What the Home Run Derby field should look like
The four-man teams for Monday's Home Run Derby include Robinson Cano, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Yoesnis Cespedes for the American League and David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Bryce Harper for the National League. That's right, we all get the privilege of watching Michael Cuddyer participate in the Home Run Derby in a pitchers' park.
As Cespedes's selection shows, a player need not be an All-Star to participate in the Derby. But with that long-in-place rule having finally been discarded, baseball missed a chance to have a field that is far more representative of the type of sluggers most fans actually want to watch. With that in mind, here are my American and National League Home Run Derby dream teams:
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Only six players have ever hit more first-half home runs than Davis's 33, and Roger Maris in 1961 and Sammy Sosa in 1998 both had exactly 33 at the break before going on to top 60. Davis himself is on a 59-homer pace. You can't have this year's Derby without him. Fortunately, we won't.
Cabrera led the majors in home runs last year and trails only Davis this year with 29, a 53-homer pace. He's the best all-around hitter in the game, and has become a more prolific slugger in recent years. He led the majors with a career-high 44 homers in 2012 and in his last 162 games dating back to last year's All-Star break he has hit 54 home runs.
Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels
Trumbo is the premier distance hitter in the American League. His 475-foot homer in Oakland was the longest in the AL this year, and while he has ranked third in average distance in the Junior Circuit both this year and last per ESPN's Home Run Tracker, no player has ranked ahead of him in both seasons. Trumbo put on a show at last year's Derby in Kansas City, and it would be fun to see him do it again this year at Citi Field.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
Fielder's home run rate is at a career low this year, but he's the defending Derby champion and has won this event twice in the past four years, so that alone warrants his inclusion.
Stanton has been slowed by injuries both this season and last, but when healthy, he's the National League's best home run hitter. His .282 isolated slugging percentage since the start of the 2012 season leads NLers with 500 or more plate appearances by a considerable distance (Ryan Braun is second at .257), and his 494-foot shot at Coors Field last August remains the longest home run in the major leagues since 2009, according to Home Run Tracker.
Alvarez leads the majors in what Home Run Tracker classifies as "no doubt" home runs, is tied for second in the NL in total homers with 23 and specializes in moon shots. His shot off the batters' eye in Pittsburg on Tuesday was merely his third-longest of the season.
Bryce Harper, LF, Nationals
Harper's average home run traveled exactly as far as Stanton's in 2012, 413 feet, good for second in the NL behind Carlos Gonzalez, who plays his home games in Denver. This year, Harper is neck and neck with Alvarez in terms of average distance, albeit further down the list. Harper's power was the most hyped aspect of his game prior to his arrival in the majors, and we've seen what he can do when he gets hot. In 320 plate appearances from Aug. 29 of last year until he hit the disabled list at the end of April this year he hit 22 home runs. Now we'll get to see what he can do in the Derby.
David Wright, 3B, Mets
Given that Wright lit up PNC Park in his only prior Derby, connecting for 16 first-round home runs in 2006, it's worth letting the hometown hero take another hack at it in his home ballpark, even if his power has waned since then.
Four of my Derby picks (Wright, Harper, Davis and Fielder) will participate in the event on Monday, but Stanton's absence is noticeable, and not having Alvarez, who is an All-Star this year, feels like a significant miss. Four spots are not a lot to work with. I very much would have liked to have found room on my AL team for Adam Dunn, who has 24 home runs this season and 430 in his career but has never participated in the Derby.
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