The cult hero All-Star Game ballot 

June 26th, 2022
Deisgn by Tom Forget

When the most recent All-Star Game voting updates came in earlier this week, there were a few surprises.

The Yankees and Mets -- who are often accused of soaking up all the media attention thanks to their plum location in New York City -- combined for just one player in the starting lineup between them.

If not for Bryce Harper, the Contreras brothers -- Willson of the Cubs and rookie William of the Braves -- would be in as All-Star Game starters. According to Elias, it would be the first time that two brothers were in the All-Star Game together since Aaron and Bret Boone pulled it off in 2003 and the first pair of brothers starting in the game together since Sandy Alomar and Roberto Alomar Jr. did it in 1992.

And then there's Canada, an entire country which has seemingly united behind the Blue Jays lineup. If the game was held today, four Jays would be in the starting lineup. That includes Alejandro Kirk, who is third in voting among all AL position players. Now, Kirk is certainly deserving, but thanks to his unique skillset and husky frame, he holds a beloved cult status among fans.

That got us thinking: What if we made a lineup for each league with the player's cherished status among fans as the No. 1 criteria for All-Star inclusion? Let's take a look.

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

C: Alejandro Kirk - Blue Jays

The voters definitely got this one right. Kirk not only leads all catchers in FanGraphs WAR, batting average and is third in OPS, but he is one of the most beloved players because, well, he doesn't look like most players. Kirk stands only 5-foot-8 -- practically a normal person's height -- and is one of the beefier dudes in the league.

Being a beloved fan favorite isn't a new thing for him, either. Kirk has had the cult player tag on him since he was in the Minors.

1B: Luis Arraez - Twins

Entering Friday's action, Major League batters were hitting just .242 -- the lowest average since 1968, when the mound was then lowered.

Fortunately, there's someone like Arraez. Unlike the hulking sluggers that usually man first base, the Twins first baseman is more like the Tony Gwynn of the infield, forever flicking his bat out and lacing hard-hit grounders through the hole or dropping base hits over the infielder's head. He is leading the league with a .355 batting average and may win the batting title this year, all without reaching double digits in home runs. With apologies to former 34th round pick Ty France, there is only one answer here.

2B: Andrés Giménez - Guardians

In a world of giants, Giménez stands out as a positively throwback middle infielder. Standing just 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 161 pounds, you'd understand if the Guardians shortstop couldn't hit much. Brought to Cleveland as part of the return in the Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco trade, Giménez hit just .218 across 68 big league games.

He's transformed this season. Giménez is hitting .304, has blasted seven home runs, is slugging just a few points under .500, and he's swiped five bases. That the Guardians have surprised as a potential postseason team this year is thanks in large part to Giménez's breakout.

SS: Jeremy Peña - Astros

Forget that he's a rookie -- one with a 129 OPS+. Forget that he's the son of former big leaguer Gerónimo Peña, too. Instead, look at him as the great hope for all New England baseball fans. Peña is the first player from the University of Maine to reach the Majors since Mark Sweeney and Larry Thomas made their debut back in 1995. Peña would also join Mike Bordick as only the second Black Bear (check out their logo -- it's sick) to play in the All-Star Game.

3B: José Ramírez - Guardians

He may be a three-time top-three MVP Award finisher with a good chance of taking home the award this year, but more importantly: What other player has worn a chain of himself wearing a chain? This necklace alone is better than "Inception."

He didn't stop there, either. Now he's rocking his own T-shirt, too.

OF: Anthony Santander - Orioles

How could you leave Santander off the All-Star Game roster when he's one of the O's best hitters and -- more importantly -- is an absolute superstar in the U.K.? Don't you want baseball to grow internationally?

OF: Taylor Ward - Angels

Since Mike Trout won't make it onto our list -- this is for cult players, not guaranteed future Hall of Famers, after all -- why not pick the other Angels outfielder who is putting up positively Troutian numbers?

Ward entered the season with a career .693 OPS, but after retooling his swing in the offseason, the 28-year-old Ward is in the midst of a breakout season. His OPS is 150 points higher than Shohei Ohtani's and only 50 points behind Trout -- all the while getting mixed up with Tyler Wade on a near-daily basis.

