When Major League Baseball named David Wright and Robinson Cano captains of their respective league’s home run derby team, each player had the better part of a month to decide on the four representatives that will join them at Citi Field next week.
Some of the choices that Wright and Cano made were safe and logical, while other picks left something do be desired. Here’s a look at how each captain fared with his selections.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies – A
It’s a no-brainer to take the guy who is leading the National League in home runs (24). It’s not a coincidence that his slugging rate is the highest in the league as well (.619).Wright also selected a player in Gonzalez who has been in the competition before – in Kansas City last season – and will be looking to improve upon his four-home run performance from 2012.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals – B+
Despite missing 31 games over the first half of the regular season, Harper is a logical pick for the Home Run Derby. He’s got a powerful, violent swing that should send many a baseball over the fence at the pitchers’ park that is Citi Field. The only worry is that the 20-year old, who has a tendency to showboat, may fatigue toward the final rounds should he advance in the derby. But Harper will likely be in many of these competitions over the next 10 to 15 years and as a fan favorite, he deserves to be here.
Michael Cuddyer, OF/1B, Colorado Rockies – D
This pick is a bit of a head-scratcher. I understand Wright’s comments to SportsCenter that he was “going with the hot hand” in selecting Cuddyer, as he had rattled off a 27-game hit streak from May 28 through June 30. But Cuddyer’s power statistics throughout that streak weren’t as impressive as you might think – six home runs and a .579 slugging average in June.
Two better choices for Wright would have been Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez and Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. Each player hit 10 home runs over the course of Cuddyer’s hitting streak, and each guy had a higher slugging rate too (Alvarez .680, Bruce .624). Alvarez has been arguably the best hitter in the NL over the past month, while Bruce has been one of the best power hitters in the league for a few years and is overdue for this first Home Run Derby appearance.
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles – A+
Duh. Cano would have been foolish not to take Davis, who through Tuesday had mashed a league-leading 33 home runs. He’s become one of the best stories of the first half of the season and is more than deserving of hitting for the American League squad, and will likely be the favorite entering the contest.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers – A
Another easy choice. Fielder already has two Home Run Derby titles under his belt, winning as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 and and will come into Queens as the defending champion, having won the title in Kansas City last summer. Fielder is only tied for 17th in the American League with 15 home runs, but his track record more than makes him a worthy candidate for Cano’s squad.
Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland A’s – B+
Cespedes was the final pick by Cano, and he will become just the fourth non-All-Star to ever compete in the Home Run Derby. While his average (.221) is down this year, Cespedes has one of the best built-for-power swings in the big leagues. He has 15 home runs and 42 RBIs at this point in the season. While he shouldn’t be an All-Star, he puts on shows in batting practice, which makes him a compelling pick for the final spot on the AL team. He could be the dark horse to win the whole thing.
In case you were wondering, the other non-All-Stars to participate in the Home Run Derby were Rafael Palmeiro (2004), Hee-Seop Choi (2005) and Ryan Howard (2007) who was defending his crown from the previous year.