Here's a list of some of the best candidates for this year's Home Run Derby
To help boost low ratings, MLB has changed some of the rules for this year's Home Run Derby, which will take place on July 13 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Instead of 10 batters, only eight will compete, and they will be given five minutes each round, as opposed to 10 outs. Batters will be given extra time increments for home runs of 420 and 475 feet, and time will stop after each home run with under a minute left. With the event coming next week, under two weeks away, here's a look at six of the best candidates in each league for this year's derby:
We're cheating a bit here since Pujols said on Tuesday that he would be participating in the Home Run Derby. And it's an honor, Pujols has earned, as the three-time NL MVP is enjoying a resurgent season at the plate. Since June 1, he has belted 15 home runs, which is tied with J.D. Martinez for the most in baseball during this span. His 26 total home runs currently lead the AL and are just one behind Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, who is on the DL with a broken wrist. At this rate, Pujols could wind up having his best home run season of his career at age 35. He has participated in the event three times in his career, with his last time coming in 2009.
This one goes pretty much without saying, as Trout clubbed his 120th career home run on Tuesday night in Colorado. Already the youngest with 100 career home runs and stolen bases, Trout is on pace for a career-best 42 long balls this season. Don't forget, he won't even turn 24 until August. If Trout and fellow Angel Pujols are both in the Derby, not only would give it offer some friendly competition between teammates, it also would make for a great storyline as the game's former best player would go head-to-head against the current holder of said title.
Even though he plays north of the border for the Blue Jays, Donaldson has been able to garner plenty of attention. The AL's starting third baseman in the All-Star Game, Donaldson also set a single-season record by receiving more than 14 million votes from the fans. He's tied for eighth in the majors with 21 home runs, but he makes the most of them, as two of his blasts have traveled more than 450 feet. They don't call him "Bringer of Rain" for nothing.
Cespedes hasn’t hit home runs well enough to truly deserve a spot on this list, but he might get the nod solely because he has won the past two contests. He could join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only player with three titles, and a win would make it his third consecutive victory. He’ll add a historical effect to the derby, as he has the chance to tie an all-time legend.
On a team highlighted by Miguel Cabrera, Martinez also has gotten the job done at the plate this year, helping keep the Tigers competitive in a surprisingly tough AL Central. His 24 home runs lead his team and are second only to Pujols in the AL. With teammate Cespedes a possible candidate, bragging rights in the clubhouse could be on the line Monday night in Cincinnati.
On a Houston Astros team that leads baseball in both home runs and strike outs, it only seems fitting that they send a player to the derby. Valbuena leads the team with 19 home runs, as he already has amassed more than any of his previous seasons since 2008. He's not quite the big name they might be seeking, but he has the power they want, and in a competition like this his near-Mendoza-level batting average (.203) won't stick out as much.
Frazier has to be the lock of the home run derby. Not only is he tied for third in the majors with 25 home runs, he's the NL's starting third baseman for the All-Star Game, which is being played in Cincinnati. Frazier also made it to last year’s derby championship round, so he certainly would be the fan favorite to win it in his home ball park.
The Colorado Rockies don’t get talked about much because of their struggles over the past few years. But that shouldn't overshadow the season Arenado is putting together. HIs 24 home runs put him in a tie for fifth in the majors, while his 68 RBIs lead the way. Already a Gold Glove winner at third and widely considered one of the best defensive players in the game, this derby would give the Rockies' emerging superstar a chance to showcase his talents at the plate, and perhaps (but not likely) take the spotlight off of the ever-present Troy Tulowitzki trade rumors.
Rookies have grabbed their share of headlines and attention this season, and none has displayed more power than Pederson. The Dodgers' center fielder already has 20 home runs, but he also lays claim to the third-longest hit this season, a titanic blast of 480 feet, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker. In fact, Pederson leads all players in average true distance for his home runs (min. 9) 430.5 feet. His combination of youth and extreme power make him a perfect fit for this year’s derby.
The Diamondbacks’ first baseman might be the league’s most complete player this year, both on offense and defense. He’s hit 20 home runs, while sporting a .351 batting average and .470 OBP. In addition, he has been walked more than any other batter (68), and thus his home run total could certainly be a couple better. However, Goldschmidt has voiced that he may not be interested in it, stating his pleasure in just watching.
After battling claims as an overrated player through his career so far, Harper has really silenced any haters this year. He has dominated this year with 25 home runs and a .343 batting average, providing arguably the most excitement in the league this year. A battle between Trout and him would be a great storyline, arguably the best player of each league could wind up going head-to-head for the title. Unfortunately for fans, this will not come to fruition, as Harper has said he will pass on the derby because his father won't be able to pitch to him because he's recovering from a rotator cuff injury.
Last year, Rizzo asked NL captain Troy Tulowitzki to be a part of the derby. However, he was not chosen, and he was presumably upset. Thus, Rizzo seems to be a great fit with his power and attitude toward the event. Many players pass up on this chance, but Rizzo would certainly be glad to help bring the NL the title.