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Decisions loom as All-Star voting nears end

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Only one player is going to start at first base for the National League All-Star Team. I'm certain of this because I checked with headquarters just moments ago.

Same thing at third base. One position, one player. Actually makes a ton of sense if you think it through.

Only one player is going to start at first base for the National League All-Star Team. I'm certain of this because I checked with headquarters just moments ago.

Same thing at third base. One position, one player. Actually makes a ton of sense if you think it through.

So even if you feel strongly that Eric Hosmer and Justin Smoak have both earned the right to be the American League's starting first baseman -- and they have -- it won't happen.

People will be watching. You know what that means, right? We have to decide. That is, all of us. You can fill out an Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday. The All-Star Game will be presented by Mastercard on July 11 at Marlins Park.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Smoak, Hosmer and other #ASGWorthy players

Even with some of these races ridiculously close, and more than one player performing at a high level, it's still going to come down to one starter. That's where I come in. I'm here to help. Or more specifically, to serve as the final arbiter in the closest races.

Here goes:

NL FIRST BASE

Ryan Zimmerman vs. Anthony Rizzo vs. Paul Goldschmidt

Zimmerman has a small advantage over Rizzo in voting and a 500,000 advantage in the polls over Goldschmidt as we head into the final countdown. Goldschmidt and Zimmerman are first and second in the NL in OPS, and they're separated by .004.

Goldschmidt leads all NL players in Wins Above Replacement (4.0) while Zimmerman leads the NL with a .350 batting average. So good luck with this decision.

We give the slightest advantage to Goldschmidt, who has more hits than Zimmerman (91-89) and more walks and RBIs. Zimmerman has more doubles and home runs.

Video: ARI@COL: Goldy cranks a three-run homer to right

No race is closer than this one. (Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger isn't on the ballot, but is certain to end up in South Florida.)

Nod: Goldschmidt.

NL THIRD BASE

Kris Bryant vs. Nolan Arenado 

Bryant has a microscopic 58,000 advantage over Arenado. That's how close this race should be. Justin Turner and Anthony Rendon may have better numbers than either Bryant or Arenado, and Jake Lamb of the D-backs leads all NL third basemen in home runs and RBIs. But those three are more than 800,000 votes behind the leaders.

Bryant has a slightly higher OPS than Arenado and one more home run. Arenado has a big lead in RBIs and doubles. Defensively, Arenado may be the best in the National League.

Nod: Arenado.

Video: ARI@COL: Arenado barehands Ahmed's grounder for out

NL OUTFIELD

Marcell Ozuna vs. Jason Heyward vs. Ben Zobrist vs. Giancarlo Stanton vs. Matt Kemp

These five are separated by just over 200,000 votes for the third and final NL starting spot. While Stanton is one of the game's iconic figures and would have a sweet, deserving moment in his home ballpark, his teammate has had a better season.

Ozuna is second among NL outfielders in WAR and has a higher OPS than the other four. Ozuna and Stanton have 20 homers apiece. Ozuna has a slight lead in RBIs and walks. Ozuna has had a better defensive season.

Nod: Ozuna.

Video: Ozuna's 20 long balls leads Marlins in first half

NL SHORTSTOP

Zack Cozart vs. Corey Seager

This is a true All-Star quandary. Seager, 23, is one of the 10 best players in the NL and seemingly on his way to multiple All-Star appearances and face-of-the-game status.

Cozart, 31, has long been respected as one of the game's true pros and defensive craftsmen, and his seventh season has seen a stunning offensive turnaround.

Seager has a higher WAR among NL shortstops (3.2-2.8), but Cozart has a higher OPS, OBP and batting average. Seager has more home runs, doubles, walks and RBIs.

Nod: Cozart.

Video: ATL@CIN: Cozart triples in a pair in the 4th

AL FIRST BASE

Hosmer vs. Smoak

Hosmer's lead is just under 72,000 heading into the stretch run, with Yonder Alonso and Miguel Cabrera within striking range. Smoak has a significantly higher WAR, OBP and OPS. He also has more home runs and RBIs. Hosmer has more doubles. In a season when Hosmer has been his usual steady self and could very well lead the Royals to their third playoff appearance in four seasons. In this case, though, the case for Smoak is easier to make.

Nod: Smoak.

Video: Smoak has had a sizzling first half of 2017

AL DH

Nelson Cruz vs. Corey Dickerson

Cruz is 36 and a four-time All-Star who is approaching his 300th career home run. He has been one of baseball's most consistent offensive producers. Dickerson's fifth season has been a nice breakthrough with solid numbers across the board.

Cruz leads by almost 100,000 votes, but Dickerson has more homers, doubles and a higher OPS. Cruz has a big lead in RBIs, but Dickerson's bottom line is just slightly better.

Nod: Dickerson.

Video: BAL@TB: Dickerson knocks a two-run jack to right

AL THIRD BASEMEN

Miguel Sano vs. Jose Ramirez

This is a good one. Both players are 24, and that's where the similarities end. Sano has been one of baseball's most highly regarded prospects for the last five years. His fifth season has been the breakthrough people have been expecting.

Ramirez has been a guy just trying to prove he belonged, and last season he did more than that in helping the Indians make the playoffs. As manager Terry Francona said, "He basically saved our butts."

Sano leads by 209,000 votes and has a higher OPS, more home runs and RBIs. Ramirez has a higher batting average, but Sano has a slightly higher OBP.

Nod: Sano.

Video: CWS@MIN: Sano drills a two-run homer to center

Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

The Esurance All-Star Selection Show will take place on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Following the unveiling of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 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 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.