If there's ever a Major League Baseball All-Star game (or any major sport all-star game, for that matter) that doesn't feature some sort of discontent about which players are selected and which ones stay home for extra rest, it will be national news.
The MLB All-Star Selection Show (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX) will shed some light on the starters for both the American and National League, but it will not end the yearly debate on deserving All-Stars who end up being snubbed.
We've seen stars emerge in both the AL and NL over the course of three-plus months of action so far. The most notable star has been Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles who leads the majors in home runs.
But it's the "fringe" players who will command the most attention when the voting results are revealed on Saturday. San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland will have the other input on the 34 roster spots. These spots are the ones seemingly under the most fire year-in and year-out.
We'll play crystal ball with the MLB All-Star rosters below, predicting four players who have deserving numbers and impact but will be All-Star snubs by July 16.
SS Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
J.J. Hardy appears to have an inside track on the AL shortstop starting nod, and behind him Jhonny Peralta and Elvis Andrus will both try and make a late push to the top of the voting.
But Jed Lowrie has been a strong piece for the Athletics so far this year—strong enough to merit consideration for one of Leyland's roster spots.
Tweets like this from Oakland's official Twitter account about Lowrie have been flying through social media throughout the 2013 MLB season:
Jed Lowrie has left the building! His two-run shot, his 5th home run this year, gives the #Athletics a 6-5 lead in the 4th inning.— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) June 30, 2013
The 29-year-old is only in his sixth MLB season, and through the season's first half, the Athletic is having the best year of his career.
Hitting .301 with a .374 on-base percentage, Lowrie has been rock solid for the A's. He's added five home runs and 34 RBI to bolster the Oakland offense.
As noted by Mike Selleck, who is Oakland's Baseball Information Manager, Lowrie has statistically been the AL's best contact hitter at shortstop this year:
Jed Lowrie is batting .318 when playing shortstop, which is the best batting average among American League shortstops. #Athletics— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) July 2, 2013
Lowrie's place in a small market and the late surge by both Hardy and Peralta will keep him out of the mix to make the AL roster. That being said, Lowrie could get the last laugh by finishing the second half of his year as strong as his first has been.
3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Beltre is having another fine season for the Rangers on both offense and defense, but he falls victim to one of the strongest positions in all of MLB All-Star voting.
It's an embarrassment of riches for the AL at third base.
Headlined by Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, you could make the case for all five of the players represented at the top of the fan vote to make the team. The 2012 Triple Crown winner is a lock to win the fan vote—Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado and Evan Longoria are also stars this year at the position.
Although Beltre is hitting .304 with 16 home runs, 20 doubles, 44 RBI and a .849 OPS this year, the competition is simply too stiff. That being said, no one will deny that Beltre is integral to the Rangers' success in the AL (per Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News):
Adrian Beltre has hit home runs in 80 games since joining the Rangers. They are 70-10 when he HRs. What he starts, the team follows.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) July 5, 2013
Machado is a breakout star for the Orioles, Longoria carries star appeal for a Tampa Bay Rays team lacking in that department and Donaldson has a .904 OPS for the Athletics this year in what has been a breakout season.
Beltre is an unquestioned leader for the Rangers, but that won't be enough to get him to Citi Field for the All-Star game this year.
OF Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati outfielder got off to a slow start during the month of April, but his May and June numbers more than made up for that slow start.
Bruce hit 17 of his 18 home runs in those two months, and has really picked up the slack for the Reds over the course of the last two months. His .275/.512/.833 (batting average, slugging percentage and OPS) splits are strong, and he had that phenomenal streak in June that ESPN's SportsCenter talked about on Twitter:
Cincinnati OF Jay Bruce hit 2 more homers in a loss today. His last 7 hits have ALL been home runs.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 23, 2013
Like Beltre and the AL third base spot, Bruce is facing too much competition to nab one of the final NL outfield spots.
Which Reds outfielder is more deserving?
If the performances of guys like Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Beltran weren't enough, the emergence of Yasiel Puig as a candidate to be a write-in vote takes another outfield spot away.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal projects nine outfielders to the NL roster, but lists the factors above and the fact that several other Reds (Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman) are virtually locks to make the squad.
Sometimes the numbers aren't kind, and Carlos Quentin gets Rosenthal's final outfield spot to give the San Diego Padres a lone representative.
Bruce has had a nice year, but the factors at play aren't currently working in his favor.
SP Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
If Puig is an All-Star candidate, why isn't Shelby Miller?
That's the outcry you'll hear in St. Louis when the rosters are announced. The rookie-to-rookie comparisons to what Miller has brought to the Cardinals and Puig has brought to the Los Angeles Dodgers will run rampant.
Miller is 9-6 with a 2.80 ERA through 17 starts this year, but he's also the byproduct of being on a strong team in the National League.
Cardinals are everywhere in the All-Star game voting tallies, and that could serve to hurt the NL Rookie of the Year candidate when Bochy is picking his final squad.
The NL is also littered with pitching talent, and finding a place for Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin and Travis Wood will keep Bochy from giving Miller the nod at the midway point of the 2013 MLB season.
There's always snubs in the All-Star game. It's just part of life. These four can stick it to the man by playing great baseball the rest of the way, and taking advantage of the time off during the grueling 162-game season.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.