The 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Ballot has been released, and while the season is still young, it's never too early to start evaluating candidates. Many have already begun to stand out, while others are sure to hit their stride in the coming months leading up to the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on July 12 at San Diego's Petco Park.
As fans cast their votes for who they deem worthy of 2016 All-Star status, MLB.com is going to look position by position through each league, continuing today with the American League second basemen.
The Astros' Jose Altuve has made the All-Star team in three of his four full seasons, and he is putting himself in good position to make it four out of five. Altuve, who turns 26 on May 6, is batting better than .300 for the third straight year (.330) and is leading the Majors with nine steals. More surprisingly, he is sporting a career-best walk rate and slugging a robust .659 with six homers.
The Mariners' Robinson Cano is batting a modest .247, but his power stroke has been locked in this season. The six-time All-Star smacked a grand slam and drove in six runs on Tuesday, then homered again on Wednesday, giving him eight homers and 24 RBIs in his first 21 games. During his slow start in 2015, Cano managed six homers and 30 RBIs in the entire first half.
Ian Kinsler has made the AL All-Star team in each of the previous four even years, including in 2014 with Detroit. Will he make it five straight? He certainly is taking his best shot at it, batting .337/.364/.518 with four homers, 18 runs scored and 12 RBIs.
Dustin Pedroia had only a .620 OPS through 13 games, but numbers change quickly at this time of year. The four-time Red Sox All-Star has six multihit games in seven tries since then, going 15-for-34 (.441) with four doubles, a triple and three homers, including two on Wednesday. His OPS now sits at .904.
The fast starters Logan Forsythe enjoyed a breakout season for the Rays in 2015, and the 29-year-old is doing even better in the early going this year. He is batting .307, with his 11 extra-base hits spurring a .547 slugging percentage.
A three-time All-Star in the National League with the Cubs, Starlin Castro is making a solid first impression after his offseason trade to the Yankees. His 22 hits have put him over 1,000 for his career barely a month past his 26th birthday, and Castro has smacked four doubles and three homers, slugging .461.
The rising stars Rougned Odor posted an .861 OPS and slammed 15 homers for the Rangers after being recalled from the Minors last June, raising expectations for 2016. Things haven't gone the 22-year-old's way thus far (.241 average, .286 OBP), but he has popped three homers, driven in 14 runs and stolen four bases.
The Orioles' Jonathan Schoop is another young player who has gotten off to a slow start following a promising 2015. Schoop, who went deep 15 times in 86 games at age 23, has flashed his power this year (four doubles, three homers) but has also struck out 14 times and posted a .239 OBP.
Lying in the weeds
The Indians' Jason Kipnis, who made his second All-Star squad last season, is off to a solid .276/.321/.421 start, although he also has struck out a staggering 25 times in 19 games. That includes four times on Wednesday.
Brian Dozier, who hit a home run in last year's Midsummer Classic at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, is off to a bit of slow start for the Twins, with a .656 OPS after going 0-for-5 on Wednesday.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 times.
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.
Following the announcement of the 2016 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard 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 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
The 87th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.