Who Else Should Participate in the Home Run Derby?

Pujols has already committed to participate in the Derby.

Who Should Participate in the All-Star Weekend Home Run Derby

Each year, the day before the heralded MLB All-Star Game is highlighted by the Home Run Derby, a competition that allows players to showcase their power in a spectacle that has as many rule changes as it does home runs . This year, Gillette will sponsor the Home Run Derby, and will kick-start a new “head to head” style of Home Run Derby, where each competitor will face another in the bracket and advance until only two remain. Despite efforts to alter the rules to preserve time, Gillette seems to have changed the rules to not only be unnecessarily complicated, but also to increase the total time of the Home Run Derby. Already, a number of invitees have declined this chance to compete, including Bryce Harper (personal decision), Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera (injuries), and a few others. While many players may be declined the chance to compete or be robbed of an invitation, here’s who should be participating in the All-Star Weekend Home Run Derby.

Before I start, a quick honorable mention and melancholy word on Giancarlo Stanton, who is easily the best home run hitter in the game right now and unfortunately will not be able to participate in this year’s Derby. Per statistics from baseballheatmaps.com, Stanton leads all MLB hitters in Home Run and flyball distance by an average of six feet, leads the entire MLB in home runs with 27, and holds the distinction of having the two longest home runs this year, both at a whopping 484 feet. In any other situation, he would no doubt be the favorite to win.

American League

Will NOT Participate: Nelson Cruz (Mariners), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Mike Trout (Angels)

  • Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels. Thankfully, this isn’t one we’ll have to hope for, as Pujols has recently announced he’ll be participating in this year’s derby, maybe for the last time. With 26 HR’s this year, Pujols leads the AL in this category and has been an absolute catalyst thus far for the Angels. He’s third in the majors in “No Doubt” homers and has been a good participant of this contest, but has never won in the past. It’d be an honor to see past-his-prime-but-still-great Pujols win in this year, and there’s nothing showing he won’t have a great chance.
  • JD Martinez, Detroit Tigers. To say Martinez is having a great season would be an understatement. After a few seasons with the Astros, the outfielder exploded on to the scene with the Tigers last season and hasn’t looked back. He’s second in the AL behind Pujols with 24 homers in just 81 games. He’s also 11th in the MLB in Home Run and Flyball Distance (HRFD) at 307.09 feet, and is near the top in HR and Flyball Hits with 69. To have a player this young and exciting in the Derby would mean a lot for the middling Tigers, who seem to be coming out of a streak of dominant seasons.
  • Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays. Donaldson, who grabbed the most All-Star votes of any AL player, currently sits tied for 4th in the AL with 21 homers. He’s been a major catalyst on a .500 Blue Jays team, and the best offensive player on the best offensive team in years – the Blue Jays sit at 464 runs scored this season, dwarfing the second-place Astros at 388. He’s explosive with the bat, and his home runs have, at multiple points throughout the season, won games for his team. And on April 23rd, his 469-foot homer off of Chris Tillman came off the bat at just over 120 miles per hour, the record for this season. Look for Donaldson to be a favorite in this competition if his name is called.
  • Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins. I talked about Dozier’s incredible season in an earlier piece, and let me echo why he should be selected to the Home Run Derby. There’s nothing outstandingly special about his game, but he can hit homers (18, tied for 8th in the AL), leads the offense of a team that’s six games over .500 despite being the projected worst team in the MLB at the beginning of the season, and is a young name that will bring recognition to the Twin Cities. He likely won’t be selected, but with a 3.0 WAR and numbers to confirm the great season he’s been having, it’d be a shame to leave this second baseman out of both the All-Star Game and the Derby. Let’s see if he can get the AL Final Vote.

Honorable Mentions: Mark Teixiera, Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes (AL Final Vote)

National League

Will NOT Participate: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)

  • Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds. At 25 longballs, Frazier stands at second in the NL behind Stanton, and will likely catch up to him soon. His WAR of 3.7 proves that his recent selection to the All-Star Game itself was justified, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be selected for the derby. Though he may be the likely favorite, however, don’t count out other participants, as Frazier has 8 “just barely” homers and the average true distance of his homers – 398.4 feet – doesn’t even come close to ranking with the best names in the game.
  • Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks. Though he’s expressed disinterest in the competition, it’d be a real shame to miss Goldschmidt in the Derby. He’s consistently one of the best young names in the game, and has proved he can hit among the best power hitters in the game as well. His 68 RBI’s lead the MLB, his 20 homers are good for 4th best in the NL, and his HRFD stands at 316.15, 3rd best in the majors. His 5.8 WAR also suggests he’s the best player in the MLB not named Harper. There is no doubt that Goldschmidt should get an invitation.
  • Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers. Who saw this one coming? Pederson, a rookie, if invited, will be one of very few first year’s to participate in a derby. His 20 homers put him at tied for 4th in the NL and tied for 10th in the MLB. Pederson is also one of only two players and the only hitter not named Stanton to blast a homer of over 480 feet this season. He leads the MLB’s “Golden Sledgehammer” list – longest average home run distance – at 430.5 feet per home run…and it’s not even close. Lucas Duda of the Mets comes in second, but at more than 10 feet less per homer. Personally, Pederson is my dark horse to win this competition. All that’s left now is an invitation.
  • Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs. Much like Dozier, there’s nothing that puts Rizzo distinctly ahead of anyone on this list. His 16 homers put him at tied for 5th in the NL. But he’s young, exciting, and the catalyst on a team that wasn’t expected to do much and is now 9 games above .500. It would mean a lot to Cubs fans everywhere, and makes sense now that Rizzo has been invited to the All-Star game. His 3.6 WAR demonstrates his worth to his team, and his selection with the above group, who I believe will all participate, would mean that no member of the NL Derby team would have more than 5 years of experience in the MLB, meaning this would be one of the youngest Home Run Derby’s ever in terms of participants. I would love to see his name called.

Honorable Mentions: Adrian Gonzalez, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado








Pujols photo via Sports Illustrated

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