Position stacked with veteran sluggers chasing Ortiz in final season
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 American League designated hitters.
So far, David Ortiz's farewell tour could not be going much better, and a 10th All-Star selection appears likely. The 40-year-old, set to retire at season's end, is playing more like a 30-year-old for the Red Sox, batting .301 with a 1.011 OPS, even after an 0-for-4 game on Saturday. He has driven home 25 runs and hit seven homers, giving him 510 in his 20-year career, one behind Mel Ott for 24th all-time.
With five homers this season, Alex Rodriguez now is only eight from becoming the fourth player to reach 700, but that chase was put on hold when the Yankees placed the 40-year-old on the disabled list on Wednesday with a strained right hamstring. The injury came just as A-Rod was heating up, going 7-for-19 with three doubles and three homers over six games to raise his OPS from .479 to .719.
A year after making his 10th All-Star roster and first with the Angels, Albert Pujols has picked up the pace of late and now has six homers, bringing his career total to 566. On the other hand, the 36-year-old's average has spent barely any time above the .200 mark this season, and his OPS remains below .700.
Prince Fielder enjoyed a resurgence with the Rangers last season, getting to his sixth Midsummer Classic. So far, that success has not carried over to 2016. Although Fielder has managed 18 RBIs, he had his 17th straight homerless game on Saturday, when his average dropped to .198 and his OPS to .537.
The fast starters
What a difference a year makes. In 2014, the Tigers' Victor Martinez made his fifth All-Star team, posting a .974 OPS. He then slipped to .667 during an injury-plagued '15. But this season, Martinez is back to .946, with 10 doubles, five homers and 18 RBIs at age 37.
Byung Ho Park has experienced no trouble transitioning from South Korea to the Major Leagues after signing with the Twins this offseason. The 29-year-old could make a run at an All-Star spot, as long the right knee contusion that forced him from Saturday's game doesn't prove to be serious (he's said to be day to day). Park, coming off back-to-back seasons of 50-plus homers in the Korea Baseball Organization, has gone deep seven times in his first 93 plate appearances, while slugging .598.
Looking for his third straight 40-homer campaign and fourth straight All-Star appearance, Seattle's Nelson Cruz isn't on quite the same pace in 2016. He still is hitting a stellar .271/.378/.467 with five jacks and 16 RBIs at age 35.
Lying in the weeds
A locked-in Edwin Encarnacion is highly dangerous, but Toronto has not quite seen that yet this season. The two-time All-Star actually leads his club with 24 RBIs, but his .756 OPS is relatively modest for a player who has cleared the .900 mark in four straight years.
Kendrys Morales went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in the Royals' win over the Indians on Saturday, and perhaps that performance will get him going. Morales, last year's AL Silver Slugger Award winner at the position, entered the day with only two homers and eight RBIs, and his OPS now sits at .599. He's trying to make his first All-Star team.
The Indians' Carlos Santana is not a high-average hitter, perhaps one reason he has never been selected as an All-Star. Indeed, Santana is batting .223 this season, but his 15 walks and 11 extra-base hits have lifted his OPS to .759. In eight games in the leadoff spot, that number rises to .950.
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.