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5 players deserving of All-Star write-in votes

@castrovince
June 12, 2019

Read our FAQ on this year’s revamped balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters, and the ability to vote through Google Search. Voting continues via the 2019 Google MLB All-Star Ballot, and, because everything is online and not subject to a printing schedule,

Read our FAQ on this year’s revamped balloting format, which includes two phases of fan voting to determine the All-Star starters, and the ability to vote through Google Search.

Voting continues via the 2019 Google MLB All-Star Ballot, and, because everything is online and not subject to a printing schedule, the decision on which players to place on the ballot was made several weeks into the season.

VOTE NOW: Google MLB All-Star Ballot

So we don’t have as many glaring examples of vote-worthy players getting left off altogether as we did in the days of those cheap paper ballots that were a pain to fill out and probably even worse to tabulate (hanging chads, anyone?).

But because baseball is always full of surprises, there are always going to be instances in which guys exceed their projected playing time and performance and don’t get the ballot spot they might deserve.

With the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard less than a month away, here are the five players most worthy of write-in love right now.

Derek Dietrich, 2B, Reds
For starters, there’s this: Dietrich is from Cleveland, and the All-Star Game is in Cleveland.

But even beyond that sentimental attachment, it sort of feels like the story of 2019 can’t really be written without Dietrich. He’s been one of the biggest surprise success stories in baseball, having signed a Minor League deal with the Redlegs only to basically seize the second-base job with Scooter Gennett on the shelf. He’s logged a .984 OPS entering Tuesday and already passed his previous career high for homers (16).

Dietrich has also shown plenty of personality. He dressed up as an exterminator when bees invaded Great American Ball Park and an electrician when the lights went out at Oakland Coliseum. And yes, he’s ruffled feathers (particularly those in Pittsburgh) by taking a good gander at his dingers. We need this guy in the All-Star Game or, at the least, in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Mitch Garver, C, Twins
It’s understandable why Jason Castro represents the Twins at this position on the ballot. It was expected the respected veteran would see the majority of the catching duties this season. And in a return from last year’s knee issues, he’s been fantastic, with a .368 on-base percentage and .565 slugging percentage entering Tuesday.

But Garver has been even better, and he has wound up garnering more plate appearances, despite missing a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. He’s got a .317/.410/.693 triple slash with 10 homers, six doubles and 25 RBIs. Even though his playing time has been limited, he’s slightly ahead of human homer machine Gary Sanchez atop FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement leaderboard for American League catchers (1.6 to 1.5).

Raise your hand if you saw Garver turning into 1997 Mike Piazza. Anyone?

Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates
Reynolds, 24, had just 49 at-bats above the Double-A level when the Pirates called him up in late April, but he’s making Pirates fans feel pretty good about the Andrew McCutchen swap from pre-2018. Reynolds arrived in that deal alongside setup man Kyle Crick, and he’s made a shockingly easy transition to the bigs so far, with a .340/.393/.533 slash and 18 extra-base hits entering Tuesday.

The Buccos only called him up out of injury necessity (he wasn’t even on the 40-man yet), but now he’s played himself into a primary outfield spot.

Howie Kendrick, UTIL, Nationals
At age 35, Kendrick is having the most productive offensive season of his career, which is kind of crazy and definitely unexpected. Kendrick has been a part-timer for the Nats, posting a .333/.376/.604 slash line in 178 plate appearances, with 11 homers and 10 doubles. He’s been particularly potent in a pinch, with an outstanding .375/.389/.813 slash and two homers in 18 pinch-hit plate appearances.

Utility men -- especially older ones like Kendrick -- aren’t always an easy or obvious fit on the ballot. But Kendrick’s season deserves your attention, though, admittedly, it’s difficult to know which position, exactly, to write him in (he’s played first, second and third, so take your pick!).

Austin Riley, LF, Braves
The National League Rookie of the Year picture was complicated enough before Riley arrived on May 15 and rocked the Braves’ world. This 22-year-old kid was the NL Rookie of the Month despite playing just 15 games in May.

In addition to growing more comfortable in left field, out of deference to Josh Donaldson at his natural position at third, Riley has put up a .908 OPS with nine homers and 26 RBIs entering Tuesday. He’s had a huge impact on Atlanta. Three of his homers have either tied the game or given the Braves the lead in the sixth inning or later. He was the second-fastest rookie to reach the 25-RBI mark since it became a stat in 1920.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.