After a roasting hot start to June, the Atlanta Braves have played their way back into playoff contention. At the same time, many of their players have made strong cases to be selected as All-Stars this season. Let’s rank the likelihood.
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud
Unfortunately, the Braves have two catchers who would be deserving of being a reserve catcher selection. They compete for plate appearances with the Braves, bringing down the overall quality of their All-Star credentials. Of the 10 NL catchers with 150 plate appearances (through June 17), d’Arnaud ranks third in home runs, fourth in RBI, and third in OPS.
He could have a strong argument if he was an everyday player, but d’Arnaud is just having a solid season for a catcher. Willson Contreras is lapping the field, and reserve slots could go to Tyler Stephenson, Will Smith, or Daulton Varsho.
First Base: Matt Olson
Olson is not one of the Braves who was red-hot during the team’s 14-game winning streak, so he has likely tanked his chances to make the All-Star Game. Olson does lead the Majors in doubles, and he is among the most-walked hitters in the NL. However, he ranks seventh in OPS among first basemen on the ballot.
In terms of deserving candidates, the top two are clear. Paul Goldschmidt should be the starter. Pete Alonso should be the first reserve. If there are more reserves, C.J. Cron, Josh Bell, and Freddie Freeman would fight for that spot.
Second Base: Ozzie Albies
Albies’ only chance was going to be based on his popularity. Now, he is injured and will be out for the next two months. He did not deserve to be an All-Star, and he will not have a chance to recover from a cold start.
Write-In: Orlando Arcia
Among NLers with 70 plate appearances and five games played at second base, Arcia ranks first in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. However, Arcia ranks 33rd in plate appearances out of this group, and he is a write-in candidate only on the fan ballot. He could garner consideration for a reserve slot, but several second basemen will have more than 150 extra plate appearances.
As the everyday second basemen, Arcia has an opportunity to steal a spot on the All-Star roster, but he would have to keep up his absurd start (.344/.405/.563 as of June 19) if not hit better to steal that spot. Jeff McNeil and Jazz Chisholm are easy picks for the All-Star spots. If a third spot is available, Nolan Gorman could steal it from Ketel Marte or Jake Cronenworth.
Third Base: Austin Riley
Riley is the first Brave who is a real candidate for the All-Star Game. Among NL primary third basemen, Riley is first in home runs, third in OPS, and second in OPS+. In his first 17 games in June, Riley launched six home runs for a slugging percentage of .586. All told, Riley’s OPS+ (129) is right in line with his 2021 production (132) that saw him net a Silver Slugger and a seventh-place finish in NL MVP.
If not for a recent injury, Manny Machado would be the shoo-in for the starting spot. While he is not on the injured list, the San Diego Padres could be reluctant to hurry him back into the lineup. Beyond Machado, it is a three-horse race. Brandon Drury edges out Riley in OPS while Nolan Arenado has the edge in RBI and defense. Drury could get the nod as the Cincinnati Reds’ only pick, but Riley is more than deserving as a candidate.
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson
Swanson is the most valuable primary shortstop in the NL, accumulating 2.7 bWAR and 3.0 fWAR. Over his last 45 games, Swanson has eight doubles, eight home runs, and nine stolen bases. In that span, he slashed .328/.393/.515, raising his season OPS by nearly 200 points. He has been a revelation, ranking first among qualified NL shortstops in on-base percentage and second in OPS and OPS+.
Two players stand in Swanson’s way. Trea Turner has a microscopic edge in both OPS and OPS+. Tommy Edman has been the primary second baseman (48 appearances) for the St. Louis Cardinals, but MLB voting counts him as a shortstop. Edman leads all of baseball with 4.2 bWAR. However, Swanson should get the nod because he has been a terrific hitter and defender while being the primary shortstop. Turner has been an abysmal fielder (sixth percentile OAA), and Edman has not even played 200 innings at shortstop.
Chances: Should Make It
Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Despite the hot stretch for the Braves, Acuna has been scuffling of late. In the last two weeks, Acuna slashed just .208/.309/.417. He raised his season OPS to .950 on June 11, but it has plummeted to .813 through June 20. The batted-ball data still paints Acuna as an elite hitter, but this slump could cost him an All-Star spot. At the same time, Acuna is one of the game’s most popular players, and he only needs one swing to reverse his slump.
Among outfielders on the ballot, Acuna ranks fifth in OPS. However, none of the four players ahead of him are locks. Joc Pederson leads the group, but he does not qualify for the batting title. Mookie Betts just went on the injured list. Ian Happ has been lost on a horrific Chicago Cubs team. Kyle Schwaber is batting .213 (which could turn away some voters). Slumping or not, Acuna is overwhelmingly likely to take one of the starting spots.
Outfield: Marcell Ozuna
Ozuna currently has -0.6 bWAR. He posted a sub-.650 OPS in May, and he is only slightly better in June. While Ozuna has hit reasonably well against righties (.755 OPS), he has been a downright disaster against lefties. Unlike the next player on this list, Ozuna has gotten worse since making space for Acuna. Ozuna should garner little to no consideration for an All-Star spot.
Outfield: Adam Duvall
Duvall dug too much of a hole for himself, but at least he has bounced back from a rough start. Through June 3, Duvall had a .517 OPS. Since then, Duvall is slashing .277/.359/.745 with six home runs and elite defense. If All-Star teams were made based on June only, Duvall would have a compelling case (.983 OPS), but April and May cannot be ignored. Even with the hot streak, Duvall is slashing just .205/.274/.366 on the season.
Write-In: Michael Harris
In his first 21 MLB games, Harris slashed .321/.346/.538. The Braves went 16-5 in that stretch. (In his 22nd game, Harris went 3-3 with a triple in another Braves’ win.) Among NLers with 20 games played in the outfield and 80 plate appearances, Harris ranks third in batting average, second in slugging, tied for second in OPS, and third in OPS+. Harris has certainly played at an All-Star level, but two major factors are working against him.
First, Harris is not even on the official ballot. He would have to be included as a write-in. Second, many of his competitors will have more than 300 plate appearances by the time voting ends. Harris may not have 150 by the time the All-Star Game happens. He will almost certainly have to wait for 2023.
Designated Hitter: William Contreras
The issue for Contreras is the positional designation. He has started just 28 games with nine coming as a designated hitter. However, Contreras has played like an All-Star so far. He has nine home runs, marking third among catchers (to his brother’s 12 and d’Arnaud’s 10). Among those that catch as often as Contreras, he is second in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, first in OPS, and first in OPS+.
However, Contreras counts as a designated hitter. Instead of lapping the field, he is the second fiddle to Bryce Harper. Harper has had a masterclass of a season so far, but he was forced to DH because of an arm injury. Naturally, Harper would be the easy selection if he was counted as an outfielder. Similarly, Contreras would have a fighting chance if he counted as a catcher. The combination of Harper’s injury and Contreras’ strange positional designation means Contreras would have to be selected as a reserve.
Chances: Contingent on NL Carrying Multiple DHs.
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