Arenado, Prado off to sizzling starts while Bryant follows freshman effort
By Andrew Simon
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 National League third basemen.
The Rockies' Nolan Arenado made his first All-Star team last season, when he captured his third straight NL Gold Glove Award, tied for the league in homers (42) and led the Majors in RBIs (130). The 25-year-old has picked up where he left off, with an MLB-best 11 home runs, to go along with a 1.066 OPS and 25 RBIs.
The Cardinals' Matt Carpenter is batting a mere .242, which would be by far a career low, but the two-time All-Star is reaching base at roughly his career rate (.375 OBP). He also leads the team and is second among NL third basemen with 17 RBIs.
Considering his age (33) and physical issues, it will be awfully tough for the Mets' David Wright to rediscover the form that allowed him to hit .302/.384/.505 and make seven All-Star teams from 2005-13. Still, Wright can contribute when his health allows it. In 19 games this season, he owns a .367 on-base percentage and a .421 slugging percentage.
The fast starters
A consistently solid performer over 11 seasons, the Marlins' Martin Prado has only one All-Star selection to his credit, for the Braves in 2010. That could change this year. Prado is a scalding 17-for-32 (.531) during a seven-game hit streak, raising his OPS to .934 through 20 games.
The Pirates' official All-Star candidate at third base is Jung Ho Kang, who has yet to play this season as he recovers from last year's knee injury. In his place, veteran David Freese could get some consideration, although fans would have to vote for him as a write-in candidate. Freese, a 2012 All-Star with St. Louis, is batting .290/.383/.398 after signing a one-year deal with Pittsburgh in March.
The rising stars
As a 23-year-old last year, the Cubs' Kris Bryant made the All-Star team and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award by batting .275/.369/.488 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs. So far in 2016, the former No. 2 overall Draft pick is producing an eerily similar line at the plate (.287/.374/.494) to help power a prolific Chicago lineup.
The D-backs' Jake Lamb could be on his way to one of the breakout performances of 2016. After posting a .716 OPS with 26 extra-base hits in 107 games last season, the 25-year-old has an .878 OPS and 12 extra-base hits this year, in less than one-fourth as many games.
Following a huge Spring Training performance (nine homers, 23 RBIs), the Phillies' Maikel Franco has continued to show solid power, with five homers and 14 RBIs through 24 games. The 23-year-old is slugging .452 for a Phillies club that has been a pleasant surprise in the early going.
The Reds' Eugenio Suarez has produced a .774 OPS with five homers and 15 RBIs. But almost all of the 24-year-old's damage came in his first six games of the season (1.457 OPS, four homers, nine RBIs).
Lying in the weeds
The Giants' Matt Duffy finished second to Bryant in last year's NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, but since a big performance on Opening Day, the 25-year-old has been relatively quiet in his sophomore campaign. Duffy sports a .692 OPS overall through 26 games.
Coming off an injury-plagued 2015, the Nationals' Anthony Rendon has been healthy, but his performance has not followed suit thus far. The 25-year-old, a Silver Slugger Award winner in 2014, has the second-lowest OPS (.597) among NL third basemen with at least 50 plate appearances, ahead of only the Brewers' Aaron Hill.
From 2014-15, in his first two years with the Dodgers, Justin Turner led NL third basemen in OPS, despite never making the All-Star team. He has yet to find the same success this year, batting .238/.319/.313 with no home runs and only five extra-base hits.
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.