Recently I published an article (link) laying out some reasons why San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner should or should not be allowed to participate in next month’s Major League Baseball Home Run Derby at Petco Patk in San Diego.
Writing that got me thinking of who I would like to actually see participate in the annual home run hitting contest.
Last year’s Derby was very entertaining to watch, with its new format and added in suspense.
With or without Bumgarner, this year’s Home Run Derby has the chance to be even better, now that the players and the league have a good idea of how to strategize with the new system.
Now that we are just over a month away from All-Star weekend, I will cast my ballot of who I want to see in this year’s Home Run Derby.
1. Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
This one is easy.
Todd Frazier won last year’s Derby, so he has to be in it this time around, as well, to properly defense his belt.
Even if he hadn’t won it in 2015, he would be a great candidate to be in it this year.
Through action on Tuesday, Frazier ranks tied for second in all of Major League Baseball with 18 home runs.
Frazier, who plays his home games at the spacious US Cellular Field, is accustomed to larger ballparks, given the fact that in his division are some of the biggest playing fields in the majors.
He’s an obvious choice.
2. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Despite all that he’s done on the field the past two seasons, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is still not a household name, which is sad given all the talent that he clearly has.
In 2015 he finished third in homes runs with 42, and he is on pace to have another great season in the power department, having already blasted 18 home runs through the first two-plus months of the season.
Not only would he be a smart choice to include just based on talent alone, but he’s also familiar with Petco Park since the Padres are a division rival.
The Derby has been made a great platform for young players to make a name for themselves by showcasing their talent, and that’s exactly what Arenado can do this year if he participates.
3. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
The David Ortiz retirement party isn’t scheduled to get to San Diego until early September. With as good of a first half of the season as he’s had, he deserves to compete there a few months early.
In his final season, the Red Sox legend has blasted 16 home runs into the stands, which already puts him in elite company in terms of production in a player’s final season.
Ortiz has competed in the Home Run Derby five previous times, and won the event six years ago at Angel Stadium. He hasn’t competed in one, though, since 2011.
It would also give him a chance to hit a home run in a stadium he has not yet homered in.
Why wouldn’t he want to participate and continue the fun he’s having in his final season?
4. Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres
Whoever the captain of the National League team is needs to not repeat then-Yankee Robinson Cano‘s mistake from 2012, when he neglected to pick then-Royal Billy Butler when the Home Run Derby was at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.
Pick someone from the home team.
Not only is Matt Kemp one of the most naturally talented players in the majors, but there is an added incentive for him to be included.
From a talent perspective, Kemp can hit the ball all over the ballpark, and has immense power to put on display. And with him playing a majority of the games in his 11-year career in southern California, it would certainly be entertaining to watch.
From another perspective, competing could benefit both Kemp and San Diego.
Yes, at the end of the day, the Home Run Derby is batting practice in front of 40,000 people. But, in this instance, it can be a showcase for Kemp.
The Padres’ buyer mentality from the past two offseasons hasn’t turned out the way they would have liked. The team is struggling, and they have already shown they want to be sellers at the trade deadline.
San Diego traded pitcher James Shields over the weekend, and Kemp is another player who the Padres will be hoping to take a lot of calls on over the next six to eight weeks.
A good showing by Kemp could be enough to entice a contending team to try to put a trade in place in order to add a bat for a post-season push.
5. Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles
It would probably be a little odd to have a Home Run Derby and not have the best home run hitter in the league thus far this season, statistically, participate.
That slugger is Mark Trumbo.
The Baltimore Orioles right fielder has hit a league-leading 20 home runs on the campaign, and is on pace to become the fourth Orioles player in a row to lead the majors in long balls at the season’s end.
Trumbo hasn’t just been clumping home runs together, either, he’s been spreading them out fairly evenly.
He hit six home runs during the first month of the regular season, blasted nine more in May, and through the first seven days in June has already sent five balls into the seats.
Trumbo is also accustomed to hitting baseballs through the southern California air, having played the first three years of his career for the Angels.
6. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
There might not be a stronger young hitter in the majors than Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton has two of the 10 farthest hit home runs hit in 2016, including the longest in all of baseball; a tape-measure shot that was tracked to have gone 490 feet.
And that’s not out of the ordinary.
Stanton hit three of the 10 deepest shots of 2015, and four of the 15 farthest hit balls of 2014.
He hits it hard, and he hits it far.
Although it is somewhat the norm for players to have bad starts to the second half of the season after competing in the Home Run Derby, it may have the adverse effect on Stanton, who hasn’t had a good start to the season having hit just 12 home runs and hitting for a disappointing .197 average.
With a start like that, maybe it would be good for him to participate and, with a good showing, remind himself how naturally good of a hitter he really is.
Stanton does have five career home runs hit at Petco Park.
7. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz hit a baseball out of Safeco Field two weeks ago.
Seriously, it cleared the inside of the stadium and landed on the street behind left field.
He might fare well in a contest like this.
Cruz, who has hit 15 home runs this season, has finished No. 1 or 2 in the league in home runs each of the past two seasons.
He has competed in the Derby once before, so he has an idea of what the atmosphere is like, but it was 2009 under a different format. Cruz hit a total of 21 long balls in that year’s Home Run Derby.
8. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
Not to use this bad pun again, but, was there a better story through the first two weeks of the regular season than Trevor Story?
Story’s historic start to his career has continued through the first two months of 2016.
The young Rockies slugger has hit 16 home runs this year, good enough for a tie for fifth place in the majors. Three of those home runs have come against San Diego pitching, although those were all hit at Coors Field.
The 2015 Home Run Derby consisted of two rookies – Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant – so, it seems appropriate to have a rookie player in this year’s Derby as well.
The Home Run Derby is Monday July 11.