Josh Donaldson could be on the verge of repeating as American League MVP. Based on the stellar first-half production of the third baseman and 2015 MVP winner, the Toronto Blue Jays are contenders at the All-Star break.
Here are the first-half MVPs of each AL team, according to The Sports Xchange's national network of baseball writers:
Manny Machado. Although the team had several players with great first halves, Machado led the way. He heads into the All-Star break batting .318 with 19 homers and 53 RBIs. Plus, he gave the Orioles great work on defense at third base -- and also at shortstop, often filling in when J.J. Hardy was out with a broken foot. Machado showed he could play both positions just as well.
BOSTON RED SOX
You can make the argument that David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts should rank 1-2 in the American League MVP picture. Ortiz is the MVP in his final season after he hit his 22nd homer of the season, three of them in the last four games. He has 72 RBIs -- the most ever by a 40-year-old at the break -- and his Sunday homer was his club-record 57th extra base hit before the break. "The lists he continues to elevate himself, on that all-time lists, it's pretty amazing to see what's going on," said manager John Farrell. Batting .332, Ortiz leads the major leagues in doubles (34), slugging percentage (.682), OPS (1.108) and extra-base hits.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
3B Josh Donaldson, the American League MVP Award winner in 2015, has been the team MVP in the first half of the season in every way. He has done it with the bat, the glove and his intense personality. He has batted .304 with 23 home runs, 63 RBIs and 80 runs scored. He is only the sixth player in American League history to have 20 or more homers and 80 or more runs before All-Star break. He also is one of the better defensive third basemen in the majors, routinely making spectacular plays. Donaldson also is a clubhouse presence and his intensity and drive rub off on other players. 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion deserves honorable mention after batting .267/.358/.541 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs.
NEW YORK YANKEES
The first-half MVP for the Yankees can actually be split among Carlos Beltran and Didi Gregorius. The numbers show it and manager Joe Girardi also said Sunday both players would be his MVP of the first half. Although he is essentially a designated hitter, Beltran has increased his case for the Hall of Fame by batting .299 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs. He has reached a few milestones along the way, 400 home runs and 2,500 hits and is close to 1,500 RBIs. Gregorius had some early struggles defensively last season, trying to live up to being Derek Jeter's successor at shortstop, but came on late last season and has continued it this season. He constantly puts the ball in play and has a career-high in home runs while also being one of the few Yankees to prove he can consistently hit left-handed pitching. He has spent most of the year batting at the bottom of the lineup, but batted fifth Sunday and could be moved up.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
3B Evan Longoria is playing his best baseball in years and was deserving of an All-Star nod. He leads the Rays with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs and has hit well for average at a .290 clip. You could make a case for fill-in closer Alex Colome, who converted his first 19 save opportunities and will represent the Rays in the All-Star Game in San Diego, but Longoria's consistent bat is one of the Rays' few remaining draws for fans.
SS Francisco Lindor. Though just 22 and in his first full season in the majors, Lindor has been the best all-around player on a team loaded with good performances. Nobody on the roster, however, has performed so well on both sides of the ball, offense and defense, as Lindor -- and he is doing it while playing a premium position. He is hitting for average (.306), for power (10 homers), he's driving in runs (45), he's a threat on the bases (13 stolen bases), and he already might be the best defensive shortstop in the league. It is no coincidence that the Indians' starting rotation has collectively had a breakout year in Lindor's first full season at short. An All-Star at 22, he has more range and a better arm than the last great Cleveland shortstop, Omar Vizquel.
2B Ian Kinsler was Detroit's most consistently effective player -- at the plate, in the field and on the bases. He hit close to .300, was among the league leaders in multi-hit games, was on a pace for 30 home runs and should score 100 runs. He continued to be one of the better defensive second baseman around and, with Cameron Maybin, gives Detroit sharp base running ahead of the Tigers' two base-cloggers, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Kinsler has become adept at taking the outside pitch to right or center and yanking inside pitches to the pull field.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
LHP Chris Sale. Not only is Chris Sale the best White Sox pitcher, he is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. The 6-foot-6, 180-pound southpaw uses his lanky frame for a herky-jerky delivery that perplexes hitters. Sale, who earned his fifth All-Star selection, leads the majors with 14 victories in 18 starts. He is 14-3 with a 3.38 ERA and three complete games. In 125 innings, he has walked 26 and struck out 123. "I feel as good as I've ever felt," Sale said. "I feel strong. I feel like I have juice left."
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
C Salvador Perez topped the American League ballot box for all players for the All-Star Game. Not only is he the Royals leader on the field -- .283 batting average, 14 home runs, 41 RBIs, .818 OPS and a Gold Glove behind the plate -- but he is also their spiritual leader. And in the final game before the All-Star break, Perez batted second for the first time in his career. This is his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. He also excels in prime-time, a .348 average in a dozen World Series games.
Yankees fans thought they would never see Eduardo Nunez's name in any MVP listing whether it was for New York or any other team. He was a part-time player in his first two seasons for the Twins but has emerged into an All-Star everyday player. Yes, his helmet still falls off while he runs but his performance at the plate has been no laughing matter. Nunez is batting .321 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs while appearing in 78 games, six more than last year. Nunez also has stolen 22 bases and has compiled a .836 OPS. "Since he's been in the leadoff spot, he's been a catalyst for us as far as base running with consistency with getting on base, driving in runs, scoring runs," manager Paul Molitor told reporters. "It's been really enjoyable to watch a guy who's never had a chance to play this regularly take advantage of it and run with it."
OF Ian Desmond. It's hard to believe that 12 games into the season, the All-Star was hitting just .109. Since then, Desmond has been the focal part of the Texas offense. He leads the club in batting average and RBIs. He leads the majors with five go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later, and he has done that all while playing a solid center field after just two career starts in the outfield coming into 2016.
2B Jose Altuve is not only the Astros' most valuable player, he could earn that distinction for the entire American League by the close of the season. Now a four-time All-Star, Altuve has been a dynamo with the bat (.341 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs) and a demon on the base paths (23 steals). His improvements in power and walks have been eye-opening and Altuve continues to shine defensively. He currently ranks third in the AL in fWAR behind Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson, lending credence to his MVP candidacy.
2B Robinson Cano. There were questions about everything from his clutch hitting to his work ethic after a subpar 2015 season, and Cano has quieted the doubters this season. Seattle's lone All-Star is in the process of putting up his best season as a Mariner, ranking in the AL's top 10 in batting average (.313), home runs (21) and RBIs (58). He's on pace to post the second-highest OPS (.923) of his career. At 33, Cano is proving all the doubters wrong.
The Athletics are a rarity in that their "Most Valuable Player" is actually their "most valuable player." In other words, the guy who can produce the greatest value on the trade market. No doubt, that guy is Rich Hill, a 36-year-old the Boston Red Sox didn't want at the end of last season. But now that the veteran left-hander has gone 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA with wins over the likes of Baltimore, Detroit, Texas and Houston, the Red Sox would love to get him back. They are advised to take a number. Billy Beane has a lot of other teams already lining up.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
In the midst of the chaos surrounding him, CF Mike Trout remains a bastion of excellence. Trout enters the All-Star break among the American League's top 10 in several offensive categories. The five-time All-Star ranks second with a .425 on-base percentage, fourth with 68 runs scored, fifth with a .322 batting average and a .567 slugging percentage, eighth with 104 hits and tied for ninth with 58 RBIs. To take a one-date snapshot, Trout's production in the past three seasons on June 27 has been remarkably consistent: a batting average between .303 and .319, home run totals between 17 and 19, and between 53 and 55 runs scored each year.