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Rays’ long list of 2023 MLB All-Star candidates

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This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND — As baseball’s best team all season, it seems fair to expect that the Rays will be well-represented at the 2023 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. Just how well-represented they should be in Seattle on July 11 depends on who you ask.

“I feel like half our team should be going to the All-Star Game,” Tyler Glasnow said recently, rattling off teammates’ names before realizing his unfinished list was getting a bit long. “Basically, like, the starting nine. … I hope we have like six-plus. I think we should, for sure.”

That wasn’t necessarily reflected in the first balloting update for the All-Star Game, which was released on Monday. The Rays are involved in some close races, but they’ll need a little help before Phase 1 of the voting concludes at noon ET on June 22.

Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (545,976 votes) has a narrow advantage over the Rays’ Yandy Díaz (533,179), although Díaz would advance to Phase 2 at this point. So would Randy Arozarena (532,489), who is fourth among AL outfielders behind Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and Yordan Alvarez.

Granted, it’s a fan vote, and there’s always some debate about whether All-Star honors should go to the biggest names or those having the best seasons. But the biggest surprise might be Wander Franco, arguably the best player in baseball to this point, with the third-most votes among AL shortstops (226,629), behind Toronto’s Bo Bichette (775,221) and Texas’ Corey Seager (376,659).

Of course, players can make the Midsummer Classic without being named starters. There will be plenty of reserves named to the roster, and pitchers are another matter entirely. But when it’s all said and done, how many All-Stars should Tampa Bay have?

First, let’s look at the numbers.

By Baseball-Reference’s calculation of Wins Above Replacement, the Rays entered Monday with three of the AL’s top eight position players: Franco (first, 3.8 WAR), Arozarena (seventh, 2.5) and Díaz (eighth, 2.3). Not too much further down the list are Josh Lowe (13th, 2.1), Taylor Walls (16th, 1.9), Luke Raley (34th, 1.6) and Ramírez (36th, 1.5).

McClanahan feels like a lock, and at this point he looks like a top candidate to be the AL’s starting pitcher for the second straight year. It’s also hard to imagine this All-Star Game without Arozarena, a natural entertainer in addition to being one of the game’s best players this season, or Franco, who is one of baseball’s brightest young stars. Same goes for Díaz, whose added power has made him one of the league’s most complete hitters.

Anything beyond that might be getting greedy — at least on the initial roster before injuries and replacements come into play — but there are certainly arguments to be made for Eflin, Josh Lowe, Raley and others.

If you listen to their teammates, the list of All-Star-worthy Rays doesn’t stop there.

“Close to eight [or] nine, truthfully,” McClanahan said, grinning. “There’s a lot of great players in this room, and I hope people recognize the talent.”

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