The initial voting results for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game have been released, and while the game is still roughly a month-and-a-half away, we already have an idea of what the starting rosters could look like on July 14.
This year's game will be played at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, which opened in 2003.
Here's a look at the early returns for the voting, which is being done entirely online for the first time this year, and a handful of takeaways based on the results in each league so far.
Let's get into things by first running through the Junior Circuit, where Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez is the surprising leader with 1,447,753 tallies to date, per Tuesday's release:
AL All-Star Voting Takeaways
1. Royals fans have been voting, like, a lot
Among third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon and leading vote-getter Perez, five Royals players currently are starters. That is both impressive—no other club in either league has more than four starters after the first results—and deserving, as Kansas City (28-17) has the second-best record in the AL entering play Wednesday.
Additionally, first baseman Eric Hosmer, second baseman Omar Infante and designated hitter Kendrys Morales each check in at No. 2 at their respective positions, so the Royals have just about every spot covered. Heck, even outfielder Alex Rios is sixth among his brethren—and he hasn't played since April 13 while recovering from a fractured left hand.
It's clear that after enduring nearly three decades of ineptitude, the club's fans are riding the wave of reaching the postseason—and World Series—for the first time since 1985, as well as this year's hot start to make sure as many Royals get to the Midsummer Classic as possible.
If five (or more) Royals do, in fact, wind up being voted in as starters, that would be the first time a team registered that many in the All-Star Game since 1976, when it was done by this year's host squad, the Reds.
2. Shortstop is coming up, well, short
For now, Escobar leads the position, but he's hitting just .270 with a .666 OPS that ranks fourth among AL shortstop qualifiers. Those aren't exactly blow-you-away numbers. Frankly, he's a fringy top-five candidate, but being on Kansas City is helping him immeasurably.
After him, there's defensive wizard Jose Iglesias, who still is batting a strong .333, as well as upstart but error-prone Marcus Semien, who has six homers and seven RBI already but also an MLB-worst 17 errors (yikes).
The rest of the top five is filled out by veterans Jed Lowrie and Jose Reyes, who have spent more time on the disabled list than off to this point. Other options, such as Xander Bogaerts, Alexei Ramirez and Elvis Andrus, just haven't played all that well but could make a push at the polls if they get hot.
Long story, ahem, short (sorry): There's no really strong candidate at this spot, which last year belonged to Derek Jeter, who also wasn't the greatest candidate but at least was a Hall of Famer-to-be and had a ceremonial farewell tour to propel votes and intrigue.
3. As usual, there are a few noticeable snubs
Maybe folks forgot about the Texas Rangers' Prince Fielder at first base because he missed all but 42 games in 2014 due to neck surgery. But the slugger is leading the entire AL with a .371 batting average and has started to hit for his signature power with 10 homers and 38 RBI, the latter of which also tops the circuit. The competition at this position is stiff, but Fielder should be in the mix.
Same goes for Jason Kipnis, whose .335/.408/.519 line presents a strong case that he deserves to be among the five at second base, certainly over Omar Infante, Devon Travis and Dustin Pedroia. Meanwhile, Robinson Cano's run of five consecutive starts at the spot looks to be in serious jeopardy with his slash stats sitting at .257/.297/.339 with just one homer.
Last but not least, Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics needs to be acknowledged at catcher, where his .313 average, 10 homers, 33 RBI and 1.008 OPS all pace qualifying AL backstops. Blame it on his no-name factor as a 30-year-old with just 193 career games in The Show—or, you know, the worst-in-the-AL Oakland Athletics.
4. Apologies to the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians but...
...you have not a single representative receiving enough votes to place in the top five at any position.
While the Indians have been slightly disappointing so far, they at least can claim Michael Brantley, last year's second runner-up in AL MVP, in the top 10 outfielders.
As for the Rays and Twins, well, they don' have a player listed—at all. Granted, these are not the most star-studded rosters, but it's surprising nonetheless considering Tampa Bay was leading the AL East as of Tuesday and Minnesota was sporting the third-best record (27-18) in the circuit entering play Wednesday.
