MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

How to pick fantasy-driven AL starting lineup

How to pick fantasy-driven AL starting lineup

The 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot is now live, and ballots are already coming in fast and furious.

There are many ways to fill out a ballot. Some fans choose their favorite players and others look for established stars. Many voters are locked into their picks, while others will change their minds regularly between now and June 29.

VOTE: Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot

But have you ever wondered what an All-Star team would look like if fans focused primarily on 2017 fantasy value? Well, wonder no more! Let's take a look at a fantasy-focused American League starting lineup.

Brian McCann, catcher, Astros
An early-season slump by Jonathan Lucroy and an injury to Gary Sanchez opened the door for McCann to put his name on this list. Possibly the most reliable fantasy catcher of his generation, the slugger has been working on a 10th consecutive 20-homer season by compiling four long balls across his initial 78 at-bats. And with a solid .269 average helped little by luck, the seven-time All-Star is on course to post an average above .260 for the first time in more than a half-decade.

Fantasy players to stash

Miguel Cabrera, first baseman, Tigers
In a surprising twist, all of the top-10 fantasy first basemen to this point in 2017 ply their trade in the National League. Cabrera -- who owns a lofty lifetime .320 batting mark and has homered four times across 64 at-bats this year -- is likely set to skyrocket up the positional rankings now that he is back from an early-season stint on the disabled list.

Jose Altuve, second baseman, Astros
Simply put, few can match Altuve's combination of elite production and elite stability. The second baseman is well on his way to a fourth straight campaign with at least 30 steals and a batting average greater than .300. And by going deep four times in 106 at-bats, the 5-foot-6 stud has relieved concerns about the sustainability of his newfound power.

Miguel Sano, third baseman, Twins
Thanks to his prodigious power, Sano is locked in a first-place tie for the American League lead in RBIs (27) and ranks fifth with eight long balls. The 23-year-old may lack the contact skills to maintain his current .300 average, but he is crushing the ball (MLB-best 99.9-mph average exit velocity) and should remain an elite power source for years to come.

Note: Sano is also eligible at outfield in most fantasy leagues.

Fantasy impact of Hamels' injury

Francisco Lindor, shortstop, Indians
The fleet-of-foot Lindor has taken further strides toward superstardom this year, improving his hard-hit (37.4) and fly-ball (46.7) rates through 122 trips to the plate. The total package, the 23-year-old has the plate skills, wheels (19 steals last year) and durability (just four games missed since the outset of '16) to become the most desirable fantasy shortstop in either league.

The Rundown: Fantasy 411

Aaron Judge, outfielder, Yankees
His towering presence aside, Judge went undrafted in most mixed leagues this spring after fanning in 44.2 percent of his 95 plate appearances last year. But by making more contact so far this year (26.0 whiff rate), the imposing slugger has produced 13 homers, 27 RBIs and a .330 average across 88 at-bats. Judge certainty will not continue to homer on more than half of his fly balls (54.2 HR/FB rate), but he should still manage to finish the year among the AL's long ball leaders.

Mike Trout, outfielder, Angels
The top overall pick in most 2017 drafts, Trout is the least surprising member of this list. The 25-year-old has continued his five-category dominance this season, producing eight homers and five steals to go along with an eye-popping .358/.452/.717 slash line. Trout should remain the most desirable fantasy commodity despite playing for an Angels lineup that ranks 21st in the Majors in runs scored (115), 25th in home runs (26) and 26th in OPS (.674).

Jose Ramirez, outfielder, Indians
Ramirez has followed up a breakout 2016 effort by hitting .323 with six homers across 99 at-bats this year. Powered by career-best rates in the hard-hit (34.9) and fly-ball (45.8) departments, the 24-year-old is capable of combining ample thump with plus speed (22 steals in '16) and multi-position eligibility (OF/3B/2B in most leagues.).

Zinkie's fantasy tip of the day

Nelson Cruz, designated hitter, Mariners
Owners who soured on Cruz due to his advanced age (36) missed out on a terrific buying opportunity this season. The veteran slugger is hitting .330 while maintaining a power pace that could result in a fourth consecutive 40-homer season. Those seeking to trade for power would be wise to have Cruz atop their wish lists.

Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

Following the announcement of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.

All statistics are accurate through the completion of Thursday's games.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.