Major League Baseball released its first update of fan voting for next month’s All-Star Game today, and the results provide no evidence that fans of the KC Royals are stuffing the cyber ballot boxes.
In fact, it appears Kansas City fans are voting their baseball conscience, or not turning out in the kind of numbers that came infamously close to putting Omar Infante on the American League team in 2015 and 2016.
So far at least, voting for Royal candidates reflects the reality of this season—only one Royal position player is having a bona fide All-Star campaign. Current tabulations for Phase 1 of the selection process—the first stage of voting that cuts the field down to nine outfielders and the top three candidates for catcher and each infield position—bear that out.
Salvador Perez, who’ll be an All-Star for the seventh time if elected by the fans or selected later as a reserve, holds a commanding lead at catcher, garnering almost 700,000 votes in numbers tweeted today by Fox Sport’s Ben Verlander:
Those numbers give Perez an early lead exceeding a half million votes, and rightfully so. He’s slashing .285/.314/.530 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs going into tonight’s game with Detroit and, of catchers who’ve appeared behind the plate at least 25 times this season, he ranks first in average, homers, and RBIs, is tied for first in doubles, is second in slugging and OPS, and fifth in OBP. Of the two officially “qualified” players (those with at least 3.1 at-bats over their teams’ schedules), Perez is first in all those categories.
Perez is also well ahead of runner-up Yasmani Grandal of Chicago, who’s hitting .157 with 10 homers in 46 games.
Fittingly, it appears KC Royals’ shortstop Nicky Lopez won’t make the team.
Players appear on the Phase 1 ballot only if nominated by their clubs. While most of the KC Royals’ nominations made sense, one made none—the notorious selection of Nicky Lopez for designated hitter despite his obvious lack DH credentials. Lopez, in fact, has only one appearance as a DH, a 2019 game when he didn’t even bat after entering the contest as a pinch runner for Jorge Soler.
The inclusion of Lopez on this season’s ballot at DH is as silly as electing Infante as the AL starter at second base would have been in 2015 and 2016. In his defense, Infante was actually playing second in those years, but his poor batting made voting for him illogical, although fans did so in droves.
But Lopez has virtually no chance of election. He’s not cracking the Top 10 in a race involving a near-500,000 vote gap between first and 10th.
Three other KC Royals are probably still in the running for Phase 2 voting.
So, with Perez’s selection all but a certainty, and Lopez appropriately out of the race absent any ridiculous voting, do any other Kansas City players have a chance to at least advance to Phase 2? Probably.
Whit Merrifield is in fifth place at second base, only about 52,000 votes behind New York’s DJ LeMahieu. But he trails Blue Jay Marcus Semien by over 460,000, making ultimate selection improbable. That, though, is reasonable considering Semien’s 15 home runs and .293/.358/.527 line, and Merrifield’s five homers and .255/.308/.378.
First baseman Carlos Santana ranks eighth so far at his position. Slightly fewer than 72,000 votes separate him from third place, but chances of ultimately overcoming leader Rafael Devers of Boston are remote.
And then there’s Adalberto Mondesi, whose two trips to the Injured List this season have sidelined him for all but seven games, standing alone in fifth place at shortstop. The fewer than 54,000 votes separating him from third place may keep him in the running for Phase 2, but Boston’s Xander Bogaerts’ lead is far too big for Mondesi to overcome. And coupled with his brief 2021 playing time, and his uncertain status, Mondesi’s election to the All-Star team would be less questionable than Lopez’s only because the KC Royals nominated Mondesi at a position he actually plays.
The only outfielder with any chance to get to Phase 2 is Andrew Benintendi, but he went on the IL today with a rib fracture.
Phase 1 All-Star balloting end June 24, Phase 2 begins June 28, and starting lineups will be revealed July 1. Managers choose starting pitchers and all other players will be selected by a process involving players and the Commissioner’s Office.