With eight first timers and a new format, the 2014 MLB Home Run Derby is offering fans a fresh take on the All-Star Game’s precursor. Monday night, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, the ten participants will put their strength on display. With five participants from each league, every round following the first will be head-to-head matches, until two players remain in the finals.
Only two of the ten participants have appeared in the MLB Home Run Derby before, last year’s winner Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics, and 2008 winner Justin Morneau of the Colorado Rockies. Each of those players won a contest in New York, with Cespedes winning at Citi Field in Queens, and Morneau at the old Yankee Stadium in its final season. Morneau, a former Minnesota Twin, is also returning to play in front of his longtime home crowd.
The American League side was chosen by Jose Bautista, who has the second most home runs in baseball since 2010, behind only Miguel Cabrera. Besides Cespedes, the Athletics have another participant in Josh Donaldson, who in addition to the derby will be making his first All-Star Game appearance when he starts at third base on Tuesday. To round out his team, Bautista selected Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and the host city’s Brian Dozier.
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki captains the National League squad. Tulowitzki is having the best year of an already stellar career. He sits tied atop the National League home run leaderboard with fellow participant Giancarlo Stanton. The always exciting Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds complete the senior circuit’s derby roster.
All of these players have put on some obscene demonstrations of strength this season, and so it would not be inconceivable for any of them to win. However, even among some of the best power hitters in the league Giancarlo Stanton stands out. He is not only tied for the National League lead in homers, but he enters the Home Run Derby with the longest average home run distance in baseball at more than 423 feet. Most of his home runs are not just leaving the field of play, but soaring well past the limits of where any man should be physically capable of hitting a ball. When scouts talk about power potential for young players, Stanton is the comparison they are making. If there is a favorite to win, it is him.
This year, no homers will carry forward from round to round, a new 7-out per batter rule is in place, and the face-off style rounds should provide some persistent drama. The Home Run Derby is often the most laid back night of the entire baseball season, and having players challenged to go one-on-on with each other may help build some friendly rivalries. Players are often camera friendly at the derby, making for a great chance to find out about personalities as well. Fans will get to see these players flex their muscles and show off their skill, and it should be a fantastic night for baseball. May the hardest swinging man win.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Associate Senior Baseball Editor for the Guardian Liberty Voice