The unique twist when it comes to fan voting for the MLB All-Star Game is the fact that it's an exhibition game that actually matters. Since home-field advantage for the World Series is decided by the winner, fans of contending teams are best off supporting the top players instead of just their favorite team.
Although there are always some cases where players enjoying great seasons are passed over, the fans tend to do a solid job overall. Based on the updated vote totals provided by ESPN (American League and National League), it seems that will be the case again this time around.
The All-Star selection show will air Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The game will take place at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 15. Knowing that, let's check out the projected lineups and top selections for both teams.
|Catcher||Derek Norris||Jonathan Lucroy|
|1st Base||Miguel Cabrera||Paul Goldschmidt|
|2nd Base||Robinson Cano||Chase Utley|
|Shortstop||Derek Jeter||Troy Tulowitzki|
|3rd Base||Josh Donaldson||Aramis Ramirez|
|Outfield||Mike Trout||Andrew McCutchen|
|Outfield||Jose Bautista||Carlos Gomez|
|Outfield||Yoenis Cespedes||Giancarlo Stanton|
|Designated Hitter||Nelson Cruz||n/a|
Projected Leading Vote-Getters
American League: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
If not for two outstanding seasons by Miguel Cabrera, we would be talking about Trout as a 22-year-old two-time defending Most Valuable Player in the American League. It would have put him on track to become one of the most decorated players in baseball history.
While he fell short, the Angels outfielder is well on his way to taking the crown away from Cabrera this season. His speed numbers are down, perhaps in an effort to keep him healthy, but his power numbers are on pace to be his best yet and he leads the majors in WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments from Trout earlier in the voting process. He was thankful for the support and looked forward to his third chance to represent the American League:
It feels good to get all the support from my fans. It feels good to be up at the top. To be No. 1 is something special, for sure. It means a lot. [...]
I'm going out there and playing with some passion and some fun. I had a lot of fun at the last two All-Star games, so it would be a blast to go this year.
Which team will have the more potent starting lineup?
Trout is a perfect example of the widespread support of fans. The voting trends don't show any type of major Angels push, but anybody who watches the game understands he's the new standard and deserves to headline the AL squad.
Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays actually had the inside edge on him for the most votes heading into the final days. There's usually a surge in ballots leading up to the deadline, however, giving Trout a chance to make up the difference.
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
There has never been any doubt about Tulowitzki's talent. The Rockies star is one of the best pure hitters in baseball. Unfortunately, injuries have held him back. He's appeared in more than 130 games just once over the past four years, appearing in just 47 in 2012.
The shortstop has been able to avoid the major injury bug so far this season. As a result, his numbers are terrific. He's leading the league in batting average to go along with a pace that would put him on target for around 35 home runs and 30 doubles.
One reason he's been such a tough out is because he covers the plate so well. Even if the plan is to nibble at the corners and attempt to pitch around him, he's dangerous. Mark Simon of ESPN passed along a stat to illustrate that point:
Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki has a MLB-best .329 batting average on pitches outside the strike zone pic.twitter.com/pNbcfqJDP2— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) July 2, 2014
An argument can be made that Coors Field helps inflate Tulowitzki's overall numbers. It's impossible to say it doesn't help, but he still has a solid .830 OPS with seven homers away from home. So he's having a good season no matter how you slice it.
He had opened up a pretty solid lead in the overall NL voting. That's mostly because he's the clear choice at his position, while there are some pretty tight races elsewhere. It should allow him to finish atop the heap in the Senior Circuit with relative ease.