10 veterans pushing for 1st All-Star nod

June 11th, 2022

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

It is an eternal honor to be selected for an All-Star Game. Once you’ve made it to one, you can call yourself an All-Star forever. Forever! Brad Boxberger? All-Star. Matt Capps? All-Star. Cesar Izturis? All-Star. If I ever made an All-Star team, I’d include it in every autograph I gave for the rest of my life.

Some players make a career out of All-Star Games: Albert Pujols has made 10, Mike Trout nine, Justin Verlander eight. But just to make it once is a major achievement -- and it’s something you always have.

This year, there are 10 players who have had a substantial career in the big leagues, are having a good enough season to merit some consideration and have never made an All-Star Game before. (We’re omitting players, for now, who are just starting out in the big leagues and are surely ticketed to many Midsummer Classics, such as Julio Rodríguez or Wander Franco.) Maybe this is the year, maybe it isn’t. But these are the 10 with the best chance to, at last, get their first one.

Andrew Benintendi, LF, Royals
There has to be a Royal somewhere on the roster, and if it’s not Bobby Witt Jr. (who should have plenty of opportunities down the line), how about Benintendi? He’s off to a great start, batting well over .300 with a strong OBP, and he’s one of the few veterans on this team living up to the Royals’ expectations. Of all those young Red Sox phenoms from back in the day, Benintendi is the only one not to make an All-Star Game yet. (Even Jackie Bradley Jr. made one in 2016.) This may be the last best chance he gets.

Byron Buxton, CF, Twins
While Buxton still feels like a phenom -- this will happen when you’ve only played more than 92 games in a season once in your career -- this is in fact his eighth year in the big leagues. If he’s healthy, he’s an MVP candidate, but that’s a big “if.” A big slump in the second half of May cut into Buxton’s gaudy numbers, but he has rebounded in June and still looks All-Star-caliber. And he is, all together now, healthy. Or at least as healthy as he gets.

Kole Calhoun, RF, Rangers
Since leaving the Angels after the 2019 season, Calhoun spent a couple of years in Arizona, then joined the Rangers this year. He has done what he usually does: hit some homers, play a decent right field (did you know he won a Gold Glove Award in 2015?) and generally stay under the radar. But he was one of the best hitters in baseball in the month of May, and his numbers, typical to him, look better in this offensive environment. This is his 11th season: If he doesn’t make it this year, he probably never will.

Carlos Carrasco, SP, Mets
Carrasco is one of those pitchers who certainly feels like he has made an All-Star Game before, but he never has. (He didn’t even make it in 2017, when he finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting.) He has been the constant for a Mets rotation in flux, making every start and currently leading the Major Leagues in wins, which is impressive even if you’re not really into wins. (He’s four wins away from 100 for his career.) Considering what Carrasco has been through, to see him pitch in the All-Star Game would be one of the most inspiring stories of the season.

C.J. Cron, 1B, Rockies
Cron has always, always hit, from his first years in Anaheim -- he used to follow Trout and Pujols in that lineup -- to Tampa Bay and Minnesota and Detroit, and now to Colorado. He has found a true home with the Rockies and has a real chance to become the club’s first player to hit 45 homers since Todd Helton in 2001. (If he can get to 50, he’ll have Colorado’s single-season record.) Even at a stacked first-base position, Cron stands out for his power.

Max Fried, SP, Braves
Fried may still be underappreciated as a starter, despite a career 3.24 ERA for the Braves and a top-five NL Cy Young Award finish in 2020 (when he went 7-0). With the lowest FIP of his career (2.91), Atlanta’s ace has been a lifesaver for the slow-starting defending champs. The lefty has already won a World Series clincher, so an All-Star Game appearance is the next logical step.

Joe Musgrove, SP, Padres
Remember when the big debate was about which Padres pitcher was going to win the Cy Young Award between Blake Snell and Yu Darvish? Well, it’s actually Musgrove who has been the star since those three pitchers arrived last season, and he now looks like a front-runner for that honor in 2022. Musgrove is a San Diego kid who gave the franchise its first no-hitter and has just gotten better and better. He’s 7-0 with a 1.50 ERA this season, so forget just being named to the All-Star team -- Musgrove should probably start this game.

Brandon Nimmo, CF, Mets
Is there a more perpetually underrated player in baseball than Nimmo? The guy has a career .390 OBP and plays a perfectly decent center field for a New York team. Injuries have been an issue for him, but he’s been healthy this year and is getting on base like always, while putting up plus-3 Outs Above Average in center. The All-Star Game will be packed with Mets this year, but it’d be good to make room for Nimmo, who more than has it coming.

Martín Pérez, SP, Rangers
Did you know that Perez was teammates with Michael Young? That’s a guy who has been on the Rangers for a while. Sure, he took a detour to Minnesota and Boston from 2019-21, but his return to Arlington has been a smashing success this year. His 1.56 ERA is incredible (and mostly supported by his peripherals), and the key has been keeping the ball in the ballpark. He has given up only one homer in 69 1/3 innings. He’s older and wiser now and has never been this good. Some of us are late bloomers, you know?

Julio Urías, SP, Dodgers
Urías, who is only 25, is somehow in his seventh year in the Majors. That’s absurd! He has pitched in just about every role the Dodgers have asked him to, and he has excelled at all of them. Three years ago, he had 29 relief appearances and four saves; last year, he won 20 games. This year, he once again owns a sub-3.00 ERA. Urías probably would have made the All-Star Game had there been one in 2020, so while it’s a remarkable thing to say about someone who is only 25, Urías is overdue.