A competitive All-Star ballot means tough choices

June 14th, 2022

Read our story on the balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters.

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time on my All-Star ballot.

What the players’ stats look like this year is obviously a factor, but it’s hardly the only one. Historic import, past performance, the electricity aspect (who fans actually want to see in this game), idiosyncratic personal preferences -- it all gets thrown into the same big stew. It’s tough. It’s the All-Star Game. You want to get it right.

That said, there are some easy calls. Picking and and : Not difficult. Selecting them does not require a lot of mental energy. Which is good, because on the rest of that ballot … I’m gonna need that energy.

There are a lot of tough decisions up and down the ballot, but to my eye, there are five particularly vexing ones. I’m not sure there’s a “right” answer at any of these five spots. These are the ones agonizing me the most.

NL first baseman

You know, it really wasn’t that long ago that first base in the NL was considered, if not a weak position, at least not a particularly deep one. Now the position is absolutely stacked. First, you have the three-time defending vote winner, , who may be wearing a different uniform but is still one of the best hitters in the NL. You have , the guy who replaced Freeman in Atlanta, a fantastic hitter who has helped the Braves barely miss a beat at the position. You have , who has become the linchpin of the Rockies’ offense. And you could still make an argument that none of those guys is in the top two.

The Mets’ — whom we’ll hopefully see at the Home Run Derby again — leads the NL in homers and RBIs has his team ensconced in first place. And the Cardinals’ , a guy who has started two All-Star Games himself in the past, was the NL Player of the Month for May and is off to one of the best starts of his career. It is understandable if you are paralyzed with indecision here.

NL second baseman

This one has fewer candidates than first base but may be just as difficult. There’s Arizona’s , who got off to a semi-slow start but still stands among the leaders at the position. (And he has started an All-Star Game himself before, back in 2019.) But the two standouts both come from the NL East.

actually leads the Mets in WAR, hitting .320 and standing out as the linchpin of this whole offense; he’s always right in the middle of everything. And over in Miami, is having the breakout offensive season the Marlins have been waiting for, thanks largely to a power surge that has him, improbably, among the home run leaders in the NL. He has remained the electric, exciting player who is already the face of that franchise as well. You can’t go wrong either way. But you have to pick one.

NL shortstop

One of the reasons second base isn’t quite as hard as it could have been is that the Cardinals’ is listed as a shortstop rather than a second baseman, even though he has played second most of this year and won the Gold Glove at second just last year. (He has moved to short to make a spot for slugging phenom Nolan Gorman.) Believe it or not, Edman is actually leading MLB position players in WAR right now, per Baseball-Reference, and his performance further clogs up an already crowded shortstop position.

, remarkably, has never started an All-Star Game before, but he is in many ways the face of this current Mets team. Atlanta’s is having the best year of his career and is really starting to look like the player that was expected when he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. And the Dodgers’ is a star, and not just on your fantasy team. It’s near impossible to pick between any of these guys … and imagine how much more difficult it would be if were healthy.

AL outfielder

Obviously, it’s tough to make an argument against voting for Judge and Trout. But the third spot is a huge struggle. Is it the Twins’ , who looked like he’d be a clear third pick before hitting a May slump — one that now appears to be over after his AL Player of the Week honor? How about , who, as it turns out, has been the best player on that Blue Jays team? ? He has helped give Cleveland its deepest lineup in years. Oh, and there’s also this: has mostly been healthy, and the results have followed accordingly. And don’t forget that the Angels’ Taylor Ward has the best numbers of all of them … including Judge and Trout!

AL designated hitter

To be honest, there is a small part of me that just wants to vote for  and not think about it too much. Who doesn’t want to see him in the All-Star Game again? But that would be a huge disservice to two DHs having fantastic years. Boston’s J.D. Martinez has rediscovered his stroke and is once again one of the most terrifying bats in the league. But Houston’s  remains an absolute monster. It’s possible that we underrated how incredible he is simply because he’s a DH, but we shouldn’t: There are few players opposing pitchers fear more. The days of simply checking “David Ortiz” in this spot and moving on are long over.

See, just writing this stressed me out even more. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back and stare at my ballot for another hour.