Home Run Derby Wish List
With the announcement of Matt Kemp and Robinson Cano as captains of the 2012 Home Run Derby teams, I got to thinking about who I’d like to see in the Home Run Derby. Kemp and Cano are obviously in. And generally they go with some of the top Home Run hitters of the year in each league. Cano will likely go with 3 of the following: Josh Hamilton, Curtis Granderson, Adam Dunn, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and possibly Mark Trumbo. (I personally think he’ll pick teammate Granderson, Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista with Mark Trumbo and David Ortiz as backups if they say no). Kemp follow suit with likely 3 out of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton. It’ll be fun and what it generally is. We see guys try their best to put 5-10 home runs over the fence, while someone may go crazy and slug 20. All of them will be about 400 feet. But, I’ve always wanted to see something more.
I’m not the first person to write about a change in the way we do the home run derby. Jeff Passan has been pushing hard for a change to not just the Derby, but the All Star game as well. He started a push on Twitter for one of the players I’m going to want to see in the derby. But if I’m going to see a Home Run Derby, I don’t want to watch Carlos Beltran vs. Edwin Encarnacion. I don’t want to watch Brandon Inge struggle to put one over the fence. I want to watch two monsters slug tape measure shots into the waterfall at Kaufman Stadium. I don’t care who has the most home runs this season. I care about who has the ability to hit a 500 foot homer and can slug 25 of them in a round. I don’t need guys who hit 320 in this contest. They aren’t trying to take a curveball on the outside part of the plate to the opposite field. They are taking lobs over the plate from a 60-year-old first base coach. For that reason, I’m submitting my home run derby list for this season.
Robinson Cano: I’m not overly excited about this, but the captains are set and I’m going to leave them. He won the derby last year, and that should at least mean he gets to play this year. Plus he’s a Yankee and if he’s not in it New Yorkers won’t watch. I’m a realist, and I know baseball needs their biggest market to tune in. God knows I’m not putting any Mets on this list.
Adam Dunn: One of the few players on this list (besides the captains) that might actually make the cut. Dunn is a master of the three true outcomes. (Those would be HRs, Ks and BBs). He had an incredible streak of hitting 40+ HR each season for 6 years straight followed by 2 straight seasons of 38 HR. He was abysmal last season, but has turned it around early on this year. And he is country strong. He used to drill them out of the Great American Ballpark and has picked it back up in Chicago this season. He’s a big strong slugger, and the epitome of what a home run contest needs.
Josh Hamilton: Another player who will hopefully be on the team. The only reason he might not play is because he doesn’t want to hurt himself in a game that essentially means nothing. He had the most impressive single round in the history of the Derby back in 08. He set the single round record with 28 HR, though he ended up losing to Justin Morneau. And he’s off to a monster start this season, leading the league with 22 HR. He’s an obvious choice and, if picked, I think has to be the prohibitive favorite.
Yoenis Cespedes: After hitting a couple of monster shots in the World Baseball Classic, the Cuban defector came to the U.S. and hit a 462 foot blast in his first series as a major leaguer. After that series, injuries have spoiled his rookie season. But he’s playing well hitting 275 with 6 HR, 26 RBI and 4 SB. And he’s done all that in only 35 games. So his stats aren’t going to get him in this game. But his ability to hit mammoth home runs should be his ticket to this contest. He and Dunn could put on quite a show, and he’s more likely to hang back and appreciate his homers than some others.
Matt Kemp: Once again, I’m okay with the captains. And after the season Kemp’s been having, you have to be okay with this choice. He was headed for a 50+ homer season until he got hurt. His health is troublesome, but if he’s healthy he’ll be in this contest. And he’ll be a good choice.
Dan Uggla: The only middle infielder you will find on this list. Uggla has had 5 straight seasons of 30 or more homers. That’s a record among major league second baseman. Uggla is a pure power hitter with the most monstrous forearms I’ve ever seen on a human being. They are pretty big compared to the average bear if my research is accurate (it’s not). But Dan’s got 11 HR so far this season, and while that’s not necessarily near the top of the leader board (tied for 13th) it’s tops among second baseman and on pace for another season of 30 HR. He can slug with the best of them.
Giancarlo Stanton: The youngster is a big strong power hitter. And what he does best is hit homers. He’s only in his second full season, but he’s currently 4th in the league with 14 HR. He matched Cespedes with a 462-foot shot of his own. And hitting home runs in that new stadium in Miami is not an easy thing to do. He hits them pretty deep. In fact, last season his average home run was 417 feet, the best in the majors. (For reference, Kemp was second and Uggla was third….I think my list criterion is pretty obvious).
Willy Mo Pena: This is the trickiest one to get in. Pena is currently playing baseball in Japan. So step one in getting him in this contest is to have a National League club sign him to a deal. That is a pretty daunting step, as no one wanted him all winter, and it’s unlikely that someone has a huge need for someone who can hit, at best, 10 HR while chipping in a 150 AVG. But big Willy Mo can hit some tape measure shots. His most famous home run may be a 498-foot shot he hit for the Reds in 05. It’s the second longest in the history of Great American Ballpark (the longest belongs to Adam Dunn at 535 feet!). This would be an amazing spectacle. I don’t know how to make it happen, but if you wanted to see a real remarkable show the night before the Summer Classic, this would be the biggest step in the right direction.