Will Aaron Altherr be the Phillies' All-Star selection this year?

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Major League Baseball announced the first returns of 2017 All-Star voting and while the National League East is well represented around the diamond, led by Bryce Harper’s more than 2.1 million votes, there isn’t a Phillies player to be found.

MLB ranked the top five vote-getters at every infield position and the top 15 outfielders. And of the 40 NL players named, there wasn’t a Phillie in the lot. Sure, the Phils have had a dreadful first half of the season — 21-41 after Monday’s 11-inning loss in Boston — but there was an off-chance one position player might sneak into the top 5 in voting, no? No.

Cesar Hernandez at second base was having a nice year until he got hurt, but that just happened, so it’s a little hard to swallow that the Phillies’ best player all season couldn’t sneak past St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong and his 226,981 votes so far. Aaron Altherr has been a pleasant surprise this season in the outfield, but he wasn’t able to crack the top 15 in voting, needing about 276,000 votes to pass Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

Again, the Phillies are horrible, but it’s a little surprising at least one of those two players hasn’t gotten a push from the Fightins’ faithful online and in the stadiums. If inclined, here’s how to vote:

Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites — on computers, tablets and smartphones — exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

Truth be told, nobody on a team 20 games under .500 deserves to be on the All-Star team. Even a guy having a great year — Pat Neshek, we look in your general direction — shouldn’t really get much consideration when put up against relievers on teams in contention. But the powers that be in MLB still contend that every team needs to be represented at the Midsummer Classic, even going so far as to expand roster sizes to accommodate the crappy teams, like the Phillies, while not snubbing players more deserving.

And so, someone on the Phillies has to make it to the All-Star Game on July 11. We wanted to run through the roster at this point to see each player’s chance of making it to Miami.

Not a snowball’s chance in hell

Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Saunders, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cameron Rupp, Andres Blanco, Ty Kelly, Andrew Knapp, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit, Jeanmar Gomez, Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Casey Fien.

Wait, snowballs are the football meme in Philly. We meant not a D battery’s chance in hell. These players have no shot to make the All-Star team this year, as most of them probably don’t belong on a Major League roster right now.

I’m honestly not sure if half these guys are actually even on the Phillies roster right now, but they’re on the depth chart, so we included them.

Saunders has been a predictably huge disappointment this season, while Franco’s level of disappointment has come as a surprise to many. It’s time to start thinking about the guy many pegged as the future of the lineup in a different light. He’s hitting .214 and slugging .345 through 220 at bats. Maybe he’s just not any good.

Highly unlikely

Tommy Joseph celebrates with teammates after a walk off hit against the Reds. Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Joseph, Daniel Nava, Jeremy Hellickson

Putting these three in a separate category implies there’s a chance. There’s not. But it’s worth noting that on a team where someone has to be honored, these three rank slightly above most of the pitching staff and position players.

Joseph has been not great this year, certainly not All-Star great, but he has developed a knack for timely hits and has upped his average to .257 with a team-best 10 homers and 32 RBI. His .761 OPS isn’t very good, but it’s actually starting to feel like maybe he’s a Major League-caliber player, which was hard to say earlier in the season, when he hit .179 with little pop in April. Since? He’s hitting .296.

Nava has just 73 at-bats this season, mostly due to injury, but he’s hitting .329 with a .945 OPS in very limited time. He’s featured in 36 games and has only 24 hits, but he’s proven he deserves a shot in the lineup, especially given Saunders’ struggles. Again, not even close to an All-Star. Just saying…

Hellickson had a great start to the season before crashing back down to earth. Through 13 starts he’s 5-4 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. There’s no way he’s All-Star caliber now, but for a few starts he probably would have been.

Not this year, but maybe soon

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Nola

Nola is 3-4 with a 4.40 ERA in eight starts, so no, he won’t be an All-Star either. But he might one day soon. When healthy, Nola has looked solid, and for this Phillies club, solid is downright awesome. Earlier this month he became the first Phillies starter to last more than seven innings this season and — alright, I’m just going to stop there. This is depressing.

Nola is okay this year, and in at least three starts he’s looked way better than okay. In other starts, he’s looked overmatched. If he can limit the bad starts and rack up more of the good starts, he’ll be an ace, an All-Star and part of the Phillies’ future.

With a hot June, maybe

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Odubel Herrera, Howie Kendrick

It’s hard to believe I’m even saying this, but Herrera may be able to play himself onto the All-Star team for a second-straight season. He’s batting .258 with a team-best 23 doubles, but in June he’s been on fire, hitting .442 with 19 hits in 43 at-bats and an OPS of 1.292. He was so bad in May — 20 hits in 109 at-bats and a .453 OPS — there was legitimate talk of benching him entirely, but the turnaround in June is so pronounced, he might, again, be the Phillies’ best player by the time the All-Star break hits.

Kendrick, however, could have something to say about that. He’s only played 22 games because of a prolonged stint on the DL, but he has 30 hits in 85 at-bats heading into Tuesday’s game in Boston. That’s a team-best .353 batting average, and with 10 extra-base hits and seven walks, his OPS is .938. There’s no way he can sustain those numbers all season, but he might be able to keep up the hot hitting through June, even as he moves from the outfield to second base, and wherever the team needs him. He also leads the team in steals, which is all sorts of sad.

Forget about who deserves to be on the team. If you’re the All-Star staff and you have to pick a Phillies player you would need to pinch-hit or pinch run or plug into the field for half an inning, is there anyone you’d pick over Kendrick?

Deserving of more attention

Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr

Hernandez deserves the nod based on his start, and while he’s come back to the pack a bit lately, he’s still batting .277 with a .336 on base percentage. He has 66 hits in 58 games, including 17 extra-base hits, and has been the lightning rod for whatever little offense the Phillies have shown this season. That said, he’s on the DL, so how long he’s out with an abdominal strain could say a lot about his chances to make his first All-Star Game.

Three weeks ago, Altherr was the guy, and he still might be. Clearly the Phillies best overall hitter outside of the limited sample size for Kendrick and Nava, Altherr has been the one pleasant surprise for the Phillies this season. Through 54 games, 179 at-bats, Altherr is hitting .285 with an OPS of .894. He’s tied for the team lead in RBI with Joseph in 23 fewer at-bats, and 25 of his 51 hits this season have been extra-base hits.

Leader in the clubhouse

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Neshek

Read any story by a Phillies beat writer or internet expert and they’ll tell you Neshek will be the pick. They’re probably right, at least for now. Neshek is the only valuable trade chip the Phillies have right now, so he could be a guy who gets to the All-Star Game and then gets dealt shortly after. And that’s okay, because the nod could up his trade value.

Neshek has pitched 24 innings, appearing in 26 games and he’s let up two runs, for a 0.75 ERA. Opponents are batting .183 against him and he has 22 strikeouts to just four walks. He’s got the fourth-best ERA among relievers with 20 or more innings pitched in the league, and he’s clearly the Phillies’ best arm this season. Whether that makes him an All-Star remains to be seen, as middle relievers and set-up guys are often overlooked for an extra starter or closer.

If it weren’t for MLB’s All-Star rules, the entire roster would probably get overlooked this season.