Robinson Cano has his work cut out for him this season. Chris Davis (33 home runs!) may well be on his way to breaking the American League home run record set by Roger Maris, Mark Trumbo leads the majors with nine home runs hit 425+ feet, and there's an impressive list of players with 20+ HR's not already mentioned (Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn, Nelson Cruz, Raul Ibanez, Jose Bautista).
Not all of these players may be available to play, or interested in playing, at risk of a present or future injury (poor Corey Hart comes to mind). Some players have already indicated their preferences:
Chris Davis is very interested, quoted as saying, "I play Home Run Derby every day in batting practice." Cruz has claimed he would "graciously decline" if asked, despite coming up second in 2009, and Mark Trumbo would also say no.
Two Blue Jays are worth consideration: Jose Bautista has appeared the last two seasons, with four and twenty home runs respectively, and he's interested, so it may be easy to pencil him in as a third participant. Under the same link, Encarnacion says he would sit out to protect his hamstring.
So the short list for the fourth AL Derby slot (after my arbitrary 20 HR cut off):
- Miguel Cabrera
- Adam Dunn
- Raul Ibanez
Cabrera. The reigning batting champion of last season may not be entirely too interested in throwing off his game with another Derby participation. After his first in 2006, he sat out 2007's for shoulder considerations. He later played in 2010 with 12 HR's, but then sat out the following seasons.
Despite his recent perchant for avoiding the Derby, Cabrera participated in and won a Derby in Venezula's winter league this off season, hosted in his home town, taking the trophy with only 13 home runs. He may not be interested in trying harder than that mid-season.
Adam Dunn has lit up lately, with 11 home runs since the start of June. He's a decent trade candidate that has climbed to 46th on the HR all time list, but has never participated in a Derby. He was named to the All Star game for the second time in his career last year. He boasted 41 dingers in 2012, and has 39 in the last calendar year (which ranks top 5 in baseball).
Raul Ibanez was an All Star once in his career, at age 37 with the Phillies in 2009. Now 41 years old in Seattle, he's surpassed his HR total from New York last season with 21. He's missed previous opportunities, like 2009 where the All Star game actually mic'd him up during the event, due to DL stints.
However, it's not that Ibanez is a thumper. ESPN's Home Run Tracker has eight of his home runs listed as "just enough" -- and the same goes for Cabrera, who leads the AL players with 9 "just enough" long balls (full list). The Derby isn't about sneaking them over the fence.
I'm willing to count all three of these guys out of contention.
So who else could be considered? I can think of a few.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
There's your clump of third basemen, for starters. Adrian Beltre is a potential hall of famer, and has his own home run streak building. Like Dunn, he has 39 home runs over the last 365 days. He's a candidate. Then there's the two snubs of the American League roster Josh Donaldson and Evan Longoria.
Among third basemen with at least 200 PA's, they rank second and third in OBP and SLG, both respectively. Longoria is also second among AL 3B's in ISO (.236). He owns a .908 OPS with 17 home runs, while Donaldson has 15 HR's with a .217 ISO.
A Derby argument is not as strong for Donaldson, but is worth while for the 34 year old Beltre (who has never played a Derby) and Longoria, who played the Derby in his rookie season. Then again, Longoria's plantar fasciitis will likely keep him from doing anything this All Star Break, even if he's named.
And speaking of rookies who could take a shot at the Derby... how about Wil Myers?
William Bradford Myers only has three home runs on the season in his 20 games thus far, but was a force to be reckoned with in the minors. He belted 14 home runs in 64 games this season at Triple-A Durham, and when he puts the bat on the ball, it can fly.
When Evan Longoria was given the nod in 2008, he had 15 home runs to his name in his rookie debut. Combine Myers's Durham and Tampa Bay numbers, and he's at 17. Could there be a place for our rookie slugger? If you're worried about Myers's tendency to pull the ball, it's worth noting that Citi Field's left field fence is actually shorter than Tropicana's in all but the very left corner (here's a sample overlay).
And I haven't even mentioned Matt Joyce, his .212 ISO, or his 14 home runs.
The announcement comes in two hours... we'll see.
UPDATE: July 8, 6:40 PM
Robinson Cano was reponsible for choosing his participants, and he could only come up with three. He didn't share how many players he'd talked to, or if someone had suddenly backed out.
He commented on waiting to see who the All Stars would be -- is there a rule that you have to be in the All Star Game to play in the Derby? -- and that he was "still working on it," expecting to finalize his roster tomorrow.
The other players currently on the roster:
Robinson Cano -- 20 HR, .233 ISO
Prince Fielder -- 15 HR, .195 ISO
Chris Davis -- 33 HR, .392 ISO
Davis was the simple pick. Fielder was kind of surprising for me. His home run count has been lacking, but he's a previous winner, so I suppose it makes sense, but it's shocking to see the likes of Cabrera and Trout and Bautista missing when Fielder is on the list.
It hearkens back to the discussion of whether present performance should weigh heavily in All Star selections. Regardless of how you feel, short of an injury in the next week, Fielder and his AL 23rd best ISO and tied-for-15th HR's are in the Derby.
AND, most importantly for you, the Rays fan, there's one more slot.
UPDATE: July 9, 9:10 AM
Miguel Cabrera confirmed last night that he is the final intended Derby player, but that he was unsure if he wanted to play, based on how his back feels. Speaking of Cano, Cabrera told reporters:
"Yeah, he already asked me," Cabrera said after Monday's 4-2 win. "I say it depends how my back is feeling. If that's OK, I will do it.
"I tell him, maybe I'll do it but you've got to put Prince on there. You've gotta put Prince first, then me. He win last year, so he deserves to be there again."
Cabrera had played 108 consecutive games before tweaking the left side of his back last Wednesday, and sat out the following game. He has since returned to action, but may not be interested in the festivities.
He did not indicate who Cano's next choice would be.
UPDATE: July 9, 6:30 PM
It's Yoenis Cespedes, who I did not mention or consider once. So there's that.
To Recap: my picks were Davis, Bautista, and Myers.
At least I'm batting .333?
The nomination is a nice nod to the Athletics, who were feeling just as jipped by the initial All Star selection as the Rays were with one player, and not their stud third baseman, renaissance closer, or young slugging outfielder.
Yoenis Cespedes is 4th non All-Star to participate in #HRDerby, joining Rafael Palmeiro (2004), Hee-Sop Choi (2005) & Ryan Howard (2007).— All-Star Game (@AllStarGame) July 9, 2013
Cespedes has a .206 ISO and 15 homeruns.