As for those two clubs' best All-Star candidates based on the first quarter of 2015? Try Logan Forsythe of the Rays (.855 OPS, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB) and Brian Dozier of the Twins (.833 OPS, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB). Neither is likely to garner much support going forward despite their hot starts.
Let's move on to the Senior Circuit, where phenom Bryce Harper is the leader with 1,116,582 votes so far, according to Wednesday's release:
NL All-Star Voting Takeaways
1. Cardinals fans are a lot like Royals fans
As discussed already, the Royals have an MLB-leading five players in starting spots so far. Well, the 30-16 Cardinals, owners of the best record in baseball, have four: catcher Yadier Molina, third baseman Matt Carpenter, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and outfielder Matt Holliday.
The biggest takeaway from this? People in Missouri really, really like to participate in All-Star Game voting.
2. The NL needs more love
While the AL features a whopping nine players already north of the one million-vote mark, the NL can claim only two to date: Carpenter with 1,113,060 and Harper with his league-leading total.
That also jibes with the fact that the overall leader—Perez with 1,447,753—hails from the Junior Circuit, as do the eight-highest vote-getters at this stage. Harper's 1,116,582 puts him ninth, followed by Carpenter, the only other NLer in the top 10.
In other words, if you're a fan of an NL squad, head here and do your civic duty.
3. There are snubs galore!
The NL outfield almost has too many worthy candidates to be limited just to three starters.
Harper and his league-leading 17 home runs certainly need to be in there, but all of Starling Marte, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun and even rookie Joc Pederson have a case over one or both of Giancarlo Stanton (13 HR and 42 RBI but a .237 BA) and/or Matt Holliday (just three homers but with a franchise record 42-game on-base streak). Don't mistake that to mean Stanton and Holliday don't deserve their so-far-starter status, but it will be interesting to see if it holds up against such stiff competition.
One competition that shouldn't be quite so close, however, is catcher, where Buster Posey is out-OPSing Molina .839 to .673, and yet the latter has a lead of more than 100,000 votes over the former.
Speaking of snubbed Giants, Brandon Crawford bears mentioning here for his fast start with the stick (.299/379/.506). Peralta is a fine pick, but going on 2015 alone to date, Crawford shouldn't be in fifth place compared to first for the St. Louis shortstop.
Taking those last two tidbits into account, it's odd to see a team that is coming off its third World Series championship in five years and currently is battling the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead leaving a few of its players hanging.
4. No Philadelphia Phillies (duh) but also no Milwaukee Brewers
Just like in the AL, there are three clubs without a rep in the top five at any position. At least the Pittsburgh Pirates, however, have Andrew McCutchen, 2014's NL MVP second runner-up, checking in at No. 11 among outfielders. That eerily mirrors the Indians and Brantley over in the AL.
While it's no surprise the rebuilding Phillies are sans candidates, it's at least a little shocking that the Brewers are in the same boat—after they sent two starters (Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez) and four players overall (also Jonathon Lucroy, Francisco Rodriguez) to Minnesota just last season!
Of course, last year at the All-Star break, Milwaukee had the second-best record in the NL. So far this season? Try dead last with a .340 winning percentage. No further explanation needed.
5. First and third base are going to be painful picks
The NL is loaded at both corner infield spots.
The Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs are performing as well (or even better) than Adrian Gonzalez, who is the vote leader at first.
Across the diamond, Todd Frazier of the Reds, Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, and Chicago Cubs wunderkind Kris Bryant all are giving Carpenter a run for his money in the production department.
When it comes to votes, though, Gonzalez and Carpenter have rather hefty leads out of the gate.
That could change, however, as there's still plenty of time between now and the end of voting on July 2. Players no doubt will be jockeying for starting roles as various fanbases take to the polls in light of these early returns.
Keep an eye out for the next updates, which the league will announce June 1 for the AL and June 2 for the NL.
Statistics are accurate as of Wednesday, May 27, and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Sports on Earth and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
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