MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Three positions that make for tough All-Star choices

NL first base, NL third base, AL outfield are crowded with top candidates

Three positions that make for tough All-Star choices

This being Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot season and all, your friendly neighborhood columnist is here to help you sort out some situations.

Spoiler alert: Good luck.

One situation that has developed is among National League first basemen. This is the toughest position of them all, and it's not even close. At this point, you could have a very competitive NL All-Star team composed strictly of first basemen.

First, a quick rundown as we look ahead to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami (all stats through Monday):

1. Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals is the hottest hitter on the planet with a .410 batting average. Yes, .410.

2. Eric Thames of the Brewers has been the NL's most intriguing story in his return from Korea.

Thames hammers homers

3. Mark Reynolds of the Rockies has dutifully put up numbers that should get him to South Florida for the big game.

4. Finally, there's Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Matt Carpenter.

In some years, this last group would be considered legacy picks. That is, they might be All-Stars even if their numbers didn't exactly warrant it.

Nothing wrong with that. When players achieve a certain stature in the game, they are stars, and what's an All-Star Game without stars?

Between them, they've got 13 All-Star appearances, including four apiece by Goldschmidt and Votto. This season, though, they all deserve to be there, all of them ranking in the top 13 in OPS among NL players.

Statcast: Goldy's upper-deck HR

And there's the rub.

Several positions are going to be tough calls on the ballot. But none of them comes close to first base in the NL.

Here's a rundown:

• Zimmerman, Freeman, Thames and Goldschmidt have four of the five highest WAR totals in the NL.

• Zimmerman, Freeman and Thames rank first, third and fourth in the NL in OPS. They're also in the top three in home runs.

Freeman's game-tying home run

In all, first basemen have seven of the top 13 OPS totals in the NL. And we haven't even mentioned Anthony Rizzo, who won the NL polling last season when Cubs fans turned out in huge numbers.

In the end, though -- and with a tip of the cap to the quality of the class -- Zimmerman has earned the spot. He's tied with Freeman with a 2.2 WAR and and leads the NL in pretty much everything else: batting average (.410), home runs (13), doubles (13), hits (48), RBIs (34) and OPS (1.304).

Statcast: Zimmerman's long homer

While I've got you here, let's consider two other positions:

NL third baseman

Kris Bryant is the incumbent and a solid favorite to win again. But the position is stacked with good players having really good seasons:

1. Eugenio Suarez, Reds
.316 batting average, seven homers, 22 RBIs, .974 OPS
Suarez is a huge part of the Reds' magical ride, and he has more than earned his first All-Star appearance.

2. Justin Turner, Dodgers
.372 batting average, one homer, 15 RBIs, .942 OPS
Last season finally brought Turner full-time player status, as well as the acknowledgement that he's one of the most complete players in the game.

3. Bryant, Cubs
.301 batting average, seven homers, 18 RBIs, .954 OPS
Bryant is the incumbent and favorite to win again. Nothing wrong with that. His numbers are solid.

Statcast: Bryant's 451-ft. homer

4. Jedd Gyorko, Cardinals
.333 batting average, six homers 15 RBIs, 1.021 OPS
Gyorko has been an offensive catalyst to power the Cardinals to a 14-5 run to the top of the NL Central.

5. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
.289 batting average, eight homers, 22 RBIs, .908 OPS
Arenado has never been fully appreciated for his overall game despite two Top 10 NL MVP Award finishes. He routinely makes defensive plays that take your breath away.

6. Anthony Rendon, Nationals
.283 batting average, five homers, 23 RBIs, .821 OPS
Rendon's contributions may get lost as part of the most dazzling offensive team in the game.

American League outfield

Good luck with this one. Let's begin by picking six, and then listing others who deserve your consideration.

1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
.317 batting average, 13 homers, 28 RBIs, 1.173 OPS
Can Judge keep up his torrid pace? How will he react as teams adjust? At the moment, those are the only questions.

Statcast: Judge's 119.4-mph HR

2. Mike Trout, Angels
.355 batting average, eight homers, 21 RBIs, 1.146 OPS
Best player on Earth. No discussion needed.

3. Avisail Garcia, White Sox
.336 batting average, five homers, 24 RBIs, .911 OPS
Just when it looked like Garcia might never fulfill the promise forecast for him, he has become all that and then some.

4. Corey Dickerson, Rays
.323 batting average, six homers, 11 RBIs, .922 OPS
Dickerson's emergence has given the Rays' offense a much-needed boost.

5. Mitch Haniger, Mariners
.
342 batting average, four homers, 16 RBIs, 1.054 OPS
Funny thing is, this is pretty much what the Mariners forecast for Haniger.

6. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
.
339 batting average, five homers, 22 RBIs, .916 OPS
It's not hype. Benintendi is that good.

7. Justin Upton, Tigers
.263 batting average, six homers, 16 RBIs, .891 OPS
Upton has dealt with some hype, too, though the years. In the end, he has become a very solid player.

Others in the mix: Aaron Hicks (Yankees), Brett Gardner (Yankees), George Springer (Astros), Adam Jones (Orioles), Khris Davis (Athletics).

Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

Following the announcement of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.