Five key storylines as MLB unveils All-Star selections

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Jul. 11—This past weekend Major League Baseball officially unveiled its rosters for next week's 2022 MLB All-Star Game, which will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 19. With the rosters largely set, here are five storylines to watch ahead of the 92nd midsummer classic.

1. Judge, Acuña lead fan vote

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is in the midst of a historic season playing in baseball's biggest market, so it wasn't a surprise when he finished as the leading overall vote getter during the first phase of fan voting last month. Judge blew away the American League field with more than 3.7 million votes, edging Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout — now a 10-time All-Star — by 400,000 votes.

The National League race was much tighter, with Atlanta's Ronald Acuña Jr. beating out Los Angeles Dodgers great Mookie Betts by fewer than 24,000 votes. Acuña earned just over 3.5 million votes total even though he didn't return from his torn ACL until late April and has been mired in a slump over the past month, which speaks to his uncommon popularity across the sport.

2. Álvarez leads first timers

Yordan Álvarez has been one of baseball's best hitters ever since he debuted in 2019, and now he's finally an All-Star for the first time. The Houston Astros DH leads a strong class of first time selections, a group that also includes Houston teammate Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker, plus four members of the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, including William Contreras, Travis d'Arnaud, Dansby Swanson and Max Fried.

Among the other notable first-timers, Tampa Bay starting pitcher Shane McClanahan is a strong contender to earn the start for the American League, Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk and Miami second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. were both voted in as starters for their respective leagues, and Texas' Martín Peréz earned an All-Star nod only a year after a middling 2021 campaign with the Red Sox in which he lost his rotation job midseason and was relegated to mop-up duty out of the bullpen down the stretch.

One other cool fact with Contreras. He will replace the injured Bryce Harper as the National League's designated hitter, which means he'll be starting alongside his brother Willson Contreras, who was voted as the NL's starting catcher. The last time two brothers started together in an All-Star Game was back in 1992, when Roberto and Sandy Alomar started for the AL.

3. J-Rod an All-Star at 21

Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez came into the season as one of baseball's most hyped prospects, and the 21-year-old rookie has lived up to bill and then some. Rodriguez currently has 15 home runs, 44 RBI, 21 stolen bases and an .811 OPS, and he's played a big part in helping lead Seattle back into the Wild Card picture after a disappointing start for the club. Rodriguez is both the lone rookie and the youngest player selected to this year's All-Star Game, and in all likelihood it will be the first of many selections for the Seattle superstar.

4. Pujols, Cabrera earn special recognition

In addition to the All-Stars voted in by fans and fellow players, this year the Commissioner's Office gained the power to add one player of historical significance to each league's roster as part of the newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement. This year's special selections are St. Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols and Detroit Tigers great Miguel Cabrera, both of whom are future Hall of Famers nearing the end of their illustrious careers.

Pujols, now an 11-time All-Star, is in the final season of his 22-year career. He is now back with the Cardinals after 10 years with the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers and is baseball's active leader in hits (3,329) and home runs (684). Cabrera, a 12-time All-Star, recently joined Pujols as one of seven players in history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits and has actually been one of Detroit's best hitters at age 39.

5. France, Schreiber among biggest snubs

Over the next week we will likely see several All-Stars drop out of the game for one reason or another, which means some of the most egregious snubs will hopefully be rectified, but in the meantime there were a handful of clear-cut All-Stars who didn't make the initial cut.

One of the biggest was Mariners first baseman Ty France, who leads all AL first basemen in wins above replacement (2.7) and batting average (.306) while also ranking third in OPS (.840). Others include starting pitchers Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease and Kevin Gausman, and a particularly tough omission was Red Sox relief pitcher John Schreiber. A former Triple-A afterthought, Schreiber has transformed into one of the most dominant arms in baseball and him being rewarded with an All-Star bid would have been a remarkable story.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.