The 2013 Home Run Derby is one of the premier events during Major League Baseball's All-Star weekend, where participants launch drives over the fence at alarming rates.
Well, most do, while some inevitably struggle. Several of the participants scheduled to swing for the fences on Monday in New York's Citi Field stand out as particularly strong candidates.
Whether it's a proven record of success, impressive body builds, wonderful technique or simply youth, a trio of competitors should be in it to win it as the derby unfolds.
Let's take a closer look at the players who figure to thrill the crowd most in Queens.
Note: Statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of MLB.com.
List of Participants and Odds to Win
Odds according to Bovada on July 15.
Prince Fielder, Tigers, 15-4
Chris Davis, Orioles, 11-4
Robinson Cano, Yankees, 6-1
Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics, 11-2
Bryce Harper, Nationals, 11-2
Pedro Alvarez, Pirates, 11-2
David Wright, Mets, 9-1
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies, 12-1
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
As MLB's current leader in home runs with 37, there are few with a better or more efficient and compact swing than Davis in the league.
The 27-year-old slugger has joined elite company, as ESPN Stats & Info noted when he hit his 34th homer:
Chris Davis has 34 home runs before the All-Star break. Check out the elite company Davis is in: pic.twitter.com/7bto85Rf5h— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 12, 2013
Davis hit a respectable 33 dingers in 2012, but he's already surpassed that career high. At 6'3" and 230 pounds, the Orioles star is an intimidating presence in the batter's box.
With the cloud of steroid accusations perpetually hanging over baseball, the sudden emergence Davis has experienced could easily be questioned.
However, Los Angeles Angels star Josh Hamilton doesn't buy it and contends Davis' attitude adjustment has been the key to his success—along with the immense potential he's always possessed (per the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna):
[Davis'] offense has been hit or miss, but I always knew what kind of potential he had. ... He’d always go down and rake in the minors, come back up, hit a few home runs and struggle with his average. Now, I look at him and he’s relaxed, having fun, just enjoying the game. I can see it in his countenance. It’s fun to watch. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery.
It might be Davis' first rodeo at the All-Star showcase, but don't be surprised if he emerges as the victor thanks to his ability to hit to all fields with effortless power.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
From a pure talent standpoint, the 20-year-old Harper was the hottest name in baseball until the sudden explosion of the Dodgers' rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. However, Harper's season-and-a-half of MLB experience got him his second All-Star appearance—and as a starter to boot.
Who will win the Home Run Derby?
Another characteristic Harper is known for is his passion for the game, which is key for someone so precocious to not burn out.
Harper texted National manager Davey Johnson to play him or trade him as he struggled to come back after an injury—he apparently wasn't kidding—and then proceeded to drive in three runs in a key victory.
On Saturday evening, a frustrated Harper had a called third strike on him and vehemently disagreed, resulting in his ejection in the eighth inning (h/t James Wagner of the Washington Post):
Bryce Harper ejected after arguing a called third strike. Tossed almost instantly after waving arms following strikeout.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) July 14, 2013
The numbers in 2013 are fairly mediocre—a .264 average, 13 homers and 29 RBI—but Harper has the innate pop in his bat and the youth to last through the entire derby.
He is a serious threat to win.
Hometown favorite David Wright of the Mets or Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who's hit 24 homers already, may be better candidates. However, I feel Harper is ready to make a statement under the bright lights.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers
It's hard to discount the defending champion despite the fact that he's on pace for his fewest home runs since his first full MLB season back in 2006 (h/t ESPN).
The difference lies in that Fielder is hitting doubles at a higher rate; he's projected to hit a personal-best 37. Citi Field plays into his hands as a left-handed hitter too, because it's only 330 feet down the right field line.
A heavier physique may suggest Fielder doesn't have the endurance to get through two rounds and a final, but last year dispelled that notion.
Fielder proved doubters wrong and improved the higher the stakes got, smashing five and 11 home runs respectively in the first two rounds before exploding for 12 in the final against Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista.
The only other multiple winner of this event is Ken Griffey Jr., who emerged victorious three times. Thus, there is historic incentive for Fielder to perform his best and somewhat redeem a lackluster year, for him, in the home run department so far.