With the weekend battles come some ballot battles. The Esurance MLB All-Star Game ballot is packed with tough choices for those who don't just defer to their home nine, and some of the players behind those choices just so happen to be pitted against each other the next few days.
Here's a rundown of quality candidates for specific spots at the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard who will be manning those spots on the same field this weekend.
Jose Altuve vs. Starlin Castro
It's early, of course, but right now the American League second-base situation is a classic case of track record vs. small-sample spectacularity.
Altuve is on the short list of the best pure hitters in the game, and his outsized impact has earned him the starting nod for the AL in each of the past two All-Star Games. A .294/.366/.460 slash line, nine stolen bases (which tie him for the AL lead) and the Astros' status atop the AL West put him in good position to get that honor again. But while Altuve, the Mariners' Robinson Cano (the AL starter each year from 2010-14), the Orioles' Jonathan Schoop and even the A's Jed Lowrie have strong cases so far, the guy who has commanded the most All-Star attention with his early play is, unexpectedly, Castro, who has a .351/.388/.534 slash line.
It has been pretty widely expected that Castro, who has a lifetime OPS+ of 98 (or two percent below league average) and is suddenly sitting at 151 this year, will come down to earth. But his decreased whiff percentage on breaking balls and changeups could be an indicator that he's made a mental adjustment that could allow him to stick as All-Star worthy. Altuve, meanwhile, probably has an offensive surge in him if he reduces what has been a higher-than-usual ground-ball rate (56.6 percent).
Justin Turner vs. Nolan Arenado
Knowing what we know about how well the Cubs' fan base turns out at the online ballot box, both of these deserving candidates -- as well as other worthy entries like the Cardinals' Jedd Gyorko, the Nationals' Anthony Rendon and the Reds' out-of-nowhere WAR leaderEugenio Suarez -- are going to have a hard time unseating reigning National League MVP Award winner Kris Bryant. But the weekend set between the Dodgers and Rockies is an opportunity for the voting body to see Turner and Arenado at work in what has become an intriguing division battle.
Turner just keeps churning out production for the Dodgers team with whom he rejuvenated his career in 2014. Turner has a .364/.445/.483 slash line with 11 doubles. A low-profile pickup when he arrived in L.A., Turner remade himself with an emphasis on launch angle and has become part of the heart and soul of the ballclub. He received some down-ballot NL MVP Award love last year, but he has yet to be an All-Star.
Arenado is a two-time All-Star as a result of voting by his peers but has never been elected to start by the fans. That fits the narrative of him being one of the game's more underrated players, though if the Rockies can maintain their place atop the NL West, that will certainly help elevate his profile. For now, Arenado continues to be a dynamic player on both sides of the ball. He has a .309/.358/.588 slash line with eight homers and 12 doubles while providing his usual dazzling defense.
Miguel Sano vs. Jose Ramirez
The Twins-Indians series at Progressive Field features not only two teams that are tied for first place in the AL Central, but the two players who rank Nos. 1 and 2 among AL third basemen in FanGraphs' WAR. Sano (2.2) and Ramirez (1.3) are very different players but they're both making a big impact that leads you to wonder if one of them might have a chance to unseat the Orioles' Manny Machado as the AL starter at third.
For Ramirez, this is an extension of a breakout 2016 season during which he revealed himself to be valuable not just because of his versatility but also his bat. Small in stature but big in swagger, Ramirez was a clutch hitter for the AL champs, and this year he's settled in at the hot corner and increased his power game with a .512 slugging percentage, six homers and six doubles. His .886 OPS is second only to that of Sano among AL third basemen.
Sano, though, is outclassing everybody in the OPS department by a wide margin. He enters play on Friday with a 1.108 mark, with nine homers, six doubles and two triples. This is the Sano we expected after his third-place showing in the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Award voting, but last season was a mess on both sides of the ball in the midst of a failed experiment in the outfield.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.