The Home Run Derby will take place tonight at 8 p.m. from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. It is one of the sporting events that people either love or hate. Personally, I am infatuated with the Derby. I was brought up in a generation in which we grew up loving the long ball. The longer, higher and farther the ball is hit, the better as far as I am concerned. I am one of those fans who enjoys getting to the park hours before to watch teams taking batting practice and tonight is a glorified, elongated version of that. The contestants are taking their practice cuts and the fans sitting in the outfield are oiling up their gloves. The other All-Stars who are not competing tonight are getting set to sit on the sidelines and watch their peers put on a show. MLB changed the format last year, making the derby a team competition and allowing a team captain to pick the contestants. The captains for this year’s team are Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. Each captain asked players around the league and the collection of power that will be on display tonight is fantastic.
For the American League, Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder, Mark Trumbo and Cano will be taking the hacks. Though Bautista, Fielder and Cano are the better known players in the AL, Trumbo is really the player to watch. Of all the competitors, Trumbo averages the longest homerun on the season as his 22 jacks have travelled an average of 419.5 feet. He has also managed to hit the longest homerun of the AL competitors, as he hit a blast 459 feet earlier this season. He is thought to be one of the best raw, young power hitters in the game and if he gets on a roll, watch out!
Last year Robinson Cano won the competition, edging Adrian Gonzalez in a classic final. It was a truly special moment for Cano since his father was throwing the pitches to his son. As a Yankee fan, I am more than aware that Cano is one of the best talents in the league and when he is on a good streak, he has the potential to be as good as anyone. I can easily see him taking this competition again, though I have to give Trumbo the edge because he has power that hasn’t been seen in the league since McGwire and Sosa were hitting 500 ft. shots (that were steroid induced) in the late 90’s.
The National League team will consist of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp. Kemp jumped out to an early MVP campaign this year, but has been slowed for the past month and a half due to a hamstring issue. I am shocked that the Dodgers are going to let him compete in the competition, as he hasn’t been playing in any games for them in over a month. He is unquestionably a candidate to win the contest if he is healthy, but I don’t understand the risk involved. The player I am most excited to see is the Pirates youngster Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is by far the smallest player in the field but he has such unbelievable power due to ridiculous fast twitch muscles that remind me of when Alfonso Soriano was in his prime in the early 2000’s for the Yankees. McCutchen is single-handedly leading the Pirates to a first place record, and his 18 homers are only a small part of his all around game. If the season ended today, he would have to be in the conversation of NL MVP, along with David Wright and the shocking Melky Cabrera. Though McCutchen excites me, I think the top NL performer will be Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, as his 17 homers this year travel further than the other NL players, averaging 412.8 ft per shot, probably aided by Coors Field conditions.
WIth that said, I think the AL players will dominate tonight and I wouldn’t be expected if every AL player finished with higher totals than the NL’s best. Either way, I’ll be at the edge of my seat and though I am not certain about who is going to win, my official prediction will be Mark Trumbo, followed by Cano (though I will 100% be rooting for Robbie to prevail). With the said, I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the AL players took the trophy home tonight. I am so excited for the competition that I will watch it even though I am subjected to listening to Chris Berman utter the words “back, back, back, back, back…..gone!” 500 times. Even though Berman can be irritating during the broadcast, there is nothing else I don’t love about the Derby and I can’t wait to tune in tonight. Enjoy!