It was an unprecedented Minor League endeavor when it was first introduced in 2006, but Triple-A All-Star Game fan voting has since become an established tradition. The annual exhibition contest pits the International and Pacific Coast Leagues against one another in a battle for Triple-A supremacy, and you will have a say when it comes to assembling the roster of each squad.
This year's All-Star Game takes place July 11 in Buffalo, N.Y., but fan voting begins Friday and will be conducted exclusively online. Ballots will be available on MiLB.com, as well as on the official websites of the International League, Pacific Coast League and all 30 Triple-A teams.
Fans who vote can enter a sweepstakes in which you have a chance to win a jersey autographed by the 2012 All-Stars as well as a subscription to MiLB.TV and other great prizes.
As in previous years, fans can select one player at each infield position, three outfielders, a designated hitter and four pitchers -- two starters and two relievers. The fan vote will count toward one-third (33 percent) of a player's total and will be added to the votes of media (33 percent) and Triple-A field/general managers (33 percent) to select the starting players.
And if your favorite player isn't on the ballot, it doesn't mean he's out of the running -- simply use the write-in space at the bottom of the page.
Though the basic format remains unchanged, the 2012 ballot has been refashioned to create a great user experience. The logos of all 30 Triple-A clubs are located at the top of the ballot; simply click on your favorite team's logo to highlight all of the players from that club who are on the ballot.
Of course, the more conscientious among us will want to make their choices based on a thorough evaluation of each player's statistical output. This year's ballot puts all that information at one's fingertips -- click on the "Compare Stats" box at the bottom of each position for a pop-up list comparing all the candidates at that position.
And at each and every position, there are difficult choices to be made. Among Pacific Coast League first baseman, does one go with Iowa's scorching Anthony Rizzo (.355, 16 HR, 43 RBIs) or current career Minor League home run leader Mike Hessman of the Oklahoma City RedHawks? Hessman has hit 10 round-trippers this season, to increase his all-time total to 339.
And what about International League starting pitchers? Prime contenders include Charlotte's Dylan Axelrod and his pristine 0.95 ERA, five-game winner Jo-Jo Reyes of the Indianapolis Indians, and the Lehigh Valley's surprising Tyler Cloyd (4-1 with a 1.97 ERA after posting even better numbers to start the season with Double-A Reading.
Such deliberations can (and will) be made regarding each and every positional matchup, and in making their selections, fans will be coming across some of the most promising prospects in Minor League Baseball. Particularly on the pitching side of the equation. Gwinnett right-hander Julio Teheran is currently listed as MLB.com's No. 2 prospect, with Memphis righty Shelby Miller right behind at No. 3 and recently promoted Trevor Bauer of the Reno Aces coming in at No. 7.
And on and on it goes. For many players, the road to Major League stardom includes a stop at the Triple-A All-Star Game. Kansas City's Alex Gordon, Seattle's Jesus Montero, Detroit's Austin Jackson and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs are among the Major League stars to appear in the game in just the last three occasions. Vote for your favorites now.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.