Here's a crazy -- but defensible -- All-Star ballot

June 15th, 2022

The MLB All-Star ballot is out. Let's find some sleepers.

There's always Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. But what about the rest of the candidates?

There are plenty of interesting names on the ballot this year -- including some you might not even think about. It's time to find some of those less obvious All-Star candidates at each position, and make their case.

Here's a crazy -- but defensible -- 2022 All-Star ballot.

(Stats are through Monday's games.)


AL: Ji-Man Choi, Rays

No AL first baseman has been better at hitting with runners in scoring position than Choi, whose .422 batting average in those situations ranks third in the league overall, regardless of position. Choi is 19-for-45 with 26 RBIs when batting with runners in scoring position, and he has a 1.118 OPS.

NL: Joey Votto, Reds

The Joey Votto who returned to the Reds on May 20 is a whole new hitter from the one who struggled early in the season. Votto has a .282/.404/.615 slash line, 1.020 OPS and 15 walks to 16 strikeouts since then. He's also been the best hitter in the NL this season in high-leverage situations, with a league-leading 1.319 OPS in those spots.


AL: Santiago Espinal, Blue Jays

Espinal has continued to hit in 2022, batting .290 with a 124 OPS+. But it's his fielding versatility that makes him the key to the Blue Jays' defensive alignments -- Espinal is the one who plays as the fourth outfielder in Toronto's four-man outfield shifts, which they're employing more than any team in history (7% of their total plate appearances) against the top sluggers they face.

NL: Nolan Gorman, Cardinals

Gorman hasn't been in the big leagues long, but the 22-year-old top prospect is already slugging, with a 133 OPS+ and some elite contact quality. A third of the balls he's hit have been both hard-hit (95-plus mph) and in the launch angle sweet spot (8-32 degrees), third-best in the Majors since his debut.


AL: Bobby Witt Jr., Royals

Not only is Witt starting to show his power, with eight homers since the beginning of May, but he's the fastest player in the league. Witt leads the Majors with a 30.4 ft/sec sprint speed -- anything 30 or higher is elite -- and he's reached that elite 30 ft/sec threshold on 45 different runs this season. That power-speed combo is what makes the 22-year-old rookie so exciting.

NL: Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pirates

Hayes is just a very well-rounded third baseman. He ranks in the 85th percentile of MLB or better in hard-hit rate (49.4%), average exit velocity (91.8 mph) and expected batting average (.295); in the 70th percentile or better in swing-and-miss rate (20.0%), chase rate (24.7%), walk rate (10.7%) and sprint speed (28.1 ft/sec); and in the 96th percentile in Outs Above Average (+5, right next to Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado). That's hitting, speed and defense.


AL: Carlos Correa, Twins

Remember when Correa was hitting below the Mendoza Line? Didn't think so. He's up over .300 for the season now, as he's batting .384 with a 1.031 OPS over his last 110 plate appearances. Correa is also at his best against strong competition -- he leads the league with a 1.099 OPS against teams with a winning record and is batting .413 against those opponents.

NL: Willy Adames, Brewers

The National League shortstop position has been extremely low on power this season. Adames leads NL shortstops with 11 home runs, the only one in double digits, and he's also playing great defense, with +5 Outs Above Average, one behind the Major League leaders at his position.


AL: Jonah Heim, Rangers

Heim has been good enough with the bat (117 OPS+), but what makes him stand out is his pitch framing. He's been the best framing catcher in baseball this season, saving his pitchers +4 runs from extra strikes, thanks to getting called strikes on an MLB-best 52.1% of borderline pitches.

NL: William Contreras, Braves

Yes, the other Contreras. Willson gets most of the attention, but William has been red-hot since he came up at the end of April. The 24-year-old is batting .292 with a .674 slugging percentage, 1.050 OPS and nine homers in 27 games this season. His 183 OPS+ is easily the best among catchers with 100 or more plate appearances, ahead of his brother's 152. Contreras is actually listed on the All-Star ballot at DH, but he's played twice as many games at catcher, so we're writing him in there.


AL: Julio Rodríguez, Mariners

The other star prospect to debut on Opening Day along with Witt, Rodríguez is just as electric. He has eight home runs and a Major League-leading 17 stolen bases this season, thanks to a top-10 sprint speed (29.7 ft/sec) and 31 Bolts (individual runs at elite 30-plus sprint speeds), the most among outfielders.

AL: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees

Stanton might be the most dangerous hitter in the league in any given at-bat. He just hit the hardest home run of the season -- 119.8 mph, 2 mph harder than any other homer -- and has five of the six hardest-hit balls in baseball this year, and he's a threat to hit a rocket like that every time he steps to the plate. His teammate Aaron Judge is the MVP frontrunner, but Stanton has 13 homers and a 150 OPS+ himself, and if you want to see a jaw-dropping home run in the All-Star Game, he's as good a bet as any hitter.

AL: Austin Hays, Orioles

Hays has been really good for the Orioles this year (.293 average, 132 OPS+), and especially good in the clutch. His +2.05 Win Probability Added ranks fifth among AL outfielders, and if you just tally up the plays where he's made a positive impact toward Baltimore winning, he has the third-highest total (+6.15). His Clutch score, per FanGraphs, which looks at how much better he hits in clutch situations, is third-best. Hays has a 1.079 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position, a 1.110 OPS in late-and-close game situations and an 1.119 OPS in high-leverage situations, per Baseball Reference.

NL: Joc Pederson, Giants

Joc just helps the Giants win games. Not only does he have 13 homers and a 148 OPS+, no National League outfielder has a higher Win Probability Added this season than Pederson with his +1.94 WPA. He's batting .414 with a 1.227 OPS in high-leverage situations, best among NL outfielders. No game encapsulates what he's done better than his three-homer, eight-RBI, multiple-game-tying-hit performance in San Francisco's 13-12 walk-off win over the Mets on May 24.

NL: Juan Soto, Nationals

Normally Soto for the All-Star team is the farthest thing from crazy. But he's batting .228 this season. Well, for one thing, no one wants to pitch to him. He leads the Majors with 52 walks (vs. only 43 strikeouts), and he's seeing only 45% of pitches in the strike zone, one of the lowest rates in the league. Even so, he's a great hitter, with his discipline and power (13 homers) helping him produce a 141 OPS+ so far. And he's still making top-tier contact quality, he's just way underperforming his expected stats. Soto's expected wOBA of .417, Statcast's overall metric for offensive performance, is top-10 in the Majors.

NL: Mark Canha, Mets

Canha has turned out to be a great value signing for the Mets, batting .299 with a .375 on-base percentage and 123 OPS+ so far. He's rock-steady when it counts, batting .340 with runners in scoring position and .357 with two outs and runners in scoring position, as the Mets' contact-heavy offense has them in first place in the NL East.


AL: Shohei Ohtani, Angels

Ohtani hasn't reached his MVP level yet, but he still has 13 home runs and a 130 OPS+ as a hitter and a 3.64 ERA and 11.8 K/9 as a pitcher. Ohtani's the only All-Star you could start at DH against the NL's top ace and then move to the mound to throw an inning against its best hitters.

NL: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

OK, this one's for the narrative. Who wouldn't want to see Pujols crush a home run representing the Cardinals in one final All-Star Game? It doesn't always have to be about the numbers.