There are obvious All-Star candidates. Mike Trout? Good bet. Aaron Judge? Yeah, you’ll see him there. Mookie Betts? It would be downright weird if he didn’t get selected!
But there are other candidates for whom you can make a solid case. Players that are not the obvious pick from each team. Some of them are toiling away on teams people aren’t paying attention to. Some are having great years yet are being overshadowed by teammates. But they’re legitimate All-Star possibilities. They’re your sleeper All-Star candidates. Here’s one from each team.
Blue Jays: Alek Manoah, RHP
Key stats: MLB-leading 9 wins (Tied with two others) and 2.05 ERA
The Blue Jays are dominating All-Star voting, so there aren’t many “stealth” candidates here. Manoah is having a breakout year, and not only should he make the ASG, you can make an argument he should start it.
Orioles: Jorge López, RHP
Key stat: 0.75 ERA
His 13 saves will probably get him in the game – selectors love closers on less-than-stellar teams – but “saves” is the least interesting of his numbers. He’s a blueprint for the Orioles moving forward.
Rays: Ji-Man Choi, 1B
Key stat: 155 OPS+
First base is stacked, and everyone pays more attention to the Rays’ pitching. But Choi has never made an ASG, and he’s never had a better year than he’s having right now.
Red Sox: Michael Wacha, RHP
Key stats: 6-1, 2.34 ERA
Wacha hasn’t made an All-Star Game since 2015, but the 2013 NLCS MVP is putting up the sort of numbers that made the Cardinals think he might be the next Chris Carpenter. It has been an incredible comeback after several years in the wilderness.
Yankees: Gleyber Torres, 2B
Key stats: 13 HR, .487 SLG
It’s difficult to find a Yankee who isn’t having an All-Star season right now, but it really shouldn’t be overstated what a turnaround Torres has pulled off. His slugging is a full 120 points higher than it was last year; he looks like the guy who made the ASG the first two seasons of his career.
Guardians: Josh Naylor, OF
Key stat: .278/.340/.497 slash line
José Ramírez is having the MVP season, but Naylor is the slugging running mate Ramírez has been looking for for several years now.
Royals: Andrew Benintendi, OF
Key stat: .365 OBP
Eventually Bobby Witt Jr. is going to be the All-Star every year for the Royals, so how about shouting out Benintendi, who has never made an ASG but has maybe been Kansas City’s best hitter so far?
Tigers: Wily Peralta, RHP
Key stats: 2-0, 2.15 ERA
In the midst of a middling season in Detroit, Wily Peralta, of all people, is having the quietest career year possible.
Twins: Sonny Gray, RHP
Key stats: 3-1, 2.53 ERA
Gray has missed some time with injury, which has helped distract from the fact that, when he has pitched, he has been terrific.
White Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP
Key stat: 141 ERA+
With everything else going on with the White Sox, that Kopech has at last become the starter White Sox fans were waiting for has slipped between the cracks.
Angels: Patrick Sandoval, LHP
Key stats: 3-2, 2.63 ERA
There are so many other high-profile Angels so there surely isn’t room for him – this is an under-.500 team after all – but Sandoval has done everything he can to elevate this team’s pitching.
Astros: Michael Brantley, OF
Key stat: .288/.370/.416
In an uncertain world, Brantley almost silently putting together another season in the neighborhood of .300 at the plate feels as comfortable as an old shoe.
Athletics: A.J. Puk, LHP
Key stat: 2.12 ERA
Puk has been a heralded prospect forever. He may have hung around just long enough to get traded at the deadline.
Mariners: Logan Gilbert, RHP
Key stats: 8-3, 2.44 ERA
Did you know that Gilbert is in the top 10 in WHIP among qualified AL pitchers? Well, he is.
Rangers: Dennis Santana, RHP
Key stats: 1.59 ERA, 245 ERA+
You know, Dennis Santana. Right? Everybody knows Dennis Santana. (He’s actually a former Dodgers prospect.)
Braves: Kyle Wright, RHP
Key stats: 8-4, 3.18 ERA
Wright, until this year, was mostly known as the guy who took over in Game 5 of the World Series last year. Now he’s a co-ace on this staff alongside Max Fried.
Marlins: Anthony Bass, RHP
Key stat: 1 HR in 30 IP
It can seem like eventually every reliever has his day, and that’s certainly true with Bass, who is putting up career-best numbers in every possible category.
Mets: Mark Canha, OF
Key stat: .364 OBP
There are so many Mets to choose from that it’s tough to go all the way down to Canha, but he does have the third-highest OBP on the team, and one of the top 15 marks in the National League.
Nationals: Josh Bell, 1B
Key stats: 11 HR, .390 OBP
You think Juan Soto is getting lost in the wake of Washington’s lost season? No one has mentioned Bell’s name in weeks … though that might change come trade season.
Phillies: Seranthony Domínguez, RHP
Key stats: 4-1, 1.63 ERA
The Phillies have obviously been desperate for any bullpen arm they can find, so Domínguez has matured for them just in time.
Brewers: Eric Lauer, LHP
Key stats: 6-3, 3.89 ERA
The Brewers likely won’t have space for any extra All-Stars, but Lauer at this point is their No. 2 starter, and maybe their salvation.
Cardinals: Tommy Edman, SS
Key stat: 4.1 bWAR
According to Baseball-Reference, Edman – who has seamlessly transitioned to shortstop – is the best position player in baseball so far this year.
Cubs: Ian Happ, OF
Key stat: .279/.376/.459 slash line
The guy who got to Chicago right after they won the World Series has matured into a downright fantastic hitter.
Pirates: David Bednar, RHP
Key stats: 11 saves, 1.78 ERA
All told … I’m not sure there’s anyone more in baseball I’d trust right now to close out the All-Star Game?
Reds: Alexis Díaz
Key stats: 2-0, 2.40 ERA
He’s on the Injured List right now, but he should be back soon, and Edwin’s little brother has been almost as good as big bro has been this year.
Diamondbacks: Joe Mantiply, LHP
Key stat: 1.29 ERA in 30 appearances
He also has an ERA+ of 325. And no, I did not mistype that.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Key stats: 5-1, 2.00 ERA
I mean, who is possibly a “sleeper” with the Dodgers right now, particularly this lock first-ballot Hall of Famer? But with all the attention that Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson have received, did you know Kershaw has the best FIP of all of them?
Giants: Mike Yastrzemski, OF
Key stat: .347 OBP
Remember how surprised you were by Little Yaz originally? It’s not really a surprise anymore, but he keeps plugging away … and it’d be nice to see that name on an All-Star roster again.
Padres: Nabil Crismatt, RHP
Key stats: 4-1, 1.98 ERA
The scruffy right-hander has done just about everything the Padres have asked of him this year: Started games, finished games, rescued games.
Rockies: Daniel Bard, RHP
Key stats: 1.88 ERA, 15 saves
The wonderful comeback story of 2020 took a nose dive last year … but he has recovered this year to become one of the best closers in baseball.