Balloting for the position-player starters for the 2023 MLB All-Star Game is nearly finished, as voting has gone on since the start of June and will come to a close when starters are revealed later tonight. (The full 23-man rosters for both leagues will be revealed on Sunday, July 2, while the 2023 Midsummer Classic is set for Tuesday, July 11 at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.) Before things are set in stone, though, I’m going to lay out who I think deserves to start at each position for both the AL and NL — because really, who doesn’t love to argue on the internet?
First, a dlsclaimer: The word “All-Star” means different tings to different people. Some want the game to be about the sport’s biggest names, regardless of their performance over the last three months. Others want a strict meritocracy, rewarding the best baseball players so far this season, regardless of their career resumes. All due respect to the guys who’ve come out of nowhere to thrive this year, I’m more in the latter camp — three months is still a pretty small sample size, for one, and people come to the All-Star Game to see the very best in the sport, stars who’ve proven it over the long haul, square off in ways they rarely can during the regular season. When there’s a tiebreaker, I’m likely to side with the guy I’d rather see on the field.
Without further ado, let’s get to the ballot, starting in the American League.
American League starters
Catcher: Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles
Jonah Heim has really pushed Rutschman here, but in the end, I slightly prefer Rutschman’s combination of on-base skills and defensive prowess — not to mention that he’s done it in a tougher park for hitters and has the O’s relying on his presence in the lineup just about every day, whether behind the plate or at DH.
First base: Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays
Another Texas Ranger, Nathaniel Lowe, was in consideration here, but Diaz just keeps on raking. This has been a career year for the corner man, but he was also sensational last season, and a concerted effort to improve his launch angle has taken those elite bat-to-ball skills and added nearly 100 points of slugging percentage — good for a .315/.402/.514 line with 12 homers.
Second base: Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers
This might be the easiest call on the entire ballot, as second base in the AL is pretty dire after Semien. (Jose Altuve’s injury-plagued year certainly hasn’t helped.) Still, that’s no slight to Semien, who’d stand out in any crowd thanks to his combination of elite defense and a .804 OPS with 11 homers and seven steals atop Texas’ league-leading batting order.
Shortstop: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
I initially wanted to give this to Tampa’s Wander Franco, and in another few weeks, I might’ve. But Franco’s recent injury and disciplinary issues have cooled his numbers just a bit, while Bichette continues to carry Toronto’s underachieving lineup. Not only does he lead the AL in average and hits, but he’s on pace to smash his career highs in slugging percentage and homers, and that edge in offensive value is just enough to offset Franco’s defensive advantage.
Third base: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians
This is a bit of a “which direction are you trending?” question. Toronto’s Matt Chapman seemed to have this in the bag after putting up a 1.152 OPS (with his typically incredible defense) in the month of April. But he’s gone into a tailspin since, with a .585 mark in May and a .669 mark in June, opening the door for Ramirez to barge through with another excellent campaign. The Guardians star is no slouch on defense himself, and his 142 OPS+ is well above Chapman’s mark.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels; Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox; Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays
First off: Pour one out for Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez. I considered Arozarena’s teammate, Josh Lowe, as well as Boston Red Sox star Masataka Yoshida here, but Lowe’s slumped badly in June while Yoshida is more often a DH. Robert has killed the ball since the calendar flipped to May, slashing a ridiculous .301/.363/.651 over the last two months while playing a great center field for a Chicago team that’s needed every bit of it. Arozarena has cooled off slightly after his sensational start, but still, leading the league in OBP to go with 14 homers and nine steals is nothing to sneeze at. Trout is on the back-nine of his career now, striking out more than ever before while posting more mortal offensive numbers than we’re used to seeing, but even mortal Mike Trout is still Mike Freaking Trout (and he’s still fourth among AL outfielders in wRC+, behind only Robert, Arozarena and Adolis Garcia).
Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
I mean, come on.
Shohei Ohtani is on track for:— Joon Lee (@joonlee) June 28, 2023
254 Ks, 3.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 5.2 bWAR as pitcher
56 HR, 128 RBI, .304/.384/.654, 22 SB, 7 bWAR
Would be the same bWAR as Max Scherzer and Manny Machado in 2022 as one player https://t.co/WhHU7Ihfl4
Catcher: Sean Murphy, Atlanta Braves
Will Smith gave Murphy a run, but the Braves backstop is one of the very best defensive catchers in the game — while posting a ridiculous .926 OPS with 13 homers, too. His all-around game is what gives him the nod here.
First base: Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers
Due respect to Pete Alonso and Paul Goldschmidt, Freeman has been as steady as a metronome for a Dodgers lineup that’s been a bit more vulnerable than in years past. He’s second in wRC+ among first baseman, behind only Diaz, and he’s added 10 steals to go with his 14 homers.
Second base: Luis Arraez, Miami Marlins
Look, if you’re flirting with .400, you’re going to get an All-Star nod. There’s a narrative taking hold that Arraez is just an empty average merchant, but the man has a 161 OPS+ on the year — he’s a great, impactful hitter, full stop.
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs
In a bit of a down year for NL shortstops, Swanson gets the nod here over Cincinnati phenom Elly De La Cruz (I really, really wanted to pick him, but: less than 100 total plate appearances simply isn’t enough). Swanson is among the very best defenders in the game at among the very toughest positions to play, and that plus an above-average bat sets him apart with guys like Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts struggling.
Third base: J.D. Davis, San Francisco Giants
This is another weird one, with Austin Riley’s (relatively) down season whittling the race down to Davis, Jeimer Candelario and Ryan McMahon. McMahon waited until June to finally wake up, while Davis outpaces Candelario in just about every major offensive category.
Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves; Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks; Juan Soto, San Diego Padres
This is another one that was more or less a slam dunk. Acuna is on a historic heater right now, the prohibitive favorite for NL MVP with a real chance at bagging the sport’s first-ever 35/70 season. Carroll isn’t too far behind, with a .938 OPS to go with 17 homers and 23 steals while being caught just four times. And then there’s Soto, who started slowly but is slashing .317/.464/.572 — seriously, he’s on base damn near half the time — with 10 homers and seven more walks than strikeouts since April 27. None of these guys are particularly stellar defenders, but they’re possibly three of the five best hitters in the sport right now.
Designated hitter: Jorge Soler, Miami Marlins
J.D. Martinez of the Dodgers is giving him a late run, but this has to go to Soler. When the slugger gets hot, there might not be anyone else in baseball like him, and his .871 OPS and 21 homers has carried a Marlins lineup that has only one other player (Arraez) with an OPS above .800.