All-Start it up: Picks are in, Final Vote begins
Balloting is underway through 4 p.m. ET on Friday in the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote, a 92-hour blitz in which unique campaign alliances will form, digital balloting records probably will fall, and you decide the 34th and final roster spots for the 87th Midsummer Classic next Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego.
American League candidates presented by Royals manager Ned Yost include Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders and Astros right fielder George Springer.
• All-Star rosters packed with dynamic talent
National League candidates presented by Mets manager Terry Collins include Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb, Pirates left fielder Starling Marte and Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.
The Final Vote is back for its 15th season with nearly 600 million votes cast. You can vote again on MLB.com, club sites and mobile devices.
:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::
There is no pitcher on the ballot for the first time since 2009 (when Kinsler also was a nominee). A middle infielder never has won, but there are three bona fide candidates with Kinsler and Pedroia at second and Story at shortstop. This ballot includes a previous winner in Longoria, who got the AL nod as a rookie in 2008.
Last year's Final Vote winners were Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. They each benefited from the #VoteMo alliance, and now it is time to watch creative club alliances form among the 10 new nominees -- starting with Kinsler and Marte as the first announced pairing.
Here's a closer look at your choices:
Kinsler: You think the Giants have a remarkable even-numbered-year pattern going? Kinsler was an All-Star in 2008, '10, '12 and '14. It's an exceptional year for MLB second basemen in general, and the Tigers' veteran is a contender here with the best OPS behind starter Jose Altuve and reserve Robinson Cano. Kinsler is on pace for a potential career power year with 16 homers and 52 RBIs entering Tuesday. #VoteKinsler (A1)
"He's been pretty darn good since he got here," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said last week. "I know last year he struggled early in the year, but his body of work in a Tiger uniform, it's pretty good, on both sides of the ball. And I guess it's remarkable because he's aged and he continues to maintain it."
Longoria: He ranks third among all AL third basemen in extra-base hits, homers, doubles. The big question is whether Longoria can get back to an event that was a fact of life for him at the start of his career. After three straight Midsummer Classics, the Rays' star went five consecutive summers watching from the outside. #VoteLongo (A2)
"I'm just seeing the ball well. And allowing myself to get into hitters' counts and taking advantage of those counts," he said after a two-homer game early last month, talking about an adjustment he has made at the plate. "So, it was kind of a change that took place, maybe 20 games in. ... It's tough to change what you've done and had success with for so long, but I had some success with the little change that I've made, and now I've just kind of gone to it full time. It's just put me in a good spot."
Pedroia: Like Kinsler, he is a four-time All-Star. This season, Pedroia has a .306/.368/.445 line, and he bats .365 in the eighth inning or after, just in case you want a deep reserve in that role to win home-field advantage. #VotePedey (A3)
"Well, one, I think he's very deserving to go despite how that vote turns out," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Pedroia. "He's hit over .300 for the better part of the whole season. He's played a very good defense at second base. In many ways, he's our de facto captain. What he means to us, the way he goes about the game, the way he plays it, he sets an example for all of us. I'm hopeful that he's part of that group in San Diego."
Saunders: His .910 OPS is third among all AL outfielders only to Mike Trout and Jackie Bradley Jr. Saunders is a .238 career hitter, but he's hitting .290 this year, to go with 15 home runs and 43 runs. Of his last 53 hits, 27 went for extra bases. Again, here's a guy who has been devastating late in games: .356 with a 1.122 OPS from the seventh inning on -- roughly where Final Vote guys often show up. #VoteCaptainCanada (A4)
"I'm not in the All-Star Game right now, but it's still an honor to be a part of the [Final Vote]," Saunders said. "As far as the campaign, I know that the Blue Jays will get behind me and show support, not just because I'm Canadian but ... they take great care of the players in that locker room. I know the Blue Jays will behind me, and hopefully, I'll get the support of the rest of Canada."
Springer: He has been the spark for the Astros' recent surge, and his 454-foot clout on Independence Day was just the latest example. Since May 24, when he moved to the top of the order, the Astros are 27-11, and he has six doubles, a triple, 10 homers and 25 RBIs in that time. Oh, and he's tied for third in AL outfield assists with eight. #VoteSpringer (A5)
"It would obviously be special," Springer said. "Every player's goal is to be an All-Star and to win a championship, so that would be cool, but if not, I guess we'll play that second half and hopefully have a good playoff run."
