MLB All-Star Voters Guide 2023: Why Jeimer Candelario’s in, Shohei Ohtani’s not

By the time Jeimer Candelario earned a big-league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, he was a promising, switch-hitting third baseman whose most prominent other trait as a prospect was his terrible timing.

The entire starting infield for the Cubs that year earned starting All-Star bids on the way to a World Series celebration for the ages, and the National League’s MVP played Candelario’s position.

“I’ve just got to work hard and do the best I can,” Candelario said then, “and then the front office is going to decide if I can make it or not. If you work hard a lot of good things are going to happen.”

Candelario was traded to the Detroit Tigers a few months later, and if you’re into stories with happy endings, break out your 2023 MLB All-Star ballot, and click his name.

Because after signing with the Washington Nationals over the winter, Candelario is off to a breakout start that has him at the head of the third base class in the NL — ahead of perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado and even that former MVP blocking him in Chicago, Kris Bryant (albeit, Bryant now primarily an outfielder for the Colorado Rockies).

“You never know where you’re going to play in the big leagues,” Candelario said back with the Cubs as trade rumors swirled.

You also don’t always know when your time will come.

Or — especially this time of year — who the best player might be to select for a spot in an All-Star starting lineup.

That’s what we’re here for, with the World’s Greatest Fan’s Guide to All-Star Voting, with the balloting having begun this week.

These are the rock-solid, slam-dunk best picks for each position today, complete with what should be five first-time All-Stars you might not have expected to vote for, some usual suspects, three free agents already paying off, two trades paying off and, consequently, a few starting-lineup snubs (whom we suspect will make it as reserves).

Candelario makes two of our lists, as one of the would-be first-timers and a free agent paying off.

The others on our lists:

(Our complete, position-by-position voting guide is below)

Usual Suspects

bryce harper

L.A. Storied — Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman is off to an MVP-looking start, leading the NL in a truckload of categories, including OPS; and outfield teammate Mookie Betts is on a tear that roughly coincides with the Dodgers’ bounce back from a 9-10 start, including valuable contributions to embattled middle infield. And while Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout might not be the best player on his own team anymore, he’s still deserving of a starting nod in a tough field of AL outfielders. For those scoring at home, Trout has 10 of these So-Cal superstars’ combined 22 All-Star selections.

Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies — He only returned from Tommy John surgery in May, but what a return for a seven-time All-Star who wasn’t supposed to be back until sometime around the All-Star game itself. For him to be in it? How can you not vote for the DH story/performance of the year to date?

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees — The four-time All-Star and newly-ordained Yankees captain has more than answered his historic 2022 season with an opening act in 2023 that leads the majors in slugging and OPS since returning to the Bronx on that $360 million free agent deal.

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves — Don’t look now, Freddie, but your former Atlanta teammate is going to be tough to beat for MVP if he keeps up his 30-60 pace and leads the Braves to the top seed in the NL. The outfielder’s a cinch for a fourth All-Star selection.

Juan Soto, San Diego Padres — So much for the what’s-wrong-with-Soto narratives. The two-time All-Star is back to torrid form, averaging a walk and a pair of total bases per game over the last five weeks. Whether the Padres show him the money anytime soon, fans should show him the love on the NL outfield ballot.

MLB First Watch

yandy diaz

Dream Catchers — The top catcher in the AL, Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles, and the top three catchers in the NL so far this year all would be first-time All-Stars if selected this year. Rutschman, who leads the AL in on-base percentage, might have earned one last year but for the late-May debut that didn’t give him enough runway. Our NL pick in a close call is the Atlanta Braves’ Sean Murphy, who has thrived since a trade from the Oakland Athletics and looks like one of the best all-around performers in the game at the position.

Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays — The 2020 World Series hero, 2021 Rookie of the Year and 2023 WBC sensation has raised his game for the best team in MLB this year. Find his name among AL outfielders, and click it.

Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays — A first selection would be one of the best stories of this year’s Midsummer Classic for a 31-year-old first baseman who has quietly been a big part of the Rays’ playoff-caliber lineup in recent years without much in the way of accolades. He’s a top-10 WAR player in the AL so far this year, and the most deserving first baseman for an All-Star start.

Jeimer Candelario — See above.

Free Agent Payoffs

dansby swanson

Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs — The $177 million Gold Glove winner has lived up his billing since leaving the Atlanta Braves and earned the All-Star start. A sneaky, surprising honorable mention at the position goes to Swanson’s journeyman replacement in Atlanta, Orlando Arcia, who has back-filled at a high level.

Aaron Judge — See above. 

Jeimer Candelario — See above.

Trade Payoffs

sean murphy

Luis Arraez, Miami Marlins — In a trade with the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Pablo Lopez that has been a classic both-sides-win deal to date, the Marlins installed into their lineup a 2022 AL batting champ who’s two months into doing it again in the other league — leading the NL in both batting and on-base percentage.

Sean Murphy — See above.

Inevitable Snubs

will smith

Shoehei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels — The best part about being the greatest player on the planet is you can start on the mound if we say Yordan Alvarez should get your DH spot.

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays — That’s right, the AL leader in bWAR doesn’t earn our starting shortstop nod. The Rays’ budding superstar certainly will earn his first All-Star selection as a reserve. But Bo Bichette of the Toronto Blue Jays has done much more offensively, including leading all AL players in offensive WAR as a shortstop. That’s really impressive, so in the closest call of the bunch that’s our pick (but we won’t be mad if Franco wins the vote).

Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers — What’s one of the best young catchers in the game have to do to get his fair recognition? In this case, it would have been to keep Murphy in the AL. Otherwise, he’s a clear choice for the All-Star start. As a pretty good consolation, he probably makes it as a reserve.

Pete Alonso, New York Mets — No way the majors’ home run and RBI leader should get the starting nod over Freeman. But at least he has the Home Run Derby.

Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies — The Rox catcher has the numbers to join the conversation for a reserve role, but his classically skewed Coors-road splits put him behind both Murphy and Smith.

Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks — The early Rookie of the Year contender certainly is having an All-Star caliber season so far. And he’s equally versatile across the three outfield spots. But have you seen those other NL outfielders (see: usual suspects).

Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox — A Gold Glove center fielder who has been one of the Sox’ few bright spots in the early going, Robert might be their lone All-Star rep this year, but he shouldn’t be a starter. If you think that’s a snub, though, consider the Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Kiermaier, who ranks among the AL’s top five in bWAR and might win Comeback Player of the Year honors, but can’t crack our top three list of starting outfielders.

Kevin Kiermaier, Toronto Blue Jays — See above.

Voters Guide for All-Star Starters

freddie freeman


AL — Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

NL — Sean Murphy, Atlanta Braves

First Base

AL — Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays

NL — Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Second Base

AL — Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers

NL — Luis Arraez, Miami Marlins

Third Base

AL — Matt Chapman, Toronto Blue Jays

NL — Jeimer Candelario, Washington Nationals


AL — Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays

NL — Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs


AL — Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

AL — Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

AL — Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

NL — Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

NL — Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

NL — Juan Soto, San Diego Padres

Designated Hitter

AL — Yordan Alvarez,* Houston Astros

NL — Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies 

*-Alvarez is listed as an outfielder on the ballot, but one of the biggest bats in the league has started more games as the DH. Write him in.

Gordon Wittenmyer covers Major League Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter at @GDubCub.

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