All-Star voting opened this week as the Braves launched their Hollywood-centric campaign to get their players to Los Angeles for the midsummer classic next month.
Braves manager Brian Snitker will manage the National League team. It’s likely he’ll have multiple of his own players in his dugout. The Braves, who finally caught fire after a pedestrian start, have plenty of All-Star candidates.
Outfielder Ronald Acuna has played in only 29 of 58 games, but his performance warrants All-Star honors. He’s hit .312/.409/.514 with five homers, seven doubles and 15 RBIs in 109 at-bats. The two-time All-Star also has added 11 stolen bases. Recurring injuries have interrupted, and sometimes overshadowed, another phenomenal Acuna season.
Third baseman Austin Riley had a somewhat quiet start to the campaign. In his past 17 games, he’s hit .352/.395/.732 with seven homers, four doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs. Riley is sure to garner All-Star support from fans, but his position is among the NL’s best. The top group also includes San Diego’s Manny Machado, the MVP front-runner, and St. Louis’ Nolan Arenado. Riley is vying to become the first Braves All-Star third baseman since Chipper Jones in 2012.
First baseman Matt Olson leads the majors with 24 doubles. He’s hit .253 with an .813 OPS over his first 58 games as a Brave. Olson, who has seven homers and 29 RBIs, is among a crowded field of NL first basemen. Former Brave and current Dodger Freddie Freeman, the Mets’ Pete Alonso and the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt each has a case to start for the NL.
Since 1990, the Braves have had three first basemen earn All-Star honors: Fred McGriff (three times), Andres Galarraga (twice) and Freeman (five times). Olson, an Atlanta native, was an All-Star for the A’s last season.
After starting his contract year poorly, shortstop Dansby Swanson has been extremely productive since May 1. He’s hit .311/.378/.467 with five homers, six doubles and 20 RBIs in his past 36 games. The Dodgers’ Trea Turner is the favorite to start for the NL (.302, seven homers, 46 RBIs). The Braves haven’t had an All-Star shortstop since 2006 (Edgar Renteria).
William Contreras is a surprise candidate. He was elevated to a permanent role when backstop Manny Pina was declared out for the season, and Contreras has made the most of it. He’s hit .304/.382/.684 with eight homers, six doubles and 16 RBIs across 24 games (79 at-bats). The Braves have found ways to get him in their lineup. He’s eligible on the ballot as a designated hitter.
The elder Contreras, Willson of the Cubs, is the statistical favorite to start at catcher (.277 average, .933 OPS). Travis d’Arnaud will warrant consideration with a .252 average, six homers and 24 RBIs. Regardless of whether the Braves’ backstops are honored, their catching situation with d’Arnaud and Contreras ranks among MLB’s best.
Fans don’t vote for pitchers, but left-hander Max Fried appears on his way to his first All-Star nod. Fried owns a 2.64 ERA with a 69:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 starts (75 innings). Opponents are hitting .233 against him with a .602 OPS, which is the best mark of his career.
Kyle Wright is the Braves’ other “surprise” candidate. Wright arguably has been the team’s best starter, posting a 2.39 ERA over 11 starts. He’s struck out 73 and walked 23 in 67-2/3 innings. Wright, 26, has emerged into a frontline starter after years of yo-yoing between the majors and Triple-A Gwinnett.
Wright and Fried give the Braves a chance at having two starting pitchers on the All-Star team for the first time since 2002 (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz). Pitchers are selected by players’ balloting and the commissioner’s office.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies will receive healthy fan support for his third All-Star appearance. He’s hit .249 with a .692 OPS over 58 games, which makes him a leading candidate. A.J. Minter has been the Braves’ most dominant reliever with a 1.08 ERA and 35:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in an NL-leading 26 appearances. Closer Kenley Jansen, who’s converted 16 of 19 save opportunities and owns a 3.51 ERA (2.29 FIP), could be considered.
The Braves have had multiple All-Stars in 16 of the past 21 years, but they haven’t had more than four All-Stars in a single season since 2011 (five). They have a chance to exceed that mark this summer. All-Star rosters will be announced July 10.
The All-Star game will be played July 19 at Dodger Stadium. It’s the first time the event has been held in Los Angeles since 1980.