OF: Brett Phillips - Rays

Sure, he may not be hitting much this year, but Phillips is the rare position player pitcher we don't change the channel for. He's got a smile that lights up a clubhouse and a laugh that empties it out. He'll happily take the field or simply help coach the team from the dugout.

Oh yeah, he can play, too. According to Baseball Savant, he's been the best defensive outfielder in baseball this season.

DH: Shohei Ohtani - Angels

He's literally a one-man wrecking crew for the Angels. Just this week he hit two home runs and drove in 8 runs in one game, then followed that up with a career-high 13 strikeouts the very next evening. That's not just All-Star level play, that's the kind of performance we've never seen from anyone at anytime in the sport ever. The All-Star Game could just be Shohei Ohtani wandering around a baseball field all by himself and I'd tune in.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

C: Daulton Varsho - D-backs

How many catchers/center fielders can you name? Your list probably starts and stops with Craig Biggio, right? Well, Biggio never played more than 34 games in center field in a season that he also played catcher, while Varsho is basically splitting his time equally between the two positions. Considering how much defensive work each requires, it's remarkable that Varsho is also putting up some solid numbers at the dish, too.

1B: Joey Votto - Reds

Votto's numbers may not be where he or the Reds want, but there is no one who approaches his plate appearances more like an artist at the canvas or a sculptor before his clay than Votto. Plus, what other ballplayer out there shows off his chess moves on Instagram and even does TikTok dances with fans before games? Votto is an international treasure and we must honor him anytime the moment presents itself.

2B: Jazz Chisholm Jr. - Marlins

You mean to tell me there's a Euro-stepping, home run hitting, hyper-athletic second baseman out there? One who rocks purple cleats and batting gloves and dyes his hair blue? One who wears amazing chains, including one featuring himself leaping to catch a line drive as the J in his initials? What a time to be a baseball fan.

SS: Tommy Edman - Cardinals

Leave it to the Cardinals. Somehow, St. Louis has remained a near-constant contender despite having to swap out shortstops every few years. Remember Aledmys Díaz (2016 All-Star) or Paul DeJong (2019 All-Star)? Well, after DeJong was sent down to Triple-A earlier this year, the club slid Edman over from second base -- where he won the Gold Glove last season. Now he is leading the National League in Outs Above Average as a shortstop.

3B: Jon Berti - Marlins

You want more stolen bases? Berti is your guy -- and he's not even waiting around for a new pitch clock. The Marlins super-utility player has stolen a league-leading 21 bases despite coming to the plate just 154 times. Once he's on base, he's basically a flashing light saying "I'm going to steal second" and pitchers are helpless to stop him.

OF: Joc Pederson - Giants

How many other players have a pearl necklace on display at the Hall of Fame? Exactly, none. While Pederson's come up with a number of big hits this season, nothing he's done on the field could top the moment when he found himself in the heart of the biggest -- and strangest -- fantasy football story in baseball history.

OF: Mike Yastrzemki - Giants

Despite his famous last name, Yastrzemski was a 14th-round Draft pick. He never became a Top 100 prospect, and he didn't even make his big league debut until he was 28 years old. Since then, he's shown off some of the best all-around skills in the sport, with power, defense, and a tremendous batter's eye. And yet, somehow, he's never played in the All-Star Game.

He may not catch his grandfather, who played in 18 of them, but hopefully this year he'll get to make his debut.

OF: Yadiel Hernández - Nationals

Hernández is one of the very best pure hitters in the game. A member of the Cuban National Team and a star for Cocodrilos de Matanzas in the Cuban league, Hernández didn't begin playing in the United States until he was 29 years old and didn't reach the big leagues until he was 32 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Though he's cooled down from earlier this year when he was in the running for the NL batting title, Hernández' bat and unique career arc make him worthy of a spot on our cult hero's ballot.

DH: Daniel Vogelbach - Pirates

Out of all the things that made our jaw drop this season, the biggest arguably came on Opening Day when the beefy dinger-crushing Vogelbach found himself leading off for the Pirates. It wasn't a one-time thing, either: Vogelbach did that 12 times this season!

If you like big dudes taking big hacks to crush monster home runs, well, there simply is no other answer than Vogelbach. I mean, the dude's swing straight up looks like Babe Ruth's! And wouldn't you want to put Babe Ruth in the All-Star Game?