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 outfielders.
Mike Trout is at it again. After a slow start, the Angels center fielder has found his footing and entered Thursday third in the Majors with 2.0 wins above replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs. The 24-year-old is on his way toward a fifth straight All-Star selection, batting .317/.400/.596 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs.
Toronto's Jose Bautista has made it to the Midsummer Classic in each of the past six seasons, averaging 38 home runs along the way. He hasn't quite found his power stroke in 2016, going deep five times thus far, but he leads the AL with 25 walks and owns a .364 on-base percentage.
Baltimore's Adam Jones is a five-time All-Star, including in four straight years, but he will have to get his bat going soon to make it back again. Jones, who has averaged 26 homers since 2009, has hit one while posting a .579 OPS and seven RBIs.
Alex Gordon re-signed with the Royals this offseason, coming off three straight All-Star campaigns, but so far has not found his usual level of performance. The 32-year-old has more than three times as many many strikeouts (34) as walks (11), while batting .211/.324/.311 with two homers and five RBIs.
The fast starters
The Orioles' trade for Mark Trumbo this offseason could not be working out much better. Trumbo, whose only All-Star appearance came for the Angels in 2012, ranks among the AL leaders in OPS (.953), homers (seven) and RBIs (22).
Although he has slumped of late, Colby Rasmus got off to a huge start for the Astros, with seven homers, 18 RBIs and a 1.147 OPS through 19 games. The eight-year veteran is looking for his first All-Star nod.
Michael Saunders played only nine games for Toronto in his first injury-plagued season with the club but is making up for lost time in 2016. Saunders' .299/.378/.540 line through 23 games should put him in contention for his first All-Star roster.
Adam Eaton has never made an All-Star team but ranks second among AL outfielders in WAR, behind Trout, playing a major role in the White Sox hot start. Eaton, who moved from center field to right this year, has gotten credit for strong defense and a .376 OBP.
The rising stars
Boston's Mookie Betts wasn't an All-Star in his first full Major League season, thanks in part to a slow start that preceded an excellent finish. The 23-year-old is still waiting to catch fire in 2016, with a .293 OBP, although he does have four homers and 17 RBIs.
The Twins' Miguel Sano notched 18 homers and 52 RBIs in his 80-game debut for the Twins at age 22 and has three homers and 11 RBIs this year. After a slow start, he has posted a .931 OPS in his last 17 games.
The Astros' George Springer, looking for his first All-Star selection at age 26, has six homers, 12 extra-base hits and an .833 OPS through 29 games. He's now gone deep 42 times in the first 209 games of his career.
The Rays have the reigning Platinum Glove Award winner in Kevin Kiermaier, who is slugging .466 this year, playing alongside Steven Souza Jr., who is slugging .506. Each is looking for his first All-Star nod in his third season.
Lying in the weeds
Will Michael Brantley's four-hit, three-RBI night for the Indians on Thursday be the start of his march to a second All-Star appearance? Previously, he had scuffled through his first seven games since coming off the disabled list.
Lorenzo Cain has struggled to get things going in 2016, with only two extra-base hits and a sub-.600 OPS. But he's only a year removed from an All-Star and World Series-winning campaign that featured an .838 OPS, 16 homers and 28 steals.
A National League All-Star as a shortstop with the Nationals in 2012, Ian Desmond is in his first season as both a Ranger and an outfielder. He had five hits through his first 12 games with his new club but is batting .321 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games since.
The Tigers were expecting J.D. Martinez and free-agent acquisition Justin Upton to be huge pieces in their lineup, but neither has quite hit his stride yet. The pair has combined for five home runs, and Martinez sports the higher OPS of the two, at .707.
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.