Vote totals from the 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot have been pouring in, and with about two weeks left in the process (voting wraps at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 5), it's really hard to find much statistically based fault with the fan choices, so far. There's still a lot that can happen between now and the July 17 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, but right now the decisions largely rate as defensible.
But that doesn't mean there aren't still guys getting shorted. Each week, the top five vote-getters at each position (top 15 in the outfield) are announced, and it's always interesting to see which names are, or are not, getting traction. And of course, it's unavoidable that every year there are guys who aren't even listed on the ballot, but are making strong All-Star cases.
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So here's a squad of guys who have not yet been listed as "finalists," so to speak, in the fan voting, but who are having really, really good years. This is the All-Overlooked Team.
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
The Pirates' Francisco Cervelli is also deserving here, but at least Cervelli was in the top five in the first ballot update before getting bumped this week. Realmuto hasn't even sniffed that kind of love, despite a .300/.360/.532 slash line. He missed the first few weeks of the season with a bone bruise, but he has been mashing since his return, taking his power production to a new level.
Voters apparently haven't noticed, but you can bet teams that might bid on Realmuto's services before the Trade Deadline have definitely noticed.
First base: Jose Martinez, Cardinals
The top five vote-getters in the NL at first base are Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Belt, Cody Bellinger and Joey Votto, and that's an awful lot of name-recognition for someone like Martinez to contend with (and Freeman's runaway vote total is very much deserved). But Martinez has effectively proved his .897 OPS in 307 plate appearances as a 28-year-old rookie last year was no fluke. Among all Major League first basemen, only Freeman and Belt have higher weighted runs created plus (wRC+) marks than Martinez's 144.
Shoutout, also, to the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar, who has been a revelation, with a .292/.355/.557 slash line that makes Craig Counsell's daily lineup decisions all the more difficult now that Eric Thames (who is on the ballot ahead of Aguilar) is back in action.
Second base: Whit Merrifield, Royals
Remember two years back, when Royals fans were so enthusiastically supportive of the then-defending champs that they had Omar Infante among the American League finalists at second base even though he was designated for assignment? It's a lot different these days, as Merrifield is putting together a really positive campaign -- .293/.370/.421 slash line, 2.0 Baseball Reference-calculated Wins Above Replacement -- in relative anonymity. He's not producing as much power as he did a year ago, but this is still a really solid player not many people are paying attention to.
Cesar Hernandez, who is giving the Phillies above-average production at second for the third straight year, also merits mentioning here.
Shortstop: Eduardo Escobar, Twins
The fact that Andrelton Simmons got bumped out of the top five this week shows how deep the AL shortstop ranks are. We could go with Simmons here, even though he was in the top five a week ago. Or Xander Bogaerts, who is having a good year on a great Red Sox team. Or Daniel Robertson, whose contributions to the Rays don't get enough love.
But there's a really good chance you haven't noticed that the shortstop second only to leading vote-getter Manny Machado in OPS, wRC+ and weighted on-base average is Escobar. He broke out with 21 homers last year, but his age-29 season has been even better, and he's likely to surpass his career-high single-season WAR output by the All-Star break. Pretty crazy, considering Escobar only got this everyday opportunity as a product of Jorge Polanco getting suspended for PEDs.
Third base: Player Page for Max Muncy, Dodgers
It's a credit to the craziness of baseball that even in a year like this, when the online-only ballot release was later than usual (and therefore more easily adaptable to surprises), there are still a bunch of guys whose impact is so far beyond expectations that they are still merely write-in candidates. Muncy is one of those guys. He's been a plug-and-play type for the Dodgers, filling in wherever a need has arisen. He first caught attention doing bang-up work in place of the injured Justin Turner, which is why he's listed at third base here. Muncy's power, including a team-high 13 homers as of this writing, has been an incredible (and unforeseen) asset for a Dodgers team ravaged by injuries. Though cast off by the A's just over a year ago, he has put together a .386 OBP and .599 SLG for L.A.
There are actually a ton of other hot-corner candidates for this list, including the Tigers' Jeimer Candelario, the A's Matt Chapman, the Marlins' Brian Anderson (who is putting himself in the running for National League Rookie of the Year Award), the Brewers' Travis Shaw, and even utility man Daniel Descalso -- the 31-year-old, who is shockingly giving the D-backs a .907 OPS, plays everywhere and probably deserves to be somewhere on here.
Outfield: Brandon Nimmo, Mets; Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays; Juan Soto, Nationals
Like Nimmo and Soto, the Cubs' Albert Almora Jr., the Pirates' Austin Meadows and the Astros' Tony Kemp are among those who aren't on the ballot, but who have made a mark in the lineup. They are all candidates for inclusion here.
But no one merits mention more than Nimmo. The Mets' decision to use their three outfield spots on the ballot on Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto made sense at the time they submitted it, but now Nimmo's exclusion sticks out like Cespedes' sore hip. Nimmo's been the Mets' best position player, by far, and his 1.013 OPS ranks fourth in all of baseball among those with at least 200 plate appearances.
Soto isn't truly "overlooked," because he's been a pretty big story the past month, and you know he'd rank a lot higher in the voting if he had debuted earlier than May 20 (although now that he homered in a suspended game from May 15, you could technically say he debuted earlier than that). But he nonetheless fits the formula as a non-finalist. In Soto's short time with the Nats, he's already been as valuable as Bryce Harper (0.9 FanGraphs WAR to Harper's 1.0 mark). It would be cool to see the 19-year-old phenom at a Midsummer Classic taking place at his home field.
Hernandez lit up opponents in April (1.054 OPS) came down to earth in May (.649) and has caught fire again in June (1.075). He's turned out to be an excellent pickup by the Blue Jays from last year's Trade Deadline.
Designated hitter: Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers
Choo is on the short list of most accomplished active players to have never reached the All-Star Game. He's compiled north of 30 Wins Above Replacement in his career, but his "star," as it were, has never aligned.
Maybe this will be Choo's year. J.D. Martinez is rightly running away with the fan vote, but Choo's numbers (.279/.394/.478 slash line, 138 wRC+) are superior to those of Giancarlo Stanton (.252/.326/.485, 118), even if Stanton leads him in the homer tally. The White Sox's Matt Davidson (137 wRC+), the Mariners' Nelson Cruz (138) and the A's Khris Davis (134) are also quality candidates for that backup DH spot, but Evan Gattis, who is third in the fan voting currently, has been red-hot for the Astros the past month-plus and could seize it.