The 2013 Home Run Derby is just over a month away, leading to speculation on which players the captains, Robinson Cano of the American League and David Wright of the National League, will select to represent baseball at Citi Field in mid-July.
Using the qualification of raw power, Cano and Wright could choose any number of the best power hitters in the sport right now, yet the showcase shouldn't just be for those with the biggest power, but also reflect the potential for a great show at Citi Field.
In 2008, Josh Hamilton, far from establishing himself as a consistent superstar, took Yankee Stadium by storm during a display of brute force, power and grace. During his spectacle, baseball fans were reminded of the show put on by Mark McGwire during the 1999 All-Star week at Fenway Park in Boston.
Heading into the home stretch of the first half of this season, two names have emerged as must see attractions when they are on the field, especially during their plate appearances: Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig.
Aside from their ability to play the game at a high level, both approach at-bats with a flair, captivating the audience.
Of course, both also hail from Cuba, a connection that would be fun to explore during a head-to-head face-off in New York next month.
In fact, as Cespedes told John Shea of SFGate.com in Chicago last week when the subjects of home run derbies and Puig were broached, it's on his mind. During his time in Cuba, the Oakland slugger competed in six derbies, winning one over that period.
Between the flair, ability and Cuban connection, the potential of Cespedes and Puig representing each league would be captivating for fans in the park and watching at home, but their ability to hit the ball a long, long way could put the exclamation point on the experiment.
Over the past year, Cespedes has burst on the scene for Oakland, helping to transform their offense from below average to excellent based on his availability. When healthy, few can hit the ball harder and farther.
Despite only having roughly a week of major league experience under his belt, Yasiel Puig has taken the sport by storm, launching four home runs in his first five games.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Puig's game, including a rocket arm in right field, is the ease in which his bat has displayed opposite field power. Over the course of the last, say, 20 years, only a handful of power hitters displayed the kind of brute opposite-field strength that Puig has showed. When names like Thomas, Piazza, Rodriguez, Pujols and Cabrera come to mind when watching a young slugger, there's special potential for the future.
Of course, home run derby results are rarely about opposite field power, but it's not hard to imagine Puig putting on a show by crushing mid-70 mph, batting practice fastballs towards the Shake Shack in Citi Field's concourse.
The 2013 season has given baseball fans a slew of worthy All-Star Game candidates, many of which will double as potential selections for Wright and Cano during the festivities in New York.
Last summer, baseball fans clamored to see Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, the future of the game, representing that in Kansas City.
On the nights in which Yasiel Puig has hit his three home runs, Yoenis Cespedes has hit four. Just wait until they form a Cuban tag-team.— Mike Oz (@mikeoz) June 7, 2013
This year, the sport can use an infusion of youth, culture and most importantly, power, to launch moonshots over the deep, expansive outfield walls of Citi Field.
From Cuba to California to New York, Cespedes and Puig have been connected as stars, middle-of-the-lineup bats and, if Cano and Wright make wise choices, derby combatants.
Would Puig and Cespedes in the HR Derby make you more likely to watch?
While there's no guarantee either would win, both would be very, very tough to beat. Most importantly, though, fans of the game around the globe would win by tuning in to watch two of the most exciting players in the sport do what they do best.