The Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot is out, and we all get to have our say in who starts the MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard.
Is it fair to cast these votes just a month into the season, when so much still needs sorting out? No, not really. But is it fun? Heck yeah, it is.
With the usual stress over how much stock to put into small samples vs. lengthy track records, here are my current choices in the American League.
VOTE: Esurance MLB All-Star Ballot
First base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
In April, AL first basemen logged the same slugging percentage (.395) as AL shortstops. We haven't seen the traditional output for the position. Last year's AL starter, Eric Hosmer (.603 OPS) got off to a miserable start, and Cabrera, voted a starter in 10 of the past 14 years, landed on the 10-day DL with a groin strain.
The Red Sox's Mitch Moreland (13 doubles) and the Astros' Yuli Gurriel (.314/.344/.465 slash line) merit consideration right now, but Miggy came back from the DL on Tuesday and instantly built on the 1.321 OPS he had posted in the eight games before he got hurt, hitting a two-run homer, so he's a safe selection here.
Video: DET@TB: Miggy smashes a solo home run to center field
Second base: Starlin Castro, Yankees
This is the classic case of not knowing whether to go with track record or early absurdity. My hunch is that, before long, I'll be advocating that Jose Altuve, who has been predictably great (.326/.409/.505 slash line) start for the AL for the third straight year.
But right now it's impossible to ignore what Castro has done for the Yankees (.360/.402/.550 with five homers and four doubles). Maybe it's even sustainable, because he's shown better discipline, and Statcast™tells us he's been pounding the ball consistently.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Indians
Wait, so you're telling me a guy who has already proven himself to be a dynamic defender at a demanding position and a pure hitter is suddenly going to put up crazy power numbers, too?
The Angels' Andrelton Simmons gets an honorable mention here, the Rays' Tim Beckham is off to a great start but isn't on the ballot, and you would imagine Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts merit monitoring as the year progresses. But with a 1.018 OPS and 16 extra-base hits in April, Lindor is the pretty clear favorite right now.
Video: SEA@CLE: Lindor skies solo homer to right field
Third base: Jose Ramirez, Indians
Josh Donaldson is hurt, Manny Machado had a ho-hum April (although apparently the Red Sox are his muse) and the good work Joey Gallo has done in place of Adrian Beltre does him no good because he's not on the ballot. And yet we still have a logjam of quality candidates here in the early going.
With all due respect to Mike Moustakas and Chase Headley, my top two here right now are Ramirez and the Twins' Miguel Sano. The latter has been sensational (.316/.443/.684 with 14 extra-base hits in April) after a miserable 2016. But when you factor in his defense and his .320/.387/.567 slash line, Ramirez has been no less valuable, and his performance is parlayed with a breakout '16 that, looking back, should have included an All-Star invite.
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals
He's been the AL starter three years running, and so far there's absolutely no reason to snap that streak. Don't blame Perez for the Royals' offensive woes, because he led AL catchers in OPS (.837) and home runs (six), and his work behind the plate and with the pitching staff is still a major asset.
Honorable mention goes to the Astros' Brian McCann, who has gotten off to a good start for his new club.
Video: MIN@KC: Perez launches a two-run homer to left
Designated hitter: Nelson Cruz, Mariners
So, a quick note on DHs. They slugged just .386 in April. You knew David Ortiz's retirement would impact the Red Sox, but who knew it would impact the entire position?
Anyway, a couple guys have done an especially good job distracting us from the DH downturn -- Cruz (.315/.407/.618, seven homers, six doubles) and the Rays' Corey Dickerson (.330/.381/.608, six homers, nine doubles). With the numbers fairly comparable, I'm going with the more known commodity.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Angels; Adam Jones, Orioles; Aaron Judge, Yankees
The ballot should really come with Trout's circle pre-selected. I'll have to get with our designers on that one.
Video: LAA@TEX: Trout covers ground to make a jumping catch
And because it's still so early, I'm giving Jones the "sacred cow" treatment, too. He doesn't have as outlandish an OPS as some others, but he's off to a really good start (.284/.342/.441) and has the pedigree of four selections in the previous five seasons.
That leaves me only one choice from the Small Sample Theater crew, and I've got to go with Judge on the might of those Statcast-breaking home runs, league-best April OPS of 1.161 and underrated defense (four defensive runs saved).
But that means leaving out the very deserving Steven Souza Jr. of the Rays, Mitch Haniger of the Mariners (his oblique injury will unfortunately render his absurd start a mere memory for a few weeks) and Khris Davis of the A's, among others who came out clicking. And that's before you even get to a guy like Mookie Betts, who you know will be in the running before long.
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 Ballotuntil 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.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.