Whether or not they win their respective leagues, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are set to make a mark on this year's World Series.
Home-field advantage plays a pivotal role in any playoff series, so MLB naturally lets an exhibition game decide who gets an extra home game during the championship showdown. If the Red Sox or Cubs don't make the Fall Classic, the participants can thank or blame the All-Star Game outcome.
In the latest voting updates, provided on Monday by MLB Communications, five Cubs and four Red Sox hitters are slated to start the All-Star Game on July 12. Beside Boston outfielder Mookie Betts, all of them have comfortable leads.
The voting window closed on Thursday, and MLB will reveal each side's starters on Tuesday night. Little is likely to change, but Buster Posey recently gained a narrow lead over Yadier Molina at catcher.
Let's look at the updated leaderboard before diving into baseball's premier offenses, who will be heavily represented in the starting lineups.
|2016 MLB All-Star Game Voting Leaders|
|C||Salvador Perez||Kansas City Royals||Perez|
|1B||Eric Hosmer||Kansas City Royals||Hosmer|
|2B||Jose Altuve||Houston Astros||Altuve|
|3B||Manny Machado||Baltimore Orioles||Machado|
|SS||Xander Bogaerts||Boston Red Sox||Bogaerts|
|OF||Mike Trout||Los Angeles Angels||Trout|
|OF||Jackie Bradley Jr.||Boston Red Sox||Bradley|
|OF||Mookie Betts||Boston Red Sox||Betts|
|DH||David Ortiz||Boston Red Sox||Ortiz|
|C||Buster Posey||San Francisco Giants||Posey|
|1B||Anthony Rizzo||Chicago Cubs||Rizzo|
|2B||Ben Zobrist||Chicago Cubs||Zobrist|
|3B||Kris Bryant||Chicago Cubs||Bryant|
|SS||Addison Russell||Chicago Cubs||Russell|
|OF||Dexter Fowler||Chicago Cubs||Fowler|
|OF||Bryce Harper||Washington Nationals||Harper|
|OF||Yoenis Cespedes||New York Mets||Cespedes|
Boston Red Sox
Boston leads MLB in runs scored and weighted on-base average (wOBA), so this isn't a case of biased fans flooding the ballots for an unjust cause. All four guys deserve their spots.
Luckily for Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado is listed as a third baseman despite switching to shortstop during the season. As a result, both young stars will cohabit the left side of the American League's infield barring a major voting turnaround.
Although his .337 batting average ranks third in the AL to Jose Altuve and David Ortiz, Bogaerts has taken the anticipated leap to stardom with a power uptick. After hitting seven home runs last year, he has gone deep nine times while also collecting 21 doubles.
The 23-year-old is a legitimate MVP candidate, but he's not Boston's best hitter. That honor belongs to Ortiz, whose .684 slugging percentage and .457 wOBA lead all qualified hitters by cavernous margins.
Fans tend to vote retiring veterans in as a sort of lifetime achievement award, but the 40-year-old has earned his spot. He won't, however, participate in one final Home Run Derby. According to the Boston Herald's Jason Mastrodonato, manager John Farrell is worried about the veteran designated hitter losing a step as a result of running out a league-high 31 doubles.
“There have been some times where it’s maybe not been what we saw early in the season,” Farrell said. “The one thing is, we’ve charted the total bases to date and particularly it’s the doubles, the two-base running that really taxes him.”
The most unlikely name of the bunch, Jackie Bradley Jr., was a career .193 hitter before last year's All-Star break. He has since recorded 20 homers and 10 steals over 149 games, cementing his late breakout with a .297/.385/.558 slash line this season.
Mastrodonato showed how well the 26-year-old outfielder has performed since last year's late breakthrough:
Betts, having recently gained possession of the third spot, shouldn't lose it on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old has gained everyone's attention by hitting .291/.331/.506 with 16 homers and 13 steals. Meanwhile, two of his top competitors—Jose Bautista and Lorenzo Cain—are on the disabled list
Last year, Brock Holt was the Red Sox's lone All-Star representative—and a controversial one given his .791 first-half OPS. Now they're on the verge of sending four players to San Diego, possibly five if knuckleballer Steven Wright gets the starting nod.
The Cubs have outscored their opposition by 161 runs, and no other team has a triple-digit run differential. They're the favorites to reach the World Series, so their players might as well fight for home-field advantage.
Chicago is poised to send its entire infield and center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Midsummer Classic. Per the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzalez, manager Joe Maddon is excited about watching his players share the spotlight.
"All day I’ll be looking forward to that moment of sitting there and watching them being introduced and standing on the line, tipping their cap and that will be awesome for us, as a team, for the organization, and for all Cubs fans," Maddon said. "It’s pretty powerful.”
Even though Daniel Murphy and Nolan Arenado have valid starting credentials, they will likely make the team as reserves. Beside, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant also boast All-Star portfolios.
He can't match Murphy's .352 average, but Ben Zobrist warrants a roster spot on the strength of a stellar .406 on-base percentage. The patient 35-year-old has drawn more walks (49) than strikeouts (46) during his first year with the Cubs.
After a recent hot streak, including a three-homer game, Kris Bryant boasts an NL-best 4.0 WAR. He also drilled two doubles on Monday to do something that hasn't happened for almost as long as the team's infamous title drought:
Any case for Wil Myers or Paul Goldschmidt isn't a knock on Anthony Rizzo, who is hitting .279/.402/.566 with 19 dingers. The first baseman validated this choice by batting .378/.467/.744 during a red-hot June.
Addison Russell is the lone pure culprit of homerism. There are far better choices than the shortstop with a .719, particularly Corey Seager:
|Addison Russell vs. Corey Seager|
Nevertheless, Russell's lead over Trevor Story would've been too wide to eliminate in a week, especially with the Cubs faithful backing the 22-year-old. His inclusion would cost Seager, Story and Brandon Crawford trips to San Diego.
All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.