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Who Will Win The 2014 Home Run Derby?

Tonight is one of my favorite events of the entire year, the MLB Home Run Derby. Until the MLB wakes up and makes a skills competition similar to the NBA, the Derby is our only outlet for all that is great about the game. In theory, each of the 10 participants tonight should have an equal shot at taking the home run crown tonight, but we’re smarter than that. Below is my mock Home Run Derby.

In the National League, we have Captain Troy Tulowitzki (21), Giancarlo Stanton (21), Todd Frasier (19), Justin Morneau (13), and Yasiel Puig (12). In the American League, we have Captain Jose Bautista (17), Josh Donaldson (20), Brian Dozier (18), Adam Jones (16), and Yoenis Cespedes (14). While it may seem easy to assume who will win based on home runs hit from April-early July, I don’t think that tells the whole story.

Let’s take a look at the Twins new field – Target Field. It’s the second newest stadium in baseball, debuting at the start of the 2010 season. While the dimensions of the outfield are not outrageous all around, right center is a bit of a beast to get over. The dimensions are 339’ down the left field line, 377’ in left center, 411’ to just left of dead center, 403’ to just right of dead center, 365’ to right center, and 328’ down the right field line. This is all pretty standard other than that 403’. It’s a decent way towards right, and not enough in center for there to be a justification to needing over a 400 foot bomb to clear the wall. In fact, a participant in this year’s derby made some comments about it after the first year of the stadium when he was with the Twins. Morneau said, “right-center to left-center is ridiculous…almost impossible for a right handed hitter to [homer to the] opposite field, and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road.” It sounds to me like players will need to stay down the lines in order to move into late rounds. These comments have been forgotten by most if not all, but I am interested in Morneau’s performance solely for this reason. He hates this place.

As I explained in a prior article, this year is a bracket format with the 5 AL and NL players battling down to 1 in order to face the best from the opposite side. Three players from each side make it past the first round, with the best from each league getting a bye in round two. Round three features each league facing off to go from 2 players down to one, and round four is the final round, with the AL and NL bracket winner facing off for Home Run Derby immortality.

On the NL side, I see Stanton, Frasier, and Puig advancing, with Stanton earning the round 2 bye. A large part of these players moving on is the distance of their home runs. While Tulo is having a great year tearing the cover off the ball, Puig actually has the 4th longest average true home run of 2014, only behind Stanton as far as participants go. So, while he only has 12 home runs on the year, I can definitely see him opening up for this event. Personal showboating is Puig’s specialty, and the Home Run Derby is the perfect time for him to remind everyone who he is.

In the second round Puig will take down Frasier to set up possibly one of the greatest matchups we’ve ever seen: Yasiel Puig vs. Giancarlo Stanton. Here I think that the rest Stanton gets from skipping round two will be the difference in taking out Puig to face the Al winner. Puig is going to swing at 100% for three rounds in a row. By the end of this round he’s either going to need a nap or a new rotator cuff. It will be close, but Stanton will carry himself to the finals.

On the American league side, I see Bautista, Donaldson, and Cespedes getting past the first round. No offense to Brian Dozier, but the home crowd won’t get the ball over the wall for him. He’s having a great first half and he’s young, but not yet. Maybe in a year or two, but it’s too much too soon for Dozier. Bautista has actually made it to the finals in 2012, so he’s been there before and knows how to pace himself. Speaking of guys with Derby experience, Cespedes won the event just one year ago. Smart money is on him to advance through with ease. Cespedes hit 17 home runs in the first round last year, and I expect him to lead the AL and skip right through to round 3. This will hurt Bautista, who hit 11 home runs in the first round in 2012, but just 2 in round two. In a minor surprise upset, I have Donaldson moving into round three to face Cespedes for just this reason. From there, I see Cespedes coming from the round 2 bye to take down the surprising Donaldson to reach the finals against Stanton.

Giancarlo Stanton versus Yoenis Cespedes. This is the matchup that I really wish would be alternating pitch by pitch for each player. Stanton really has the odds against him, facing two powerful Cubans in the final two rounds (and good thing rookie Jose Abreu is not in the derby with his 29 home runs). However, to become the Derby champ you have to face the best. Stanton will do just that and demolish as many baseballs as it takes to earn the crown. There will be no repeat this season. Instead, one of the purest home run hitters we have seen in the last few decades will finally get some of the attention he deserves from the rest of the country. Of course, a lot of people have Stanton as a favorite for the event. This makes me think that He will be eliminated in the first round, but based on pure baseball Stanton is BY FAR the man to beat in this event. I just hope some of the other competitors can keep it interesting.

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