Addison Russell admitted he never thought he'd be staring an All-Star Game in his first full season in the big leagues.
Yet there he stood atop all National League shortstops in Wednesday's balloting update.
The Cubs continue to steamroll the rest of the Senior Circuit, leading the way in voting at first base (Anthony Rizzo, who also had the most votes among all NL players), second (Ben Zobrist), third (Kris Bryant), shortstop (Russell) and outfield (Dexter Fowler).
Close races at SS, 2B, 3B and C highlight latest NL All-Star balloting update. pic.twitter.com/urH6Wf1xr5— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 22, 2016
Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler remain fourth and sixth, respectively, among NL outfielders. Bryce Harper is second behind Fowler and Yoenis Cespedes is third with Ryan Braun fifth.
"I'm happy for our guys, man," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it's great for the organization and for our players because it will elevate their game. I believe that.
"So I think it's exciting for everybody. It's exciting for our group. It's exciting for our players, for Cubs fans, for the city. You'd have to believe the ratings will be up in Chicago on that particular night. I know I'll be watching."
Maddon has a point. If the Cubs are sending five, six or even seven players to San Diego, the night of July 12 would be must-see TV for Cubs fans.
Russell, 22, entered play Wednesday with numbers very similar to his solid rookie campaign (.706 OPS), but plays fantastic defense and it helps he plays in a major market on the best team in baseball.
Offensively, Russell ranks 10th among qualified NL shortstops in OPS, behind guys like Colorado's Trevor Story (.874 OPS), Los Angeles' Corey Seager (.848) and Cincinnati's Zack Cozart (.838), all of whom rank well behind Russell in votes.
Fans do not vote for pitchers, but it's easy to assume at least one guy from the MLB-leading Cubs rotation will be headed to San Diego.
Jake Arrieta — going for his 12th win Wednesday against the Cardinals — entered play with a 1.74 ERA and is the reigning Cy Young winner despite not making last year's All-Star team.
Then there's Jon Lester pitching like an ace (9-3, 2.06 ERA, 0.993 WHIP) plus the rest of the rotation putting up numbers that would be All-Star worthy in any other year: John Lackey (7-3, 2.78, 0.979), Jason Hammel (7-3, 2.55, 1.082) and Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 2.94, 1.017).
And then of course, closer Hector Rondon and his 1.48 ERA and 0.658 WHIP, even if he only has 12 saves.
"Wow," Maddon said. "There's an argument for every one of them, obviously. ... All really worthy by the way they pitch. I'd say for sure two.
"I think Rondon's definitely gotta be talked about. Even though there's not a lot of saves, the quality of work has been outstanding.
"But if I had a guess just based on how this whole thing works, I'd say Jon and Jake, but I'd love to see [one of the other guys, too]. Kyle Hendricks has been outstanding and nobody even talks about that. But there's a lot of competition, too."
There are 17 qualified starting pitchers in the NL with ERAs at 3.00 or under.
Simply put: There just isn't enough room for all the Cubs' deserving arms and despite Arrieta's dominance, he might not get the start for the NL team with the ridiculous season Clayton Kershaw is putting together (1.57 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 141 strikeouts to only 7 walks in 115 innings).
Maddon wouldn't hold back Arrieta if he did get the call to start, however.
"I had David Price a couple years ago start the game," Maddon said. "It's great for the player and it's great for the organization. I'm good with all that.
"I'm not worried about guys being overworked, overtaxed. It's one, maybe two innings. They're gonna get rest before, rest after. You can readjust your rotation coming out of the break."
Maddon also acknowledged there is still enough time for Fowler to get healthy before the Midsummer Classic arrives.
Before he went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, Fowler made sure to tell his manager to let the fans know to keep voting for him.
"Everything's rolling properly," Maddon said. "I'm all for our guys being recognized."