Since the MLB All-Star Game decides home-field advantage for the World Series, the fan voting takes on a far more important role than in other sports. It's fair to debate the merits of placing such importance on an exhibition game, but it's something contending teams are forced to deal with.
Many of the selections are pretty straightforward and the fans do a pretty solid job. The only major concern is a late surge by one fanbase that propels multiple members of that team into the starting lineup. With several close races, it's something that's possible this year.
With that in mind, let's check out predictions for how the lineups for both the American League and National League will look once the fan vote is complete. The most recent updated voting totals are available via ESPN (AL and NL).
The All-Star selection show on ESPN is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Sunday night.
|Predicted AL Fan Vote Winners|
|Catcher||Derek Norris||Oakland Athletics|
|1st Base||Miguel Cabrera||Detroit Tigers|
|2nd Base||Robinson Cano||Seattle Mariners|
|Shortstop||Derek Jeter||New York Yankees|
|3rd Base||Josh Donaldson||Oakland Athletics|
|Outfield||Mike Trout||Los Angeles Angels|
|Outfield||Jose Bautista||Toronto Blue Jays|
|Outfield||Yoenis Cespedes||Oakland Athletics|
|Designated Hitter||Nelson Cruz||Baltimore Orioles|
The American League lineup should be highlighted by Derek Jeter one last time. The longtime New York Yankees shortstop has been putting up mundane numbers by his old standards during the farewell tour, but nobody else at the position has played well enough to overcome the goodbye salute.
Jeter hasn't spent much time thinking about a potential trip to Target Field, though. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com passed along comments from the Yankee captain, who said he learned long ago not to pay much attention to early vote totals:
You know me—I don't think about that before it happens. I learned that a long time ago. I'll wait to see what happens. […]
Everyone was like, 'Oh, you're leading.' Then [Nomar] Garciaparra got like 100,000, 200,000 votes the last day, something like that. After that, I said, 'I'll just wait.'
Those late swings are always possible, but he should be safe this time around given the circumstances.
As for some positions that are more competitive, catcher is one of the most interesting.
Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles charged out to an early lead. But he hasn't played since early May due to an elbow injury and is out for the rest of the season. It's allowed other backstops to make a charge, led by Derek Norris of the Oakland Athletics.
It would be nice to recognize him because he represents what's good about that entire organization. He wasn't a massively-hyped prospect and isn't even generating much attention now, but his on-base percentage is over .400 and he's helped guide a top-five pitching staff.
The other close battle throughout the process has been for the third outfield spot. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays seem like locks.
Yoenis Cespedes (Athletics), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) and Adam Jones (Orioles) are among the top contenders in the wide-open race to join them.
Jones is having the best season of the bunch, but with Oakland fans motivated to vote given the close races involving both Norris and Cespedes, it probably gives their outfielder the edge.
|Predicted NL Fan Vote Winners|
|Catcher||Jonathan Lucroy||Milwaukee Brewers|
|1st Base||Paul Goldschmidt||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|2nd Base||Chase Utley||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Shortstop||Troy Tulowitzki||Colorado Rockies|
|3rd Base||Aramis Ramirez||Milwaukee Brewers|
|Outfield||Andrew McCutchen||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Outfield||Carlos Gomez||Milwaukee Brewers|
|Outfield||Giancarlo Stanton||Miami Marlins|
Once again the catcher position is a point of contention. In the National League, the race features five-time All-Star Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jonathan Lucroy of the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers.
While there's no doubting Molina's value, especially when it comes to calling games and bringing an opponent's running game to a halt, Lucroy deserves the nod. His terrific performance at the plate is one of the major reasons Milwaukee has been a surprise team.
Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves also deserves strong consideration by helping save an otherwise struggling offense. It's unlikely he could make up the vote difference, however.
And just like the American League, the other hotly-contested race is in the outfield.
Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Carlos Gomez (Brewers) appear safe, leaving Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) to battle for the final starting spot.
Unlike the AL race, Braun isn't the favorite due to a Milwaukee vote surge because it's hard to imagine him getting much support from any other fanbase. It's always going to take at least some semblance of support from elsewhere to win out.
Stanton is trying to make a comeback on Puig, and he deserves it. Both players are having great seasons, but the Marlins outfielder has an edge in just about every offensive category despite not having nearly as much support in the lineup.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today also believes he's earned a trip to Minneapolis:
In the end, Stanton and Puig will likely each end up on the final roster, but getting the opportunity to start is a special honor.
That's what makes all of the races so interesting across the board.