MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Star search: Who will fill out 2016 All-Star rosters?

Rosters to be unveiled July 5 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Star search: Who will fill out 2016 All-Star rosters?

With time running out -- voting continues on the 2016 MLB Esurance All-Star ballot until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday -- the 17 current leaders are nearly all deserving candidates. Good job, fans.

After that, the player ballot is factored in, and then American League manager Ned Yost and National League manager Terry Collins fill out the rest of their rosters. Who will be chosen? Who should be chosen? Let's predict which names will be announced on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on the Esurance All-Star Selection Show on ESPN.

We'll stick to the same rules the managers are bound by, that every team must be represented in San Diego on July 12. Rosters will have 33 players, before the fans add one more in the Final Vote. And realizing the split between whether this game should represent "baseball's best players," or simply "players having the best start to 2016," let's accept that there's no pleasing everyone.

FAQ: How All-Star reserves are selected

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Catcher
Current fan choice: Salvador Perez, Royals
Likely backup(s): Matt Wieters, Orioles; Stephen Vogt , A's
Don't forget about: No one. It's a rough year at this position.

Perez was perhaps the easiest selection in either league, as he's having by far his best season (.297/.330/.520) while the rest of the AL's backstops struggle at a near-historic level. Wieters, who has bounced back nicely from several injury-plagued years (and already has his most home runs since 2013) seems a clear choice.

It's the third catcher that's problematic. Vogt isn't having a particularly great season, but it's not like Jason Castro, Brian McCann or Chris Iannetta is making a strong case either. This would allow the AL to get an Oakland rep, which is important since the two A's with the best cases are blocked by either a very deep position (Danny Valencia, third base) or lots of time missed due to injury (Rich Hill, pitcher). We'll assume Vogt, without a great deal of conviction.

First base
Current fan choice: Eric Hosmer, Royals
Likely backup(s): Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Don't forget about: Chris Davis, Orioles

Hosmer would deserve to make the team as a reserve even if he wasn't leading the fan voting, and Cabrera is having a typically elite year of his own. Davis has a strong case, but may get nudged out by a fellow slugger on his own team who can also play first base (we'll get to him in the outfield).

Second base
Current fan choice: Jose Altuve, Astros
Likely backup(s): Robinson Cano, Mariners
Don't forget about: Ian Kinsler, Tigers; Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

Like first base, the top two players are clear, regardless of which starts. Altuve has put himself squarely in the AL MVP Award discussion, and Cano has more than lived up to the idea that he'd be a big rebound candidate in 2016. Expect Yost or the players to do their best to try to find a way to squeeze Kinsler, who's having an outstanding year, onto the roster.

Altuve 'falls' just shy of cycle

Shortstop
Current fan choice: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Likely backup(s): Francisco Lindor, Indians; Eduardo Nunez, Twins
Don't forget about: Carlos Correa, Astros

Bogaerts has blossomed into the star the Red Sox hoped he'd be when they refused to part with him in potential trades, and the fans chose wisely here. Lindor, hitting .314/.373/.477 with double digits in both steals and home runs, is surprisingly not in the top five in fan voting.

This is where things get complicated. Even the most ardent Twins fan wouldn't argue that Nunez is a better player than Correa, and despite Nunez's career-best start, he's not even having a better season than Correa. (Though Nunez does have a higher batting average, when you include on-base skills and power, Correa comes out ahead.) But the Twins have baseball's most losses for a reason, and Joe Mauer's fade and Miguel Sano's injury make it difficult to make their cases. Expect to see Nunez here.

Third base
Current fan choice: Manny Machado, Orioles
Likely backup(s): Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays; Evan Longoria, Rays
Don't forget about: Valencia, A's; Kyle Seager, Mariners; Nick Castellanos, Tigers

Though Machado has been playing shortstop for the Orioles, he's still a third baseman on the ballot, and as a great player having his best season for a first-place team, he's an easy choice. Donaldson is duplicating the year that won him the AL MVP Award in 2015.

After that, though, the hot corner in the AL is stacked. Valencia, Seager and Castellanos are all having great seasons, and you could easily throw Jose Ramirez and Yunel Escobar into that discussion, too. The expectation here is Longoria, because he's having a bounceback season that almost exactly matches his career averages, and because it might be even harder to get the other deserving Ray, Alex Colome, into a deep pool of relievers.

Outfield
Current fan choice: Mike Trout, Angels; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Likely backup(s): Ian Desmond, Rangers; Mark Trumbo, Orioles
Don't forget about: Michael Saunders, Blue Jays; George Springer, Astros; Carlos Beltran, Yankees; Adam Eaton, White Sox; J.D. Martinez, Tigers; Kole Calhoun, Angels

Trout is still the best player in baseball. Let's assume he'll play left field in this configuration, next to two young Boston stars having very good seasons. After that, Desmond is an easy choice, as his transition to both Texas and center field has gone stunningly well, and Trumbo, who leads all of baseball in home runs, beats out teammate Davis in our expected roster.

