Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper have brought plenty of excitement while debuting in the Major Leagues this season. As such, the rookies are eligible for the All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Firestone.
Darvish and Harper, vying for the 34th roster spots in their respective leagues, are up for voting on MLB.com until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. If they win, they would be the third and fourth rookies to accomplish the feat, following Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima in 2007 and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in 2008.
There is reason to suggest this year's rookie candidates are worthy of fans' votes.
"It was a pretty good strategy by [Rangers manager] Ron Washington to try to get Darvish in there," Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said. "The whole country of Japan is going to vote for him, so my congratulations go out to Darvish, because he's going to make it for sure."
Darvish, 25, often has dazzled this season with his unique and wide-ranging arsenal of pitches. He throws seven different offerings.
Now, Darvish is competing against Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, Orioles starter Jason Hammel and White Sox starter Jake Peavy.
"I hope he gets in," All-Star starting catcher Mike Napoli said of Darvish. "He's got a chance, definitely. I think he's an All-Star, and it'll be up to the fans to vote him in."
The right-hander is third in the American League with 10 wins and fourth with 106 strikeouts, having recorded double-digit strikeouts four times. His 9.97 strikeouts per nine innings ranks second in the league.
Darvish has a 3.57 ERA and 82 hits allowed in 95 2/3 innings. In his past three starts, he is 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 23 innings.
Harper didn't play his first Major League game until April 28, but the 19-year-old has become a sensation for his aggressive, hard-charging style and his productivity.
Final Vote candidates
|P||Jonathan Broxton, KC|
|P||Yu Darvish, TEX|
|P||Ernesto Frieri, LAA|
|P||Jason Hammel, BAL|
|P||Jake Peavy, CWS|
|OF||Michael Bourn, ATL|
|3B||David Freese, STL|
|OF||Bryce Harper, WAS|
|2B||Aaron Hill, ARI|
Harper faces some stiff competition from outfielder Michael Bourn and third baseman Chipper Jones of the Braves, second baseman Aaron Hill of the D-backs and third baseman David Freese of the Cardinals. Jones is a likely future Hall of Famer playing his final season.
"It's an accomplishment, I guess, but you've got Chipper up there, and I think a Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star Game in his last year," Harper said. "So if I was going to make a vote, I'd vote for Chip."
Harper is the new blood, and at an age when most players are in college or the low Minors, he has excelled in his two months with Washington. Through Sunday's action, the NL Rookie of the Month for May is hitting .274 with a .348 on-base percentage, a .471 slugging percentage, eight home runs and 22 RBIs.
"I think he's got a pretty good chance," first-time All-Star Ian Desmond said of his teammate. "Obviously, he has fans everywhere he goes. Even though they boo him, I know they still love him. He's got a good chance. He's played his heart out so far. We don't expect anything less; I don't think anyone else should, either."
Only eight other players in history have hit as many as eight homers in a season at age 19, with the last being Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
Harper also has eight steals, including a memorable swipe of home against Cole Hamels and the Phillies, and has made a habit of taking extra bases.
While the Final Vote has been held each year since 2002, a rookie didn't come out on top until 2007. Okajima, like Darvish, began his career in Japan, and rode his 0.83 ERA at the All-Star break past fellow pitchers Jeremy Bonderman, Pat Neshek, Kelvim Escobar and Roy Halladay.
A year later, Longoria collected more than 9 million votes to best Jermaine Dye, Jason Giambi, Brian Roberts and Jose Guillen. He had an .861 OPS, 16 home runs and 53 RBIs at the time.
While not in their first Major League seasons, pitchers Francisco Liriano of the Twins and Justin Verlander of the Tigers still qualified as rookies when they took part in the AL Final Vote in 2006.
Liriano finished second to White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, while Verlander placed fourth.
In addition to the web, fans can use their mobile phones to cast votes via the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Firestone mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text the choice to 89269. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010. Standard rates may apply.
The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.