10 players deserving of their first All-Star nod

June 15th, 2023

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. César 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: Mike Trout has been named to 10 All-Star teams, Justin Verlander nine. Hank Aaron, famously, was named to 25 All-Star teams, though it should be noted there were two All-Star Games from 1959-62. But just to make it once is a major achievement -- and it’s something you always have to look back on.

This year, there are a number of players who have enjoyed substantial careers in the big leagues without ever making an All-Star team, but who are having good enough seasons to merit some consideration. (We’re omitting players, for now, who are just starting out in the Majors and are surely ticketed to many Midsummer Classics, such as Wander Franco and Adley Rutschman.)

Here are 10 notable players who haven’t made one yet but may have their best chance this year (listed alphabetically by last name).

, OF, Rays
Arozarena has won the 2020 ALCS MVP award, as well as the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year Award (even if it didn’t feel like he was much of a rookie). Thanks to his incredible postseason run, he is one of the more widely known players in the sport, and certainly the most widely known on his own team. (The World Baseball Classic didn’t hurt there, either.) But he still has not made it to the All-Star Game. Considering how well both he and his team have played, this sure looks like the breakthrough year.

, RHP, Giants
Cobb has been pitching since 2011 -- he was a key contributor for the 2013 Rays in the postseason -- but he never really quite discovered his true self until he made it to San Francisco. At the age of 35, he is putting up arguably the best statistical season of his career, and after 12 seasons in the Majors (and 18 as a professional), he’d instantly become one of the best stories in the All-Star Game if he were to make it.

, 1B, Rays
Díaz has always been the sort of physical specimen you thought could hit 50 homers if he’d ever start lifting the ball in the air but was still a perfectly fine ballplayer if he didn’t. He’s now hitting the ball in the air without losing what made him special in the first place. He sort of feels like the embodiment of what makes the Rays great, doesn’t he? Díaz probably should have made the All-Star Game last year. There will be no denying him this time.

, RHP, D-backs
Gallen has finished in the top 10 of NL Cy Young Award voting in two out of the past three seasons, and he sure looks on pace to reach that lofty perch again this year. Gallen may actually be better this year than he was last year, currently leading the Majors with a 2.39 FIP and 3.2 pitching WAR (per FanGraphs). Gallen won’t just make his first All-Star Game this year -- he might just start it.

, CF, Blue Jays
The Jays brought in the longtime Ray -- a player who had bedeviled them and the rest of the AL East for a decade -- to help shore up their outfield defense. He has absolutely done that. But what they might not have seen coming was the best offensive season of his career so far. Kiermaier currently boasts personal bests in batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS and OPS+, providing Toronto with big production from the bottom of the lineup. He has won three Gold Gloves before, and he’s got a chance for another one this season, but if he’s ever going to make a Midsummer Classic, this has to be the year.

, C, Braves
Yeah, I couldn’t believe he has never made an All-Star Game either. He never quite got there in Oakland, but he is the standout for this Atlanta team -- if it weren’t for that Ronald Acuña Jr. fellow, he’d be the Braves’ MVP. For all the excitement over Murphy’s arrival, no one thought the Braves were getting a 30-homer catcher with a .390 OBP. But it sure looks like that’s what they got.

, CF, Mets
Nimmo is forever the underappreciated Met, the homegrown guy who puts up great OBPs every year, plays solid defense and never makes any back pages. He is having the same season he had last year -- almost to the exact number in every slash category -- but that should have been an All-Star season and it should be again this year. His homers are down from last year, which could cost him, but there seems to be a league-wide understanding now of just how good Nimmo is.

, CF, White Sox
Obviously, injuries are the main reason Robert, one of the most purely talented players in the Majors, has never made an All-Star Game before. He played only 68 games in 2021 and 98 games last year. But while the White Sox have struggled this year, they haven’t had to worry about Robert, who has already surpassed his single-season career high in homers. He was supposed to be the linchpin of great White Sox teams and may have to settle for being their lone All-Star representative this year.

, C, Dodgers
This is only Smith’s fifth year in the Majors, but it’s still pretty shocking that the guy who is arguably the best catcher in baseball has never made an All-Star Game. He’s having a career year for the Dodgers, a serious top-five MVP candidate for a team that has had questions at just about every position but catcher. After years of Buster Posey and Yadier Molina handing top NL catcher honors back and forth, this position is now very stacked at the top.

, DH, Marlins
Soler has hit 48 homers in a season (for the 2019 Royals), he has won two World Series rings, he has received down-ballot MVP votes and he has, famously, won a World Series MVP. He has never, however, made an All-Star Game. After a tough few years in the wake of his terrific 2019 -- well, “tough” other than that little stretch in October 2021 -- he has rediscovered his power stroke for a surprising Marlins team that needs every homer it can get. Soler was once thought of as the most powerful of all the Cubs prospects. But it may end up taking him until age 31 in Miami to truly break through.

Honorable mentions
Elias Díaz, C, Rockies
Jon Gray, RHP, Rangers
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF, D-backs
Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates
Ha-Seong Kim, 2B, Padres
Alex Verdugo, OF, Red Sox