It’s one of the most jaw-dropping spectacles in baseball. Tonight, some of the game’s most prolific power hitters will take turns launching long balls out of Citi Field as they take part in the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby, which will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
This is the second year of the choose-em-up format. Mets third baseman David Wright and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano were designated as this year’s captains, tasked with hand-picking the other sluggers who would represent the National League and American League teams.
The competition will consist of eight players, three rounds with the players getting 10 outs to hit as many home runs as possible in each round. Any swing that does not result in a home run will be considered an out. After the first round, the four players with the most home runs will advance to the second round. Totals from the first round carry over to the second round, and the two players with the most total home runs from the first and second rounds combined will advance to the finals.
Home runs are reset to zero for the final round. The two hitters in the finals will go head-to-head in a 10-out home run showdown that will crown the champion.
Here’s a little more information on this year’s participants.
- National League
Pedro Alvarez, 3B Pirates
No Pirate has ever won the Home Run Derby. Alvarez was a late addition to the Derby party, replacing Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez who will be unable to participate due to a _____. This will be the Pirates third baseman’s first time in the Derby. Alvarez is not a great all-around hitter – he’s batting just .253 and has struck out 108 times already – but he has remarkable power. His home runs have traveled an average of 405.9 feet. He’s hit 16 homers in his last 40 games, so he’s shown a penchant for getting on hot streaks. Looking at Alvarez, it just seems like he was born for this event, which is why I think he makes a run for the finals.
Michael Cuddyer, OF Rockies
This will be Cuddyer’s first Home Run Derby appearance. His selection was an interesting one, as I don’t see the Rockies outfielder as having much of a chance to win the competition. Cuddyer is a fantastic hitter, but being a great hitter does not translate into being a great exhibition home run hitter. He’s batting .332 with 52 RBIs, and he does have 16 home runs. But how much of his power numbers can be attributed to playing most of his games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field? According to home run distances, only 10 of his 16 home runs would have gone out of Citi Field, the site of this year’s Derby.
Bryce Harper, OF Nationals
Like Alvarez and Cuddyer, Harper will be making his Home Run Derby debut tonight. But Harper does have some experience in these types of competitions. In 2009 he wowed spectators and scouts alike during the High School Power Showcase, but that was with an aluminum bat. To me, Harper is the biggest unknown in the competition. There’s no doubt he is a phenomenal player with power, and he has a knack for rising to occasions in theatric moments. But he’s also incredibly young and incredibly green. Success in the Derby requires maturity and patience. Free swingers usually rifle through their 10 outs quickly, while those participants who take their time and wait on the right pitches last a whole lot longer in the box. I have no idea what kind of approach Harper will make tonight, so whether he makes a deep run or flames out early is a mystery. If he does rise to the occasion again, he will become the first National/Expo to ever win it.
David Wright, 3B Mets
History is not in Wright’s favor. No player has ever won the Home Run Derby at his home ballpark under the contest’s current rules, and no Met has ever won. Statistics are not in Wright’s favor. So far this season, Wright has only hit three home runs in 159 at-bats at spacious Citi-Field. He only has 13 total home runs. As the hometown hero, Wright will certainly be the fan favorite. But even with the crowd fully behind him, it’s hard to see Wright hitting enough homers to advance very far.
- American League
Robinson Cano, 2B Yankees
2011 and 2012 were a tale of two Derby’s for Cano. As defending champion in last year’s competition, the Yankee second baseman went homerless and bowed out in the first round. This will be Cano’s third-straight Home Run Derby, and he should be well motivated after the embarrassment of last year. Cano has 21 home runs this year, and is entering the contest red hot, batting .405 with four home runs in July. Cano is one of the favorites, but I just can’t look past last year’s dud performance. Call me a prisoner of recency, but I don’t think Cano makes the finals.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF Athletics
Cespedes is an absolute monster. He has the best average home run distance and the baseball travels the highest average speed of his bat than anyone else in this year’s Home Run Derby. He’s not having much of a season – he’s hitting just .221 with a .285 on-base percentage – but those stats are thrown out the window for this power-hitting exhibition. Cespedes, who has 15 home runs in ____ games this season, has tons of raw power. His home runs travel an average of 408.5 feet, the kind of distance needed to succeed at Citi Field. Cespedes was only the fourth Home Run Derby participant who was not selected as an All-Star. He was added to the American League roster for good reason. I expect Cespedes to make a deep run as he looks to become the first Athletic to win the Derby since Mark McGwire won in 1992.
Chris Davis, 1B Orioles
What more can be said about Chris Davis’ first half other than “WOW!”. His 37 homers at the All-Star break are the second most in baseball history, behind only Barry Bonds who had 39 at the break in 2001. Davis is MLB’s current home run leader, which means he should be the big favorite to win the Home Run Derby, right? Not quite. In fact, the MLB leader in home runs has never won the Home Run Derby. Davis is another first-time participant, and first timers don’t typically don’t take home the crown. Davis will undoubtedly put on a show in the early rounds. His power is tremendous and extends to all parts of the field. But inexperience and fatigue may play a factor as the competition grinds on.
Prince Fielder, 1B Tigers
The opposite of Davis, Fielder is a Home Run Derby veteran who knows how to win. He’s a two-time winner and comes into New York as the defending champion. I do have some concerns for Fielder. His average home run distance is the lowest in the competition and the baseball is traveling the lowest speed off his bat than any other participant. But Fielder has proven to be a supreme exhibition Home Run hitter, and just as in years past, he will certainly be in the mix for this year’s trophy. If he were to win, he would become just the second player ever to repeat as champion and the second player ever to become a three-time winner, joining Ken Griffey, Jr. in both cases (he won in 1994, 1998 and 1999).
For me, I’ve got my money on Prince Fielder. It’s hard to bet against such a pedigreed champion, and the short 338 porch in right field makes me believe left-handed batters have a significant advantage. I think Pedro Alvarez is a great sleeper pick, and predict him to advance to the finals to square off against Fielder.
Who do you think will win? Tell us by voting in the poll below.