#ASGWorthy Cespedes surpassing expectations

#ASGWorthy Cespedes surpassing expectations

DETROIT -- The Tigers expected Yoenis Cespedes, who is vying to start in the All-Star Game in Cincinnati via the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot, to add punch to their lineup this year, but even manager Brad Ausmus admitted he didn't know the left fielder would be quite this good.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Cespedes and other #ASGWorthy players

Nearly halfway through his first year with Detroit, Cespedes has put together a .300/.330/.495 slash line. That's good for the highest batting average this deep into the season in his career.

He has come alive in June, hitting .337 this month with five doubles and three home runs and currently sits fourth in the rankings, roughly 1.4 million votes behind Royals outfielder Alex Gordon. Cespedes' teammate, Miguel Cabrera, leads all first basemen with more than 11.5 million votes.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots.

Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.

Combined with his defensive abilities, Cespedes is posting the second-highest WAR of any left fielder in baseball, according to FanGraphs.

"In Spring Training I said I thought we had a better lineup now that Cespedes was in it because of his ability to drive the ball in the gap or over the wall," Ausmus said Sunday. "I can't put a number on it -- [but the lineup] is more dangerous."

So dangerous, in fact, that when Cespedes didn't deliver in a key RBI situation against the White Sox on Thursday, when Ausmus replace designated hitter Victor Martinez with the speedier Josh Wilson, the Tigers manager's decision was called in to question. Ausmus passionately defended the move, and Cespedes justified his manager's confidence the very next day, delivering a fifth-inning RBI triple into the right-center-field gap.

"That's about as far as you can get from home plate, where he hit that ball," Ausmus said afterward.

In addition to the solid offensive numbers, Ausmus has been even more pleased with Cespedes' defensive abilities. The left fielder's rocket of an arm has been well-documented, but, even though he hasn't showcased the same highlight-reel throws that drew national attention last summer, Ausmus said Cespedes has been "much better than anticipated or forecasted" patrolling the outfield.

Because of his acumen in left field, Ausmus said, Cespedes has stood out in a lineup studded with stars.

"Everyone knew about the arm, but I think he covers more ground than we expected," the manager said. "He takes pride in his defense. I think it is even better than we anticipated it being."

The 2015 All-Star starters will be unveiled on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET on the Esurance All-Star Starters Selection Show on ESPN. Then on Monday at 7 p.m. ET, the All-Star reserves, pitchers and Final Vote candidates will be announced on the Esurance All-Star Selection Show on ESPN, immediately after which fans can return to MLB.com to begin casting their 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Votes for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. Final Vote ends Friday, July 10, at 4 p.m. ET. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities.

The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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 SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.