The difficult part of predicting which players are going to have big years before the regular season begins is that it never entirely works out the way you anticipate. Many stars will, indeed, go on to have the types of seasons we all expect. Others, however, will struggle, and on the flip side of the coin, players who we never thought would be stars emerge with great performances.
This season is no exception, and now that the All-Star rosters have been revealed for the 93rd Midsummer Classic, which will take place at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park on July 11, here’s a look at nine players you likely didn’t foresee being named All-Stars:
Orlando Arcia, Braves -- NL starting shortstop
Trea Turner? Nope. Francisco Lindor? Negative. Xander Bogaerts? Not him either. The starting shortstop for the 2023 National League All-Star squad is Arcia, who has surprised the baseball world with his first All-Star selection in his eighth Major League season. Arcia has helped the Braves rise to the top of the NL by hitting .297/.350/.429 and giving Atlanta strong defense at short with +5 Outs Above Average.
Yennier Canó, Orioles -- AL reliever
Talk about unlikely -- Canó was traded to the Orioles by the Twins last August and gave up nine runs over three appearances (4 1/3 innings). He didn’t make this year’s Opening Day roster, but since being called up in mid-April, he’s been lights out for Baltimore. The 29-year-old owns a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings this season, one of the reasons the O’s have the second-best winning percentage in the AL.
Elias Díaz, Rockies -- NL reserve catcher
Díaz made history by becoming the first Rockies catcher to be selected as an All-Star in the franchise’s 31st season. The veteran backstop is a first-time All-Star in his age-32 campaign thanks to a career year at the plate so far, and he’s also been very good behind it. He’s hitting .284/.337/.452 with nine homers, and entering Sunday, he was also tied for the most catcher Caught Stealing Outs Above Average in the Majors (6).
Bryce Elder, Braves -- NL starting pitcher
Respect your Elder. And respect is what this Elder is getting now that he’s headed to Seattle for his first All-Star Game. The 24-year-old right-hander, who was not on the Braves' Opening Day roster, has been outstanding since being called up in the wake of an injury to staff ace Max Fried in early April, posting a 2.44 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over 16 starts. What’s most surprising about Elder’s selection to the NL All-Star squad is the names he beat out for a spot, including reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara, who has struggled so far this season.
Josiah Gray, Nationals -- NL starting pitcher
Gray was a top prospect with high expectations when the Nationals acquired him as part of a 2019 trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers. But he posted a 5.31 ERA in 12 starts down the stretch for Washington in 2021, and followed that with a 5.02 ERA over 28 starts last year. In 2023, however, the right-hander seems to have hit his stride -- he has a 3.30 ERA in 17 starts this season, earning his first All-Star nod.
Jonah Heim, Rangers -- AL starting catcher
Who saw this coming? Heim entered the season with a career .214/.275/.374 slash line and 26 home runs in 776 plate appearances. In the first half of the 2023 campaign, he’s posted a slash line of .285/.336/.489 with 12 homers in 292 plate appearances. His 2.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) entering Sunday was already equal to his entire WAR from last season. That he’s been elected the starting backstop for the AL over the likes of Adley Rutschman and Salvador Perez is remarkable.
Josh Jung, Rangers -- AL starting third baseman
Another surprise Rangers starter in this year’s Midsummer Classic, Jung has raised eyebrows with his rookie campaign thus far. Sure, he was the eighth overall selection in the 2019 Draft and became a top prospect in the Rangers organization, but no one saw an All-Star start as a rookie coming. The 25-year-old’s .820 OPS with 17 homers gets him a well-deserved nod to start at the hot corner in Seattle.
Whit Merrifield, Blue Jays -- AL reserve infielder
Merrifield’s third career All-Star selection comes in his age-34 campaign, and it follows two underwhelming seasons that made it seem as though the speedy infielder/outfielder might have already seen his best days on the baseball field. But with a strong finish to last season following a trade from the Royals to the Blue Jays, he’s carried that over in 2023. He’s hitting .282 with a .339 on-base percentage for Toronto, and his 18 steals this season are already two more than he stole last year.
Brent Rooker, Athletics -- AL reserve designated hitter
Rooker parlayed a red-hot April into his first career All-Star selection, and he’s one of the unlikeliest to be in that position given where he was at this point last year. The A’s acquired him off waivers from the Royals, and with everyday playing time and a little work on his sequencing at the plate, he launched nine homers with a 1.245 OPS. He’s cooled off quite a lot since, but he still has an .816 OPS with 14 homers -- including a 441-foot shot Sunday -- to represent Oakland in the Midsummer Classic.