Maybe more than any other aspect of the game, fans love to see baseball players hit the ball out of the park.
The combination of sheer strength and gifted skill that go into the art of a home run is a beautiful thing. Factor in opposing pitchers, weather and game situations and you'll see that a big home run gets the fans out of their seats maybe more than any other baseball play.
On Monday night, we get rid of all that to watch players who just want to crush the deep ball.
Eight representatives for the American and National League will participate in the 2013 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night. Headlined by captains Robinson Cano (AL) and David Wright (NL), fans at Citi Field will get to see eight of the best home-run hitters the game has to offer with nothing but showmanship on the line.
Chris Davis, Yeonis Cespedes and Prince Fielder are the other representatives from the AL, while Pedro Alvarez, Michael Cuddyer and Bryce Harper round out the field for the host league.
MLB's official Twitter account had a complete look at the field:
Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com had the order in which the eight contestants will hit on Twitter:
Looks like Harper hitting 6th out of 8 in HR Derby tonight. Full lineup: Fielder, Cuddyer, Cespedes, Alvarez, Davis, Harper, Cano, Wright.— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) July 15, 2013
Cano and Fielder are both past winners, but Davis headlines a group of five competitors who will be participating in the event for the first time. The odds suggest a new winner will emerge from the field, but don't sleep on either of the former champs.
Before the spotlight shifts to Citi Field on Monday night, here's a complete preview for the field and some predictions for how this year's Home Run Derby will play out in New York.
What: 2013 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby
Where: Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y.
When: Monday, July 15 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com
Participant List (via MLB.com)
|AL||Robinson Cano||New York Yankees||2 (2011, 2012)||21/198|
|AL||Yoenis Cespedes||Oakland Athletics||0||15/38|
|AL||Chris Davis||Baltimore Orioles||0||37/114|
|AL||Prince Fielder||Detroit Tigers||3 (2007,
|NL||Pedro Alvarez||Pittsburgh Pirates||0||24/74|
|NL||Michael Cuddyer||Colorado Rockies||0||16/173|
|NL||Bryce Harper||Washington Nationals||0||13/35|
|NL||David Wright||New York Mets||1 (2006)||13/217|
|Player||Round 1||Round 2||Finals||Total|
The Home Run Derby is one of the hardest events to predict because there's factors at play that can't be judged on paper.
As we've seen over the years, the choice in pitcher can be a huge factor in the outcome.
As you can see in this tweet from The Washington Post's sports account, it might be one reason why Harper is choosing his father as his pitcher:
Bryce Harper doesn't have to look far for a home run derby pitcher, his dad is taking the job. http://t.co/M06Xe6VjH9— Post Sports (@PostSports) July 14, 2013
Knowing where your batter wants the ball pitched and being able to provide that over the course of the Home Run Derby is a huge advantage for batters in this event, which leads us to a second idea that you can't measure.
You can't account for which guys get into a groove.
It happens every year—one or two guys get into the zone where you could throw nearly anything over the plate and they would hit it out of the ballpark. When that groove happens, boy it's sure fun to watch.
That being said, it's hard to tell which guys are going to be able to provide that show. Citi Field isn't really known as a hitter's park amongst other MLB stadiums, but moving the fences in prior to the 2012 season helped appease some early concern that home runs were going to be a rarity at the new home of the New York Mets.
It's 335 feet to straightaway left field and 330 to right field at Citi Field now, and it's hard to tell which direction will be more profitable for the hitters on Monday night. Logic would say right field, since five of the eight participants will likely be hitting left handed.
MLB home run leader Davis is the likely favorite amongst fans to win the event, and, as you can see in this tweet from ESPN's Stats & Info, he's hitting the ball to all fields:
Moving to the middle parts of the outfield, it won't be an easy task to consistently hit balls to the alleys or straightaway center field. That being said, it's likely going to take some big-time shots to put up big numbers on Monday night.
Alvarez might just be the hitter to put on the biggest show.
As you can see in this tweet from Stats & Info, he's bringing some serious power to Citi Field:
Pedro Alvarez added as NL Home Run Derby participant. Alvarez has 3 440+-ft HR this season. No other HR Derby participant has more than one.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 12, 2013
Alvarez isn't the best contact hitter in the field. With a .250 average, he's relied on the long ball to make an impact for the Pirates this year more than he has with timely hitting. While good contact is important for getting into a groove, having the power to hit the ball out anywhere in the field might be more important at this ballpark.
You can't sleep on Cano or Fielder, either. Both have been here before, and they clearly want to put on a show. Veterans of the event, if you will, the duo are also extremely valuable to their teams.
I can't see either taxing their bodies enough to put up huge numbers, largely because the age-old debate about even competing would come back to the forefront of MLB conversation if either were to slow down or get injured.
Cuddyer isn't a noted home run hitter, but he has power to all fields and is a sleeper of sorts. That being said, he also might be outmatched in terms of sheer power when looking at the rest of the field.
Cespedes is another in the mold of Alvarez who has a chance to put on a show. The Cuban star from Oakland has been rumored to dominate his team's batting practice home run contests, and, as Jane Lee of MLB.com notes, teammate Bartolo Colon isn't shy about putting him on a pedestal:
Colon, Balfour and Cespedes all on an 11pm redeye to New York tonight. Colon says Cespedes wins Derby "if he's not tired from the flight."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) July 15, 2013
Harper, a wild-card of sorts, has legitimate power and isn't scared of the big moment. That being said, he's also never been on a stage like this before and has dealt with injuries during the 2013 season.
It's not exactly the strongest argument against Harper as a contender, but in a division rival's stadium I can't see Harper making a deep run ahead of some of the other players in the field.
When it's all said and done, I look for Alvarez to have a strong showing at Citi Field.
He and hometown favorite David Wright are my picks to make the finals. Alvarez has one of the strongest left-handed swings in the game right now, and, if he gets the right pitches from his selected thrower, there's a good chance he puts up double-digit numbers on the evening.
Who is your pick to win the Home Run Derby?
Wright has the hometown support of the Citi Field crowd and also finished second during his other appearance in the Home Run Derby in 2006. Davis and Fielder both just miss out on the final round in this prediction, but each put on a good show for the fans.
There's always uncertainty when it comes to the Home Run Derby field, but one thing is for sure: MLB fans everywhere will tune in to watch the action. A new home run king (or past king) will emerge on Monday night, and the precursor to the actual All-Star game has a chance to be great.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.