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 looking position by position through each league, continuing today with the National League shortstops.
Veteran Asdrubal Cabrera has been a nice pickup for the Mets thus far after signing a two-year contract. Cabrera, an American League All-Star with Cleveland in 2011 and '12, hasn't shown a ton of power (one home run), but he is batting .301 with a .363 on-base percentage through 20 games.
The Giants' Brandon Crawford enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, adding a potent bat (21 homers, .782 OPS) to his usual slick fielding and making his first All-Star roster. The 29-year-old came out of the gate hot this year, but he has a .601 OPS with no homers in his past 17 games.
The fast starters Jhonny Peralta is the Cardinals' shortstop on the All-Star ballot, but injuries to him and a couple of others opened the door for 25-year-old rookie Aledmys Diaz. The Cuba native, who signed with St. Louis two years ago, has authored one of the hottest starts to a career that baseball has ever seen. Before a rare hitless game on Thursday, he led all qualifiers in average (.468), on-base percentage (.500) and slugging (.823). While Diaz does not appear on the ballot, fans can write in his name.
Trevor Story passed Albert Pujols to set an NL rookie record on Wednesday when he hit his ninth home run of April. Then on Friday, he tied Jose Abreu's Major League record for rookies when he hit his 10th in Arizona. Story slammed two homers for the Rockies on Opening Day, and the 23-year-old went on to hit seven over his first six games. He has since cooled off some but nevertheless sports a .678 slugging percentage.
Zack Cozart was having a career year for the Reds in 2015 before an injury shut him down in June with a .769 OPS. Now healthy, Cozart has picked up where he left off, hitting safely in 15 of his 16 games. The six-year veteran has seven doubles and two homers, batting .397 and slugging .603.
The rising stars
One of the preseason favorites for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, the Dodgers' Corey Seager has yet to replicate the high standard of success he established after his callup last September. Seager, who turned 22 on Wednesday, has a .720 OPS in 22 games, compared with .986 in 27 games last season. He has eight extra-base hits and 12 RBIs, however.
The Cubs' Addison Russell is a strong defender at short whose greatest asset at the plate so far this season has been his patience. The 22-year-old has drawn 12 walks, including two on Thursday, propping up a solid .346 OBP despite a .224 average. Russell has two homers and 13 RBIs.
Lying in the weeds
The Pirates' Jordy Mercer isn't a big name and posted only a .658 OPS over the past two seasons, but has been on a tear of late. The 29-year-old has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games, batting .400 with six walks and five extra-base hits, raising his season line to .304/.380/.405.
Brewers fans are looking forward to seeing top prospect Orlando Arcia at some point this season, but in the meantime, Jonathan Villar is off to a solid start. The 24-year-old switch-hitter showed off his skills with three hits and three steals against the Cubs on Thursday, and he now sports a .377 OBP over 19 games.
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.