Baseball has a new process for deciding who will start the All-Star Game on July 9 in Cleveland. With the primary portion of the voting complete, we're down to three candidates per league at each position (with nine outfielders). Everyone starts at zero when the Starters Election balloting opens at noon ET Wednesday and runs through 4 p.m. ET Thursday.
While the finalists sweat it out, we examine the candidates at each position. (All statistics through Sunday's games.)
Watch All-Star selection shows on ESPN: The Starters Election winners will be revealed at 7 p.m. ET Thursday. | Full rosters announced at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Primary voting results: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), 2,266,469; James McCann (White Sox), 1,085,254; Robinson Chirinos (Astros), 946,823
Who is the favorite? Sanchez. See that home run total? With 23 homers this year, Sanchez has outhomered the two other finalists combined, but here's what's really impressive: The Yankees catcher is tied with new teammate Edwin Encarnacion for the American League lead in the category. Sanchez isn't just a power threat: His .973 OPS is tops among qualified AL catchers and well ahead of those of McCann and Chirinos.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... McCann and Chirinos have similar backstories leading to their placement here. McCann struggled at the plate for the Tigers for four seasons before finding his stroke on the South Side this season, and Chirinos showed flashes of power during a six-year stint with the Rangers before flourishing in his new home. He might not have Sanchez's power, but McCann's .324/.387/.508 line certainly wouldn't look out of place in an All-Star starting lineup.
Primary voting results: Luke Voit (Yankees), 1,205,706; Carlos Santana (Indians), 1,180,719; C.J. Cron (Twins), 1,045,120
Who is the favorite? Voit ... maybe. There isn't much that separates the three finalists here statistically, but there won't be much hope for Santana or Cron if Yankees fans turn out in full force to back their slugging first baseman. Santana could get a strong push as the only player with a chance to start the game for host city Cleveland.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... Cron doesn't have the big-market backing or the hometown factor, but he does have All-Star numbers on the season's most surprising team. Minnesota is going to roll into the All-Star break with more than 50 wins, and a breakout season from a first baseman on his third team in the past three seasons has helped the AL Central leaders get there.
Primary voting results: Tommy La Stella (Angels), 1,713,094; Jose Altuve (Astros), 1,629,148; DJ LeMahieu (Yankees), 1,312,490
Who is the favorite? LeMahieu. Altuve has the name, and La Stella (somehow) has the votes, but DJ LeMahieu is a legitimate MVP candidate in his first season in the Bronx. After signing with the Yankees following seven years (and two All-Star campaigns) in Colorado, the 30-year-old infielder has been a veteran rock for a team that has soared to the top of the AL East despite battling injuries all season.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... There isn't a bigger dark horse on this ballot than La Stella, whose unexpected power surge has turned the former fan favorite in Chicago into a legitimate All-Star candidate for the Angels. Prior to 2019, La Stella had hit 10 home runs in his 396-game career. This season? The Halos infielder has 15 in 259 at-bats.
Primary voting results: Alex Bregman (Astros), 2,341,355; Gio Urshela (Yankees), 857,474; Hunter Dozier (Royals), 746,742
Who is the favorite? Bregman. After he made his first All-Star team and finished fifth in the AL MVP voting a season ago, Bregman's primary voting totals showed just how highly fans across the game think of the Astros infielder. Yes, the batting average is down a bit from his 2018 mark, but he has already hit 21 home runs, and his .910 OPS isn't far off the .926 he posted last season.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... A stint on the IL has hurt the argument for Dozier a bit, but the long-time prospect, first-time performer has been one of the few bright spots in K.C. this season. Entering the season, the 27-year-old owned a .228/.279/.388 career slash line, making his 2019 numbers of .311/.397/.592 a welcome surprise for the Royals. How impressive are those numbers? Well, they're better than both Bregman's and Urshela's in all three categories.
Primary voting results: Jorge Polanco (Twins), 1,450,913; Carlos Correa (Astros), 1,115,469; Gleyber Torres (Yankees), 976,163
Who is the favorite? Polanco -- but it's close. After showing flashes in his first three seasons with the Twins, Polanco has put together an MVP-caliber first half for baseball's biggest surprise. His .326 batting average is the best in the American League, and he's also tied for the major league lead in hits while closing in on his career high for doubles and home runs in a season.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... There is no true dark horse in this race. If back injuries hadn't limited Correa to 50 games, his case to start would be stronger. Meanwhile, Torres has taken another step forward after a strong rookie campaign and is on pace for nearly 40 home runs with an All-Star-worthy all-around stat line.
Primary voting results: Mike Trout (Angels), 3,370,499; George Springer (Astros), 2,565,706; Michael Brantley (Astros), 1,667,430; Austin Meadows (Rays), 1,344,031; Mookie Betts (Red Sox), 1,325,117; Eddie Rosario (Twins), 1,172,657; Aaron Judge (Yankees), 995,903; Josh Reddick (Astros), 928,606; Joey Gallo (Rangers), 904,563
Who is the favorite? Trout. Mike Trout is doing Mike Trout things again, and his AL-leading WAR total translated to the most primary-round votes in the league. After Trout, a pair of Astros could be hard to keep out of the starting lineup, as Springer nears a return to the lineup that should give him a chance to add to his big first half, and Brantley has shined from the start of his first year in Houston. It would also be hard to count out Betts or Judge (even though he hasn't played much this season) in a fan vote.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... Austin Meadows has been slumping at the wrong time for an All-Star hopeful, but his .304 average, 12 home runs and .930 OPS are certainly worth consideration. Before being sidelined with an oblique injury, Joey Gallo was in the midst of a breakout campaign that had him in the MVP hunt, thanks in large part to a .276 batting average -- 63 points above his career mark -- to go with the power we've come to expect from the Texas slugger.
