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These 9 players should be 2022 first-timers in LA


At some point, everybody’s a first-time All-Star.

Oh, this year’s rendition of Major League Baseball’s in-season jewel event at Dodger Stadium will feature no shortage of old standbys, from Aaron Judge to Freddie Freeman to Justin Verlander. The hometown Dodgers should have plenty of representation, beginning with current outfield votes leader Mookie Betts. Yet while the network-friendly faces are key to any big game, it’s the new blood that can often invigorate it.

With that, USA TODAY Sports examines nine players who deserve a plane ticket to LAX (well, no one really deserves that fate) and a star turn in front of the baseball-watching public:

Yordan Alvarez, LF, Astros

The Department of Obvious checks in to get this guy out of the way. Seems impossible that Alvarez, now in his fourth season, has yet to make an All-Star team, but he’ll qualify in style this year with a 1.081 OPS and .667 slugging percentage, which along with his 206 adjusted OPS leads the major leagues. AL MVP is Aaron Judge’s to lose, but here’s your honoree in the somewhat mortal category.

Martin Perez is 6-2 with a 2.22 ERA through 15 starts.

Martin Perez, SP, Rangers

Texas’ inspiring climb from ghastly to mediocre has been driven not by their half-billion dollar middle infield of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien but rather by pitching. Perez, 31, has been dominant, going 6-0 in his last 13 starts (the Rangers have won 11 of them) with a 1.79 ERA and just two homers allowed in 85 1/3 innings. Appropriate he goes as a Ranger after spending the first seven seasons of his career in Arlington.

Andres Gimenez was part of Cleveland's return in the Jan. 2021 trade that send Francisco Lindor to the Mets.

Andres Gimenez, 2B, Guardians

We’re not out here saying that Cleveland “won” the Francisco Lindor trade, just saying that Gimenez has been worth 3.0 WAR this season while Lindor is at 1.9. Oh, and Amed Rosario, packaged alongside Gimenez, is at 1.7 while regaining league average hitter form. But Gimenez, 23, has been fabulous, leading AL second basemen with a .310 average with an .854 OPS second only to Jose Altuve and an 89.4 mph average exit velocity that only Gleyber Torres can top.

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Yankees reliever Michael King had 56 strikeouts through 26 appearances.

Michael King, RP, Yankees

To the victors go the spoils, and we’re not going to stand in the way of a midseason coronation for this 56-20 juggernaut. Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Clay Holmes – come on down, but leave a spot for King, who has put up a first half just as crucial as closer Holmes. King’s leverage index of 1.58 nearly matches Holmes’ 1.64, and he’s stranded 15 of 18 runners while locking down 12 holds and a save and striking out 56 batters in 41 ⅔ innings. Why are the Yankees so good? Judge is the quick and sexy answer and Holmes might bolster your fantasy team, but King comprises a key part of the formula.

Jazz Chisholm had an .860 OPS through Tuesday.

Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, Marlins 

It’s not a prerequisite to possess star-like qualities to make this squad. But let’s just say it doesn’t hurt, and Chisholm’s hard-hitting, Euro-stepping first half would add considerable star power to Dodger Stadium. Still, his 14 home runs are nearly double the nearest NL second baseman and his .860 OPS also leads the pack, easily making the case on merit. A far more aesthetically pleasing attempt to bring Jazz to L.A. than La La Land.

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