be fitting for him to come off the bench in a utility role.

Video: LAD@PIT: Stripling hurls 5 scoreless vs. the Pirates

Dodgers: Ross Stripling
The case for him: On a pitching staff with Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and even Rookie of the Year Award candidate Walker Buehler, it's Ross Stripling who leads the Dodgers, including position players, in fWAR at 1.9.

Stripling has appeared in 18 games, making seven starts, and he has posted a 1.52 ERA. His pace appears somewhat sustainable, too, as he owns a 1.99 FIP and 66 strikeouts over 53 1/3 innings.

No one questions the star power on the reigning NL champs. But when they struggled to start the season, Stripling's performance in the bullpen went a long way toward keeping them afloat. Now that he's transitioned to the rotation, the Dodgers are making a charge at the division lead.

Video: SF@COL: Watson grabs comebacker turns double play

Giants: Tony Watson
The case for him: Watson has been the steady left-handed presence the Giants so desperately needed at the back end of their bullpen in previous seasons.

He has posted a 2.25 ERA with 31 strikeouts over 28 innings. But perhaps most importantly, he's been a calming presence in a bullpen that's desperately needed one over the past two seasons.

Watson suffered consecutive poor outings in Pittsburgh early last month, but otherwise he's been excellent this year. Watson was an All-Star for Pittsburgh in 2014. Four years later, he might be headed back to the Midsummer Classic.

Video: CIN@SD: Yates earns his 1st save of the year vs. Reds

Padres: Kirby Yates
The case for him: You've probably heard this story before: The Padres claimed a slumping reliever off waivers, then he developed a new pitch and became one of the sport's top arms en route to being named an All-Star. It's precisely what happened to Brad Hand, who took part in the 2017 Midsummer Classic. Yates could soon follow in his footsteps.

Since his arrival in San Diego last April, Yates has developed a devastating splitter, and he's turned into one of the NL's best setup men. In 23 innings this season, Yates has posted a 1.17 ERA and 28 strikeouts.

Hand remains an excellent candidate for an All-Star berth. Now he's got company within his own bullpen.

Video: LAD@COL: LeMahieu hits 4 singles in return from DL

Rockies: DJ LeMahieu
The case for him: Inasmuch as a two-time All-Star and a former batting champ can be under-the-radar, LeMahieu could sneak back into the conversation if he comes back strong from the left-thumb injury that sidelined him for two weeks.

There are early signs that he might. Entering play Thursday, LeMahieu was 7-for-24 since his return. He's got ground to make up -- especially given his somewhat pedestrian 100 wRC+. But LeMahieu has proven himself capable of doing that, and there could be space on the bench at second base.

Strangely enough, LeMahieu's downfall might be his inability to hit at Coors Field. He's posted a .995 OPS on the road this season, which is more than 350 points higher than his home mark of .631.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Daniel Descalso, DJ LeMahieu, Ross Stripling, Tony Watson, Kirby Yates