One of the closer 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star ballot races in these final days of voting is at the shortstop spot in the National League, where, at last count, the Cubs' Addison Russell (1.49 million votes) and the Rockies' Trevor Story (1.11 million) were separated by just a few hundred thousand clicks.
Have you noticed, though, what's happening just beneath that prominent pair?
The Dodgers' Corey Seager didn't even register on either of the first two NL ballot updates early this month. But two weeks ago, he placed fourth, and last week, he was in third. This is called a pattern, a rise in ranking that not-so-coincidentally coincides with Seager's rise in production. And while all three of these guys represent their teams well, Seager is the one most worthy of a strong finishing kick at the online ballot box.
Seager went into the weekend with a .289/.348/.519 slash, 16 homers and 16 doubles. Those numbers are all trending upward. In the month of June, Seager has a .321/.386/.641 slash, seven homers and four doubles.
This is a 22-year-old talent who is quickly adjusting and surging on the big league stage. Seager is not just the guy I'd pick to be the NL's starting shortstop. Were there first-half awards honored in MLB, he would get my NL Rookie of the Year nod, too.
"He's only gotten better and will continue to get better," manager Dave Roberts told reporters. "He's hitting left-handers, right-handers, early in the game, late in the game. He's being productive."
We loved Story's production in that ridiculous first week of his rookie season, and it's a credit to Story that, while that profound power pace did prove as unsustainable as expected, he's never gotten into a real, longstanding rut. His numbers are strong.
That said, there's no denying that Story and Seager play their home games in very different ballparks. So it's not enough to just look at their basically even OPS marks (Seager is at .867 while Story is at .869) or note that Story has the slight edge in home runs (18 to 16). A more helpful stat is weighted runs created plus, which takes park and league factors into account. Per that stat, Seager's production this season is 35 percent better than league average -- the best among qualified NL shortstops. Story is 12 percent better than the league norm.
So that, in my mind, is justification to take Seager over Story, regardless of Story's historic start.
As far as Russell is concerned, let's be honest: He's the recipient of the Cubs love that is spread all over this ballot. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that. The Cubs are a terrific team, and Russell is a terrific young player. If he maintains the voting edge he's had throughout the voting period, it's not a travesty.
But Russell's value -- at least, in terms of All-Star eligibility -- is obviously tied more to his glove than his bat, which has graded out below the league average on that aforementioned wRC+ scale. Russell is certainly the best defender of the three guys we're discussing here. But if defense was the ballot-punching priority, Brandon Crawford would be leading everybody at this position by a long shot. Instead, Crawford is fourth.
When you take the total package into account, Seager is the guy. He didn't get off to an incendiary start, and that allowed Russell and Story to establish themselves as the early front-runners. But Seager has begun to close the gap, and he deserves to finish with a flourish.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.