(Barry Gutierrez/AP)

Atlanta Braves veteran Chipper Jones, a seven-time all-star, holds a slim lead on first place in early-voting results released by Major League Baseball on Tuesday. St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, last season’s World Series Most Valuable Player, sits in second place. Harper is in third place ahead of Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill and Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn.

Harper, who has become one of baseball’s most exciting young players, has said he would be honored to be voted into the game but threw his support behind Jones, the sentimental pick since he is playing in his final season before retiring.

Harper is hitting .274 with eight home runs and 22 RBI, while Jones is hitting .291 with six home runs and 29 RBI. Freese, in a surprising second place because the race seemed destined for a Jones-Harper contest, is hitting .286 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI.

After hearing that Harper was stumping, Jones said he was impressed with the rookie.

”I texted him last night and said, ‘That’s a very classy thing for a 19-year-old kid to say,’” Jones told reporters. “I think he’s going to be in his fair share of All-Star Games throughout the years. He’s an unbelievable talent. I just let him know I appreciated what he said. It was classy.”

The online voting closes at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

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