Picking Perfect Home Run Derby Teams for Robinson Cano and David Wright
Believe it or not, the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is already about a month away.
That means Robinson Cano and David Wright only have a few weeks to ponder their Home Run Derby squads. MLB announced today that the Yankees star and Mets star have been named the two captains for this year's Derby, which will take place on July 15 at Citi Field:
This isn't Cano's first rodeo as a Home Run Derby captain. He picked a squad for last year's Home Run Derby in Kansas City, notably ticking off the locals by not choosing Royals star Billy Butler.
Neither Cano nor Wright has to worry about spurning the locals this year. They just have to worry about picking players who can bring the thunder and put smiles on faces.
In a perfect world—i.e. my world, because I said so—their teams would consist of the following players.
Team Wright: Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies
Right there at the top of the National League home run leaderboard is Domonic Brown, because all our preseason projections were stupid and pessimistic.
It's been quite the turnaround for Brown At the end of April, he had only three home runs and looked...well, like Domonic Brown. His status as a top prospect-turned-failure appeared to be as solid as ever.
Brown has hit 16 home runs since then, including 11 in his last 16 games. The odds of him staying this hot are about equal to the odds of Juan Pierre finding his way onto Wright's Derby squad, but something has clearly clicked for Brown over the last few weeks.
Brown doesn't exactly launch his home runs into the stratosphere when he hits them. He's only averaging about 379 feet with his long balls, and his longest home run this season only traveled 412 feet.
But it's not how far you hit the ball that counts in the Derby. Just how many. If he were to get locked in, Brown could Garrett Anderson or Bobby Abreu (who are both now verbs) his way to a Derby title.
Team Cano: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Wright can have the National League home run leader if he wants, but only Cano can pick the major league home run leader.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was an afterthought on the national landscape heading into 2013. But with 20 homers already in the bag, he's well on his way to surpassing the career high of 33 he set last season.
Once again, this is happening because none of us know what the heck we're doing when we make preseason projections.
Unlike Brown's homers, Davis' tend to be crushed. He's averaging about 410 feet with his home runs, and he's hit three balls 430 feet or longer. That includes a roughly 440-footer off of Jeremy Guthrie.
Put Davis in Citi Field for the Home Run Derby, and he'll make like Jordany Valdespin (without the hot-dogging) and put a few in the upper deck.
Team Wright: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
If we were going strictly by the National League home run leaderboard, the next guy up for Wright's team would be Carlos Gonzalez.
But nah. CarGo didn't have much to show for his Derby appearance last year. And besides, Wright's going to need some more raw power to go alongside him and Brown.
Giancarlo Stanton is an option, but Wright has the option of picking the guy who has hit more long homers than anybody this year: Justin Upton.
The Braves' left fielder is leading all hitters in average home run distance at 427.4 feet. He's hit three 440-foot homers, and two of those traveled over 460 feet.
Upton's power stroke has cooled off in a big way recently, as he's been stuck on 14 home runs ever since the middle of May. That's that proprietary Upton streakiness at work.
It could be that a Derby appearance is just what he needs to get it going again. You never know.
Team Cano: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
Why should Mark Trumbo be on Cano's Home Run Derby squad?
Just press play on that video and watch where that ball lands.
Trumbo is known for his epic big flies, which was surely part of the reason Cano tabbed him for his Derby squad last year. Trumbo only made it as far as the second round, but he definitely hit some loud ones before he bowed out.
Trumbo has been doing his usual thing so far in 2013. He's hit 15 homers, and they've traveled an average of almost 418 feet. Put him in Citi Field for the Derby, and he'll make sure that even fans in the nosebleeds get a few.
Team Wright: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes, it's too early to anoint Yasiel Puig as the game's next great superstar. He's been brilliant, but, you know, small sample sizes and stuff.
But heck, look me in the eye and tell me Puig wouldn't be fun to watch in the Derby.
Of course he would. Puig hasn't been up for long, but he's made it plenty clear that he has tons of raw power. If you watch the video I've attached here, you'll notice that Puig may not have gotten all of that ball yet still managed to hit it about 450 feet.
If nothing else, putting Puig in the Home Run Derby would inject some life into it. Given the intensity of Puigmania, he could do that all on his own.
But he doesn't necessarily have to...
Team Cano: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A's
Yasiel Puig may be the flavor of the month, but don't think he's usurped Yoenis Cespedes as baseball's best Cuban slugger.
After hitting 23 homers as a rookie last year, Cespedes has hit 13 bombs so far in 2013. He's hit 'em far, too, as his average homer length is just shy of 410 feet.
We know Cespedes can do better than that, though. The 462-foot bomb he hit off Jason Vargas in Oakland last year is Exhibit A.
It also sounds like Cano wouldn't have to ask Cespedes twice about joining his squad. Here's Jane Lee of MLB.com:
Cespedes, on potential of participating in HR Derby: "For me, it could be something phenomenal."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) June 7, 2013
Make it happen, Robbie.
Projected Winner: Domonic Brown
He may not hit 'em very far, but Domonic Brown would be my pick to win the Derby if he ends up on David Wright's team.
We've learned over the years that winning the Derby is as much, or more, about getting in a rhythm as it is about raw power. Strength is great. Consistency is better.
Given what he's done ever since the start of May, I'd say that Brown has done enough to prove that he can hit homers at will when he gets locked in. He's practically been mass producing them.
So I say put him in the Derby, and then watch the factory keep chugging along.
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