Breaking down the toughest decisions on the All-Star Ballot

June 7th, 2024

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

The All-Star Ballot is out! We are about six weeks away from the game itself on July 16 at Globe Life Field in Texas, and voting for starters is now underway.

We are not here to tell you how to fill out your ballot. If you want to pick all the players from your favorite team, if you want to pick the players whose names you like the most, if you want to throw darts at the ballot, that’s fine. You do you. (Careful, though: Darts break phones and laptops.)

But what we will do is take a closer look at some of the tougher calls on the ballot, positions where we suspect you may have the most difficulty deciding between two or three (or more) options. Again, we won’t tell you how to cast your vote -- that part is up to you.

American League shortstop

This is the toughest call on the board, with three players who are not only obvious All-Star starting candidates, but MVP candidates. Gunnar Henderson is launching homers for the Orioles and may end up pacing himself as the young star among all those young stars in Baltimore. Bobby Witt Jr. has been the best player on a Royals team that has been one of the best in baseball, and certainly the most surprising. And Corey Seager, in addition to having better name recognition than either of those two, has been keeping the Rangers afloat as they attempt to defend their World Series title, though he exited Wednesday's game with left hamstring tightness.

And that’s not even accounting for the Yankees’ Anthony Volpe, who has taken a big step forward after a splendid rookie year. Remember back in the late 1990s, when we had Jeter/A-Rod/Nomar? We may be back at peak AL shortstop again.

National League first base

For the first time, Bryce Harper is listed on the ballot as a first baseman, after many years as an outfielder (and one as a designated hitter; what a relief we don’t have to choose between him and Shohei Ohtani this year). He’s probably your clubhouse favorite, thanks to how well his Phillies are playing, but he’ll get a good challenge from your 2023 winner, the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman.

Despite his status as the third-best hitter on his own team (and his numbers being slightly, and only slightly, down from his career highs), Freeman is having a terrific season, and his numbers are very close to Harper’s. Harper is hitting for more power, but Freeman is getting on base more. Both of these guys have superb track records, and it sure feels like both should be able to start. But only one can.

AL third base

The perpetually underrated José Ramírez never does nearly as well in the balloting as he should, last winning the fan vote back in 2018. That’s partly because he plays in Cleveland and partly because he’s been so steady for so long that he’s annually easy to overlook. That’s going to be harder to do this year, the way the Guardians have been playing. But Rafael Devers has put up a monster year, the best year of his career. The Rays’ Isaac Paredes is right there with them both on overall numbers, as is the Orioles’ Jordan Westburg.

Here’s a fun trivia question: Which two players were the finalists at this position last year? Neither of them has been mentioned yet: Josh Jung (who is still recovering from a wrist injury) and Matt Chapman (who, of course, now plays in the NL).

AL catcher

There are so many catchers raking this year, and the AL has three of the best of them. Adley Rutschman, a 2023 All-Star, is having perhaps an even better season in '24, and he’s well on his way to leading the Orioles to the playoffs again. The Twins’ Ryan Jeffers has been one of the best hitters in baseball, albeit one often splitting his time between designated hitter and catcher. (He is listed as a catcher on the ballot.)

And what more can you say about Salvador Perez, the staple of the Royals for a decade now? Perez is having one of his best seasons right as his team is breaking out as one of the biggest surprises of the first half.

NL second base

Last year’s winner, Luis Arraez, is back on the ballot as a member of the Padres, following his May 4 trade from Miami. He has a good case as the favorite here, considering that he has been piling up hits with San Diego and is on track to claim his third straight batting title with a third team. It is worth noting, however, that of his first 28 games with the Padres, only six came at second base, fewer than at either first base or DH. Your mileage on such factoids may vary.

If you are looking for a true, everyday second baseman in this spot, the runner-up from last year, the Braves’ Ozzie Albies, has the name recognition, but he’s not having one of his best seasons. You could also go with the stolen base wizardry of Brice Turang, who has been one of the key cogs in the Brewers’ blistering start. Or you could go with Ketel Marte, who has only made the All-Star Game once, back in 2019, but is having his best year since then and may benefit from increased familiarity after last year’s World Series run for the D-backs.

NL catcher

I’ll confess, when I first glanced over the ballot, I instantly moved to check William Contreras’ name. The Brewers catcher has been a revelation, the best hitter on a first-place team that has been driven by its offense. He has come a long way since being the throw-in guy in the three-way Sean Murphy trade; he even finished 11th in NL MVP voting last year. But then I started looking at the numbers, and I realized: I’m overlooking Will Smith. The Dodgers' catcher reached his first All-Star Game last year, but he’s having a far better year than he did in 2023, and he has essentially matched Contreras stat-for-stat entering Thursday:

Contreras: .864 OPS, 144 OPS+, 8 HR, 44 RBIs, 2.6 fWAR
W. Smith: .876 OPS, 148 OPS+, 9 HR, 38 RBIs, 2.6 fWAR

Can you tell those two players apart? Outstanding players on first-place teams, with nearly identical numbers. Your guess is as good as mine.