Trumbo hits homer to left field

After that, there's just no more room, though it does make for a fascinating thought of what the Final Vote could look like. (Though Martinez's broken elbow does take him out of consideration.) Saunders, finally healthy, is off to such a massive start (.291/.367/.563) that he's actually been one of the two best hitters in a stacked Jays lineup. Don't be surprised, though, if Yost makes this even more complicated by leaving off Trumbo in favor of his own outfielder, Lorenzo Cain, who is having a solid year that doesn't measure up to his previous two seasons.

Designated hitter
Current fan choice: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Likely backup(s): Nelson Cruz, Mariners
Don't forget about: Victor Martinez, Tigers; Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

Ortiz is the overwhelming fan choice here, and for good reason: He's having his best year in what's expected to be his final season before retirement. All three of the other names listed here have strong cases, yet there's very little chance more than one makes it as the backup, meaning that impressive seasons by Martinez and Encarnacion are likely to go unrewarded.

Pitchers
Projected choices: Chris Sale, White Sox; Steven Wright, Red Sox; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Danny Salazar, Indians; Cole Hamels, Rangers; Marco Estrada, Blue Jays; Andrew Miller, Yankees; Dellin Betances, Yankees; Aroldis Chapman, Yankees; Wade Davis, Royals; Kelvin Herrera, Royals; Zach Britton, Orioles; Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox

Don't forget about: Jose Quintana, White Sox; Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays; CC Sabathia, Yankees; Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees; Corey Kluber, Indians; Colome, Rays; Will Harris, Astros; Brad Brach, Orioles; Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays

Sale is the obvious choice to start, but plenty of questions come after. For example, Wright leads the AL with a 2.18 ERA, but can any of the three AL catchers handle a knuckleball? Probably not, but Wright deserves a spot, and watching someone not used to catching him would be highly entertaining. Tillman's 10-1 record shouldn't fool anyone, but he has made a legitimate step forward, so his spot is secure. The same goes for Hamels, who has somehow managed a career-best ERA despite career-worst walk and home run totals.

All five Cleveland starters have some argument, but Salazar has been the most effective and has the lowest ERA, so we'll assume he makes it. Then you get to the bullpen, and while it may seem like overkill to have all three dominant Yankees relievers on the team, can any manager pass that up? Along with Royals Davis and Herrera, plus Kimbrel and Britton, you wonder how the NL plans to score at all.

Chicago's underrated Quintana would seem to be the biggest snub, but supporters of Colome, Harris, Osuna and others would have excellent cases as well. There are just too many good pitchers here.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Catcher
Current fan choice: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Likely backup(s): Buster Posey, Giants; Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Don't forget about: Wilson Ramos, Nationals

Molina isn't having one of his stronger seasons at the plate, but of course it's his defense that's his calling card, and so it's understandable why he's leading the balloting -- though by only the slimmest of margins over Posey, who is the nearly indisputable best all-around catcher in baseball. The third catcher here is actually an interesting discussion, because Lucroy has rebounded from injury to have a great year, and Ramos has put up a monster season that's the best of any catcher in the game. We'll assume Lucroy here, in part because he satisfies the requirement for a Milwaukee representative.

First base
Current fan choice: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Likely backup(s): Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs; Wil Myers, Padres
Don't forget about: Brandon Belt; Giants; Freddie Freeman, Braves; Justin Bour, Marlins

Rizzo has become an all-around superstar. Since the start of 2014, Goldschmidt has been Rizzo's equal in nearly every way, so he's the obvious backup as well as being Arizona's lone representative.

Belt deserves a spot, because he has really upped his game with a .301/.403/.525 line that's the best of any NL first baseman, but he's not likely to get one. Myers has had a breakout season of his own, and it's easy to see the players or Collins choosing the hometown star and Padres' All-Star Week ambassador.

Myers' five-RBI game

Second base
Current fan choice: Ben Zobrist, Cubs
Likely backup(s): Daniel Murphy, Nationals
Don't forget about: Derek Dietrich, Marlins; DJ LeMahieu, Rockies

You could argue that Murphy, still on a scorching .350./392/.573 pace, deserves the starting nod over Zobrist, who is having a very good .295/.405/.457 year of his own. Ultimately, both are head and shoulders above the competition and would make the team either way.

Shortstop
Current fan choice: Addison Russell, Cubs
Likely backup(s): Trevor Story, Rockies; Corey Seager, Dodgers
Don't forget about: Aledmys Diaz, Cardinals; Jonathan Villar, Brewers; Zack Cozart, Reds; Brandon Crawford, Giants

Aside from maybe NL catcher, this is where the fans have most left the manager in an unenviable position. While Russell has paired solid defense with an adequate batting line, his inclusion means someone more deserving will be left out.