Belt: The Giants' first baseman is having his best season at age 28, hitting .295/.398/.510 with 10 homers, 26 doubles, 44 RBIs and 42 runs scored. He entered Tuesday with 18 doubles in his last 34 games. It might be surprising to some that the Giants -- as tech-savvy as any fan base -- are 0-for-4 in Final Vote history. Will they rally around him for his first All-Star selection? #VoteBelt (N1)
"I've felt pretty good at the plate this year and I've been a doubles guy in the past, especially in our ballpark where you can hit the ball a long ways and it still doesn't go out," Belt said after leading the Giants to a victory Sunday at Arizona. "I'm just sticking with my line-drive approach and that's what has gotten me most of those doubles."
Braun: He's the dean among all Final Vote candidates when it comes to All-Star experience, but a seventh career selection would have to come via this route for the first time and with no home games during the campaign. Braun ranks ninth in the Majors and fourth in the NL with a .323 average, has hit safely in 16 of his last 19 games, and his nine assists are tied for first in the Majors. Can he join previous Brewers outfielders Geoff Jenkins (2003) and Corey Hart ('08) as Final Vote winners? #VoteBraun (N2)
"I've seen the other four guys who are on the list, and I think they're all deserving. I would love to see one of them make it," Braun said. "All four of those guys deserve to be on the team. I think [Jake Lamb] is leading the National League in slugging percentage now. Starling Marte is probably underrated; people might not get to see him play that often. I get to see him play all the time because he's in our division, and this guy is one of the best outfielders in the game. Trevor Story is obviously having a phenomenal year. And Brandon Belt; a first place team, and obviously having a phenomenal year as well. All four guys are certainly deserving to be on the All-Star team."
Lamb: Talk about a breakout player. In case you haven't noticed, the D-backs' sixth-round Draft pick from the University of Washington in 2012 has the top slugging percentage (.609) in the NL -- and second only to David Ortiz in the Majors. And Lamb's .974 OPS is second in the NL only to the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter. Only the Rockies' Nolan Arenado (45) has more extra-base hits in the NL than Lamb (44). #VoteLamb (N3)
"First of all, it's a joke that he's not on the roster to start," Arizona closer Brad Ziegler said. "He's leading the league in slugging percentage and there may be no more single stat that's more valuable, as far as a hitter goes. He's been incredibly productive and he's done it in late-game, close situations. He's tied and won games for us with homers all season."
Marte: The 2015 Gold Glove Award winner is tied with Braun with nine outfield assists, and at the plate, he has been a stalwart for the Pirates as well. Marte is batting .324 (24-for-74) in his last 19 games, and he ranks sixth in the NL with a .321 batting average. He is 24-for-30 in steals this season. #VoteMarte (N4)
"Starling Marte is the best athlete I've played with, hands down. He's extremely talented," Pirates All-Star closer Mark Melancon said. "Sometimes I don't even know if he knows how talented he is. He's a ball of muscle that just goes out there and competes."
Story: A headline writer's dream, the rookie shortstop was the "story" of the season for the first week or two with a record-setting homer rampage, and it was definitely not a novelty. Colorado's first-round pick in the 2011 Draft has 19 homers and 50 RBIs and a 111 OPS+, and he put the voting pressure on Cubs shortstop Addison Russell in the last couple weeks of the starter balloting. Can Story become the first shortstop to win a Final Vote? Will the third time be a charm for the Rockies after misses by Justin Morneau in 2014 and Troy Tulowitzki last year? #StoryTime (N5)
"I'm proud of it," Story said. "You grow up dreaming about maybe being an All-Star, and I still have a chance. It's very humbling."
These next three-plus days will see creative #FinalVote campaigns pop up across ballparks, airports, banners, T-shirts and caps, skywriting, social-media avatars and hashtags and furious online-only fan voting to support the nominees.
To submit your ballot, go to MLB.com/vote or vote via text message. To receive the ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text the choice to 89269. Example: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Text "STOP" to end and "HELP" for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.
For the fifth consecutive year, the MLB All-Star Game Final Vote will include social balloting, as Twitter support from the 10 candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Friday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the AL and NL winners.
The winners, as chosen exclusively by online fan voting totals, will be announced during a Final Vote-themed telecast of MLB Now featuring commentary from political analyst Jeff Greenfield, live on MLB Network and MLB.com from 4-5 p.m. ET on Friday. MLB Network will provide extensive coverage across all of its studio programming during the Final Vote, including interviews with the candidates, hourly updates, heat maps indicating the cities where votes are being cast for each candidate, updates on player and club campaigns and a running countdown clock leading up to the announcement.
On Tuesday, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX starting at 7:30 p.m., 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, in San Diego, 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.