Primary voting results: J.D. Martinez (Red Sox), 1,564,520; Hunter Pence (Rangers), 1,054,282; Nelson Cruz (Twins), 974,788
Who is the favorite? Martinez. J.D. Martinez's past two seasons have been so good that a .288 average, 16 home runs and 42 RBIs so far might qualify as a down year by his standards, but he's still the guy to beat at DH.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... If your first thought here is, "Wait, Hunter Pence is still around?" you probably aren't alone. When Pence left San Francisco after a string of nondescript seasons since last making an All-Star team in 2014, it seemed like the end could be near for the 36-year-old. Instead, Pence returned to his hometown and has provided one of baseball's feel-good stories of the first half for the Rangers.
Primary voting results: Willson Contreras (Cubs), 2,384,622; Brian McCann (Braves), 1,762,917; Yasmani Grandal (Brewers), 1,193,352
Who is the favorite? Contreras. The stats say there isn't much difference between Contreras and fellow NL Central catcher Grandal this season, but the Cubs backstop doubled Grandal's total in the primary round and is a known name as 2018's All-Star starter.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... At the age of 35, Brian McCann returned to Atlanta and has posted his highest batting average since 2009 and his best OPS since 2010 for the division-leading Braves. His overall numbers might lag behind those of the other two candidates a bit, but his place here shows what fans think of him.
Primary voting results: Freddie Freeman (Braves), 2,214,793; Josh Bell (Pirates), 1,831,933; Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), 1,545,682
Who is the favorite? You really can't go wrong with any of them -- and the position is so deep that sluggers Pete Alonso and Max Muncy would have had cases to start if they had made the cut.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... In terms of name recognition, Bell is the clear dark horse of this group. But if you like breakout sluggers who routinely hit baseballs to the farthest reaches of the ballpark -- and sometimes into the waters beyond -- Bell might be the candidate for you.
Primary voting results: Ozzie Albies (Braves), 2,190,518; Mike Moustakas (Brewers), 1,758,636; Ketel Marte (D-backs), 1,102,419
Who is the favorite? Albies? The other two candidates are having objectively better seasons, but Atlanta's second baseman appears to be benefiting from the Braves' bump in voting. Moustakas is the most recognizable name of the trio, a star in Kansas City who has hit 30 home runs in his year-plus with the Brewers.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... You might not know Ketel Marte's name, but his .309 batting average and 20 home runs are proof that you should get familiar with Arizona's out-of-nowhere slugger. Besides suddenly becoming a basher for the D-backs this year, Marte's versatility has allowed him to play second base, center field and shortstop when needed.
Primary voting results: Nolan Arenado (Rockies), 2,483,867; Kris Bryant (Cubs), 1,400,401; Josh Donaldson (Braves), 1,376,228
Who is the favorite? Arenado. Colorado's superstar third baseman is putting together another monster year at the plate while continuing to make jaw-dropping plays in the field for the Rockies. While Bryant has rebounded from an up-and-down 2018 and Donaldson has provided a nice boost at the hot corner in Atlanta, Arenado is the favorite to start at 3B for the NL again in 2019.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... All three names are known quantities here. The biggest question at third base will be if Anthony Rendon can finally end his string of All-Star snubs by earning a spot as a reserve.
Primary voting results: Javier Baez (Cubs), 2,598,426; Dansby Swanson (Braves), 1,719,262; Trevor Story (Rockies), 961,384
Who is the favorite? Baez -- by a large margin. This might have been more interesting if not for a recent thumb injury that could leave Story sidelined through the All-Star break, but Javy's combination of star power, market and on-field performance is tough to top.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... Can a former No. 1 overall pick be a dark horse? Swanson is putting together his best season yet but still has a lot of work to do if he's going to challenge Baez (or Story) for All-Star starter honors any time soon.
Primary voting results: Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), 3,685,170; Christian Yelich (Brewers), 3,646,071; Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves), 2,553,169; Nick Markakis (Braves), 1,425,889; Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), 1,242,552; Albert Almora Jr. (Cubs), 1,071,664; Jason Heyward (Cubs), 1,040,260; Kyle Schwarber (Cubs), 997,340; Joc Pederson (Dodgers), 961,515
Who are the favorites? Bellinger and Yelich. Those two are runaway favorites for NL MVP honors, let alone to start in the outfield. Even the homer-est of homer fans would be hard-pressed to leave the two stars of the first half in all of baseball off their ballots.
But if you want to back a dark horse ... Well, if the first two spots are spoken for -- and they are -- who does that leave for the final starting spot? Acuna and Blackmon are the two names that stand out from the remaining options. Still just 21, Acuna is on the verge of a long string of All-Star appearances. The veteran Blackmon, on the other hand, is looking to make his third straight All-Star appearance and is in the midst of a sizzling June that has pushed his average into the .330s with an OPS above 1.000.