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Sports Saturday

Which Cubs, Sox will make the All-Star Game? The early verdicts are in

Kris Bryant? Jose Abreu? Willson Contreras? Yasmani Grandal? Javy Baez? Let’s talk about them and everybody else with at least a snowball’s chance.

Tampa Bay Rays v Chicago Cubs
Is Javy Baez bound for All-Star Game No. 3?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Who’s to say Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani won’t someday be remembered as legends along the lines of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial?

But before we put the trio of young superstars in another sentence with the only three players in major league history to be All-Stars 20 or more times, we should probably at least let them make their All-Star Game debuts. That will happen July 13 at Coors Field, where the thin Denver air will be extra-thick with a sense of newness.

A hard-to-believe eight starting position players — based on fan voting that ended Thursday — will be All-Stars for the first time. Joining the Padres’ Tatis and the Blue Jays’ Guerrero: Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez and second baseman Marcus Semien, Reds outfielders Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers and Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier.

Go ahead and raise that number to nine if you want to include Ohtani, the American League’s starting DH. And nine is a ton. In 2019, there were only four first-timers among starting position players (and DHs). In 2018, there were three, two of them being Cubs shortstop Javy Baez and catcher Willson Contreras. Those numbers were a lot more typical. Then again, there was no All-Star Game in 2020, postponing some debuts by a year.

How many other first-time All-Stars will there be? We’ll find out Sunday afternoon, when the results of player voting and final picks from the commissioner’s office are announced.

One newbie should be Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber. Wait, did we say Cubs? We meant Nationals, but you probably knew that already. After a sensational June in which he hit 16 home runs — 12 of them in a dizzying 10-day span — Schwarber is a Ruthian folk hero again, at least until the power spigot shuts off.

And what about the Cubs? What about the White Sox? Something else that’s kind of new: For the first time since 2017, neither team will have a starter in the game. Unless, that is, Rays manager Kevin Cash tabs the Sox’ Carlos Rodon or Lance Lynn — both of them are locks to make the team — to be first to the mound for the AL side. One supposes that’s a possibility.

Any other locks in town? Sure. Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel is one. Sox closer Liam Hendriks is another. Kimbrel’s numbers are right there with the Brewers’ Josh Hader’s — these are the two best closers in baseball this season, hands down — and Hendriks leads the AL in saves.

Beyond that? Let’s look at it.

Keep in mind that fan voting settled starting position players (and Ohtani) only. All those other top-three finalists — from Kris Bryant and Baez to Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal — aren’t guaranteed a thing. That means eight spots are spoken for in the NL and nine in the AL on what will be 32-man rosters.

The player vote will account for eight position players, five starting pitchers and three relievers on each roster, plus another DH for the AL side. (The NL team will use the DH, too, but at the discretion of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.) Finally, the commissioner’s office will add four pitchers to each roster as well as four position players to the NL side and two to the AL side.

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs
Schwarber and Bryant could be teammates once more.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

CUBS

Bryant: Phase 2 of fan voting was unkind to Bryant, who dropped from first to third — behind the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner, which certainly was fair — at third base. But Bryant’s extraordinary versatility warrants real respect, and his offensive numbers are nothing to sneeze at. Expect him to nab a spot.

Baez: He was second in the voting to Tatis at short, but this is a tough call. The Giants’ Brandon Crawford, who finished third, probably has been better and definitely plays for a better team. The Nationals’ Trae Turner — who would add to the first-timers list — probably has been better than both of them. Not digging Baez’s chances.

Contreras: It’s not his best season by the numbers, but he has been the workhorse of workhorses. Many a lesser catcher has been the No. 3 on an All-Star roster. Leaning toward yes.

Anthony Rizzo: He finished third in fan voting behind the Braves’ Freddie Freeman and the Dodgers’ Max Muncy, but this is not one of his better campaigns. Doesn’t look good.

Kyle Hendricks: His 10 wins led the NL entering Friday, and he sure has been an All-Star if you only look at his numbers from the end of April on. There’s a case that can be made for the Professor, but it’s not being made here.

Andrew Chafin: This dude is a lot of fun and crushing it on the mound. But it takes an even rarer bird to make the Midsummer Classic as a reliever who isn’t a closer. Not seeing it.

Chicago White Sox v Chicago Cubs
Will Grandal and Contreras get a chance to say hello to each other in Denver?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

SOX

Grandal: After the Royals’ Salvador Perez, where else do you go at catcher? The Astros’ Martin Maldonado finished second in voting — a spot ahead of Grandal — but his offensive numbers are laughable. The Yankees’ Gary Sanchez? Maybe. Grandal? Should be.

Abreu: He finished third in the voting at first base and is the reigning MVP, but let’s get real — there are more-deserving options. The Astros’ Yuli Gurriel, A’s Matt Olson and Angels’ Jared Walsh all belong. Sorry, Pito.

Yoan Moncada: Another who finished third — at third — but this requires a real leap of the imagination. Maybe next year.

Tim Anderson: It’s just not going to happen for the South Side’s favorite shortstop, but is it possible Anderson is — wait for it — the best player in baseball who has yet to make an All-Star team? Chew on that one awhile.