Rays Fans should take the Yandy and Randy Show to Seattle in Phase 2 of All-Star Game voting

Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz
Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

As of noon Monday local time, the polls for Phase 2 of the MLB All-Star game opened and fans of all fanbases are voting for their players that have made it to the second round. While the Rays, currently sporting the best record in baseball, have five or six players vying to make the American League roster, two are in the running to start for the Junior Circuit, and perhaps it's their two most integral offensive performers.

The only thing brighter this season than the Rays visions are the cleats of corner infielder Yandy Diaz, who sets the table as the Rays leadoff specialist. Armed with a low chase rate, high-walk rate and the ability to hit to all fields, Diaz constantly finds himself on-base for the heart of the order, providing immediate anxiety for opposing starting pitchers. However, Diaz has finally found his power stroke, elevating the ball more in 2023 than any of his other previous campaigns in the Majors.

With that, heading into Phase II he's tied for first in the American League in homeruns among first basemen, tied with White Sox slugger Andrew Vaughn, just ahead of Phase II opponent Vladimir Guerrero Jr. But the case of Diaz is strengthened by his .316/.404/.518 line, all of which are currently top in the American League amongst first basemen. His 2.6 WAR also leads all competition in the category.

Comparatively to Guerrero, Diaz has an OPS+ 33 points higher, averaging out at 33% better at the plate this season. His numerical WAR value is 3x that of Guerrero, while leading his team to higher divisional standing.

Furthermore, while Diaz sets the table, the Rays go as Randy Arozarena goes. The All-Star Game has been cited as an exhibition where fans get to see dream teams, and perhaps there's no player in the league today whose popularity has soared in the last year than Randy. As the success of Randy Land answers certain attendance questions in St. Pete, Randy took the baseball world by storm with his electric energy during the World Baseball Classic, similar to how he did during the 2020 postseason.

The team follows Arozarena's lead. His lead this year? A Tropicana sensation. Randy's walk, hard-hit, and fly ball percentages are all up by at least 6% from his previous career highs in 2023, as the Rays' offensive approach features significantly more discipline and better contact during the first half of this season. For Randy specifically, it's led to a .292/.405/.485 line, 14 home runs, and a 2.8 WAR to coincide with his excellent defense.

The three categories are all career-highs for Randy and has solidified an .890 OPS and 151 OPS+ during through the start of Phase II. His .405 OBP is the best in the American League among qualified hitters, just ahead of the .404 mark set by Diaz and trailing Marlins' Luis Arraez (.451), Padres' Juan Soto (.425), Giants' Lamonte Wade (.416) and Dodgers' Will Smith (.407) for tops in the majors.

His primary competition is Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout, with former Rays teammate Kevin Kiermaier and Cardinals farmhand teammate Adolis Garcia rounding out the outfield candidates. With Alvarez and Judge likely being on the IL during All-Star week, it opens up a clear role for Arozarena even if he loses out on the fan vote. However, Mike Trout seems to be his stiffest competition in voting so far and while Trout is unequivocally the best player of this generation, his 2023 is leaving quite a bit to be desired. While a .253/.363/.480 slash would be a career year for most players, it's Trout's worst and pales in comparison to the production of Arozarena.

Essentially, there's not much of an argument for the opposition in Phase II of All-Star voting. As of Tuesday morning, both are in position to start the game, becoming only the fourth and fifth position players to start an All-Star game after winning the fan vote for the Rays (Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria in 2010, Corey Dickerson in 2017). As of the first update, Diaz has tabbed 54% of the voting shares over Guerrero while Arozarena is tied with Mike Trout for 22% of the outfield vote.

The starting lineups will be announced at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Voting closes seven hours before the announcement.