Posted July 10, 2013

What the Home Run Derby field should look like

All-Star Game
Mark Trumbo, Angels

Mark Trumbo participated in the Derby last year and is 10th in the AL in home runs this year but won’t be at Citi Field next week. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The four-man teams for Monday’s Home Run Derby include Robinson Cano, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Yoesnis Cespedes for the American League and David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Bryce Harper for the National League. That’s right, we all get the privilege of watching Michael Cuddyer participate in the Home Run Derby in a pitchers’ park.

As Cespedes’s selection shows, a player need not be an All-Star to participate in the Derby. But with that long-in-place rule having finally been discarded, baseball missed a chance to have a field that is far more representative of the type of sluggers most fans actually want to watch. With that in mind, here are my American and National League Home Run Derby dream teams:

American League

Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles

Only six players have ever hit more first-half home runs than Davis’s 33, and Roger Maris in 1961 and Sammy Sosa in 1998 both had exactly 33 at the break before going on to top 60. Davis himself is on a 59-homer pace. You can’t have this year’s Derby without him. Fortunately, we won’t.

Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers

Cabrera led the majors in home runs last year and trails only Davis this year with 29, a 53-homer pace. He’s the best all-around hitter in the game, and has become a more prolific slugger in recent years. He led the majors with a career-high 44 homers in 2012 and in his last 162 games dating back to last year’s All-Star break he has hit 54 home runs.

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels

Trumbo is the premier distance hitter in the American League. His 475-foot homer in Oakland was the longest in the AL this year, and while he has ranked third in average distance in the Junior Circuit both this year and last per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, no player has ranked ahead of him in both seasons. Trumbo put on a show at last year’s Derby in Kansas City, and it would be fun to see him do it again this year at Citi Field.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers

Fielder’s home run rate is at a career low this year, but he’s the defending Derby champion and has won this event twice in the past four years, so that alone warrants his inclusion.

National League

Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins

Stanton has been slowed by injuries both this season and last, but when healthy, he’s the National League’s best home run hitter. His .282 isolated slugging percentage since the start of the 2012 season leads NLers with 500 or more plate appearances by a considerable distance (Ryan Braun is second at .257), and his 494-foot shot at Coors Field last August remains the longest home run in the major leagues since 2009, according to Home Run Tracker.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates

Alvarez leads the majors in what Home Run Tracker classifies as “no doubt” home runs, is tied for second in the NL in total homers with 23 and specializes in moon shots. His shot off the batters’ eye in Pittsburg on Tuesday was merely his third-longest of the season.

Bryce Harper, LF, Nationals

Harper’s average home run traveled exactly as far as Stanton’s in 2012, 413 feet, good for second in the NL behind Carlos Gonzalez, who plays his home games in Denver. This year, Harper is neck and neck with Alvarez in terms of average distance, albeit further down the list. Harper’s power was the most hyped aspect of his game prior to his arrival in the majors, and we’ve seen what he can do when he gets hot. In 320 plate appearances from Aug. 29 of last year until he hit the disabled list at the end of April this year he hit 22 home runs. Now we’ll get to see what he can do in the Derby.

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Given that Wright lit up PNC Park in his only prior Derby, connecting for 16 first-round home runs in 2006, it’s worth letting the hometown hero take another hack at it in his home ballpark, even if his power has waned since then.

Four of my Derby picks (Wright, Harper, Davis and Fielder) will participate in the event on Monday, but Stanton’s absence is noticeable, and not having Alvarez, who is an All-Star this year, feels like a significant miss. Four spots are not a lot to work with. I very much would have liked to have found room on my AL team for Adam Dunn, who has 24 home runs this season and 430 in his career but has never participated in the Derby.

More All-Star coverage:

Complete AL and NL rosters

SI.com’s 25-man All-Star rosters: Corcoran: AL | Jaffe: NL

CORCORAN: NL has the edge

VERDUCCI: How to improve the Home Run Derby

CORCORAN: Benoit, Puig deserve to earn Final Vote spots

SI Now: Why Matt Harvey should start the All-Star Game for the NL

5 comments
ramsin
ramsin

I've read a couple of places that Cano actually offered the final spot to Cabrera first, but he declined due to injuries.  But I agree, it would have been more fun to see him go at it. 

mcin412
mcin412

I'm a die-hard Pirates fan, and I'm glad Pedro is not on the HR Derby side for the NL.  I know he hits moon shots during BP and sometimes in games as well.  But there has been many a slugger struggle with their swing after participating in the Derby and I just want Pedro to stay on that even keel. He made the All-Star team, that in itself is a great honor and gives him a chance to launch one in his hometown in a game that is actually meaningful to playoff contenders.

ibid
ibid

@mcin412 I'm sorry, but as a fellow diehard Bucs fan I couldn't disagree more.  Pedro is a born home run hitter.  It's precisely why he's an all-star.  This isn't Bobby Abreu or Brandon Inge miscast as sluggers.  This is the epitome of a slugger.  If someone were to say that it might mess up his swing, or his mentality going forward, then I'd counter with: what do you think he's tried to do in every other at bat he's ever had?  

Pedro has that rare innate ability to hit a ball 450 ft without really getting all of it.  As Bucs fans, you know it and I know it.  I think everyone else who doesn't watch him everyday should get the opportunity to see something so naturally awe-inspiring.

Greg Buck
Greg Buck

I wish MLB would let the Derby field be decided by a fan vote as well.  Would love to see guys that would never otherwise make an All-Star game like Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, etc. tee off on BP fastballs all night long.