That won't be Seager, who leads all shortstops with a .298/.356/.528 line. It won't be Story, who leads all shortstops with 19 homers to go with a .271/.339/.559 line. It might have to unfairly be Diaz, who got off to such a stellar start that his overall line remains impressive (.316/.374/.523) despite the fact that he's hit only .276/.346/.443 since May 1. All three backup options really should be on this team, to say nothing of Villar, Crawford and Cozart.

Third base
Current fan choice: Kris Bryant, Cubs
Likely backup(s): Nolan Arenado, Rockies; Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Don't forget about: Jake Lamb, D-backs

That's right, another Cub, though with Bryant hitting .278/.367/.567 after cutting his strikeout rate, he's All-Star worthy. Arenado provides elite defense to go with his 21 homers, and it's not just about Coors Field; since the start of 2015, he's hit an NL-best 63 home runs split almost equally at home (32) and on the road (31). Carpenter, meanwhile, is having the best season (.296/.413/.576) of any NL player and probably should be the starter; he also offers Collins the versatility of being able to play second.

That leaves Arizona's Lamb on the outside looking in, and that's too bad. With a .282/.360/.563 line to go with 15 homers, the 25-year-old D-back would be an easy choice under other circumstances.

Outfield
Current fan choice: Dexter Fowler, Cubs; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Yoenis Cespedes, Mets
Likely backup(s): Odubel Herrera, Phillies; Starling Marte, Pirates; Jay Bruce, Reds
Don't forget about: Marcell Ozuna, Marlins; Christian Yelich, Marlins; Gregory Polanco, Pirates; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Ryan Braun, Brewers; Adam Duvall, Reds; Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals

There's little to gripe about with the fan choices here, either. Harper, despite his lengthy slump, is still Bryce Harper. Cespedes, somewhat improbably, is equalling what he did with the Mets after being acquired last summer, and Fowler's .290/.398/.483 line means he's not just another Cub, assuming his minor leg injury doesn't linger.

But here is where things get extremely complicated, even with usual locks Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Hunter Pence taking themselves out of contention with injuries or poor performance. Even without McCutchen, the Pirates have two extremely deserving candidates in Marte and Polanco. Even without Stanton, the Marlins have two extremely deserving candidates in Ozuna and Yelich. The Rockies could argue for Blackmon and Gonzalez. Even the last-place Reds can argue for two outfielders in the resurgent Bruce and the surprising Duvall, who has an NL-leading 21 home runs, despite a .290 on-base percentage.

Between the high number of performers and the fact that we've yet to add a Red or Phillie, it's inevitable that Collins (and the players) will leave off someone deserving. Expect Herrera and Bruce to make the team based on their good seasons and need for representation, and that the all-around brilliance of Marte (.326/.366/.485, 20 steals, plus defense) can't be ignored. This is the most difficult area to figure out, however.

Pitchers
Projected choices: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Jake Arrieta, Cubs; Jon Lester; Cubs; Noah Syndergaard, Mets; Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Johnny Cueto, Giants; Stephen Strasburg, Nationals; Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Julio Teheran, Braves; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Jeurys Familia, Mets; Hector Rondon, Cubs; Fernando Rodney, Padres

Don't forget about: Aaron Nola, Phillies; Zack Greinke, D-backs; Drew Pomeranz, Padres; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Jacob deGrom, Mets; Shawn Kelley, Nationals; Arodys Vizcaino, Braves; Seung Hwan Oh, Cardinals; A.J. Ramos, Marlins; Brad Ziegler, D-backs

Or maybe this is the most difficult position. The NL has the opposite strength from the AL with an overwhelming number of elite starting pitchers. You could build two incredible rotations just out of guys who aren't making this team.

Kershaw, the best pitcher alive, is an obvious start, and we don't need to justify including Arrieta, Bumgarner and Syndergaard. The Giants have won 14 of Cueto's 16 starts as he's put up a 2.42 ERA; Lester has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts. Meanwhile, Strasburg's Nationals have won 14 of his 15 starts as he's having the breakout season we've all waited for, despite the back/rib issue that forced him to the disabled list this weekend, and all Fernandez has done is lead all starting pitchers in strikeout percentage, by a lot.

Collins still needs to select a Brave, and while Vizcaino has an argument, let's say that Teheran's streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings against Collins' Mets tips the scales. Moving onto relievers, it's easy to see Collins selecting his own closer in Familia, who is having a good year and has yet to allow a home run, and Jansen, already historically dominant, has somehow been even better. Rondon is the closer on baseball's best team, and has more than lived up to that status with a 34/3 K/BB in 26 innings, while hometown pick Rodney has allowed a single earned run in 28 2/3 innings.

That does, of course, mean that very deserving names such as Oh, Ramos, Pomeranz and Scherzer get left off. But that happens every year, and that's not a bad problem to have.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.