Three Braves deserve to start in All-Star game

Arcia should join Acuna, Murphy
Designated hitter Marcell Ozuna congratulates Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia (11) after he scored during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park on Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Atlanta.
 Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Designated hitter Marcell Ozuna congratulates Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia (11) after he scored during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park on Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Atlanta. Miguel Martinez /

Six Braves players were on the National League’s All-Star team in 2022. Three of them won’t represent the team this year. Dansby Swanson and William Contreras play elsewhere, and injuries have limited lefty Max Fried to five starts. Yet the Braves still could send six players to MLB’s showcase game again.

Final All-Star rosters won’t be announced until July 2. Starters other than the pitchers will be determined by fan voting through next week. The Braves should have three players in that lineup. Sean Murphy and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. are clear choices. Orlando Arcia isn’t because the competition is stiffer at his position, but he should be the NL’s starting shortstop.

Arcia had the most votes among shortstops when MLB released an update last week. That was a bit surprising. Arcia is having a very good season, but he’s never been an All-Star and spent 24 days on the injured list. The two players directly behind Arcia in voting, Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts, both have four previous All-Star selections.

It seems Arcia has become a star in a very short time. The popularity is earned. Arcia should be in the NL All-Star lineup ahead of Lindor, Bogaerts and Swanson. That Arcia has missed time with injury is a point in his favor. He nearly has matched the production of his peers in fewer games and has been better in most rate statistics (all numbers and rankings before Tuesday’s games).

Arcia leads NL shortstops in batting average (.341), on-base plus slugging (.890) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (143). His on-base percentage is better than Swanson, Bogaerts, Lindor and Reds rookie shortstop Matt McLain, who ranked fourth in voting at last update. Arcia’s 2.3 Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs) are better than all those shortstops except Swanson.

Swanson’s value gets a big boost because of his elite defense. But Arcia has been excellent in the field, too. Arcia’s far superior offense gives him the edge over Swanson. Arcia has been so good that he’s made some people (hand raised) look silly for doubting the Braves could fill the hole left behind by Swanson.

If Arcia still has the most votes among NL shortstops at Thursday’s deadline, then he and the player with the second-most votes will move on to the second round of voting. The starter will be chosen from among those two players in voting that ends June 29. Arcia almost certainly will make the first cut.

I’m hedging a bit on that because MLB is essentially allowing fans to stuff the ballot box. They can vote for players as many as five times every 24 hours. They can vote more times than that if they use multiple email addresses. That’s smart marketing. It may not be a fair system, but it’s hard to argue against players with the most fanatical supporters being featured in the league’s showcase game.

That brings me to Acuña. He had the most votes of any MLB player when MLB released its latest update Tuesday afternoon. At that time, Acuña had about 300,000 more votes than Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. That’s evidence that Acuña is the most popular baseball player in the world. If true, it’s easy to see why.

Acuña does everything with great flair. He hits towering home runs. Among his 15 dingers, six have traveled an estimated 450 feet or more. Acuña does that while rarely whiffing. His 13.3% strikeout rate is the ninth lowest among qualified MLB outfielders. Acuña’s 30 stolen bases are the most in the NL and he regularly makes superlative plays in the field.

Acuña will automatically earn a starting All-Star spot if still leads NL players in votes at Thursday’s deadline. If he doesn’t but ranks among the top six outfielders, then Acuña moves on to the next phase, with three outfielder starters chosen next week. If Acuña isn’t chosen as a starter, then something will have gone terribly wrong with MLB’s voting system.

Murphy likely will join Acuña in the NL lineup. He had about 460,000 more votes than Dodgers catcher Will Smith at last update. Those two were well in front of the rest of the field. I suppose Smith could beat out Murphy because he plays for one of MLB’s glamorous franchises—that would be fine because, again, the All-Star game is for the fans—but Murphy deserves to start on the merits.

Murphy is outpacing Smith in home runs, RBIs and OPS. Smith has the edge in batting average, OBP and WRC+. Murphy leads Smith in WAR because he’s the far better defender at the game’s most demanding position. Defense doesn’t usually factor much in All-Star voting. It’s why I’d take Murphy over Smith.

Murphy, Acuña and Arcia should be NL starters for the All-Star game. MLB players will vote on pitchers (five starters and three relievers for each league) and bench players (eight). The commissioners’ office will pick the rest of the players for the 32-man rosters.

Two Braves players have strong cases to be picked as reserves. Right-hander Spencer Strider is slumping but he still leads the NL in strikeouts per nine innings (14.53) by a large margin. Bryce Elder’s 2.60 ERA is second best among NL starters behind Marcus Stroman (2.45).

The arguments aren’t as strong for third baseman Austin Riley and second baseman Ozzie Albies. But they were second in fan voting at their positions at the last update. Maybe their peers also hold them in high esteem and will vote them in as reserves.

The NL All-Star roster will confirm that Braves have become an assembly line of upper-tier MLB talent. Good players leave, replacements are plugged in, and the Braves keep rolling. Swanson (Cubs) and catcher Contreras (Brewers) likely will make the All-Star team for their new clubs. Braves successors Murphy and Arcia will be their NL teammates.

The only question is which Braves will start for the NL in the All-Star. That’s up to the fans, as it should be. Acuña, Murphy and Arcia are my picks.

Atlanta Braves' catcher Sean Murphy (12) celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the ninth inning at Truist Park, Saturday, May 27, 2023, in Atlanta. Philadelphia Phillies won 2-1 over Atlanta Braves. (Hyosub Shin /


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Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) high-fives teammates at the dugout after scoring a run during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park on Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Atlanta.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez