Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista have garnered the most All-Star votes in their respective leagues due in large part to their ability to drive the ball over the fence. On Monday, their penchant for going deep earned them their first honor of the 2014 MLB season, as they were named the captains for the 2014 Home Run Derby in Minneapolis.
This will be the fourth year under the new format, which sees two captains pick three additional players from their respective league to compete for the crown. Tulowitzki and Bautista are both first-time captains. Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is the only multi-time captain in the four years of the format.
Tulowitzki, 29, is batting .360/.451/.648 with 18 home runs and 45 RBI, emerging as arguably the National League's best player. If the season ended today, he would be among the top vote-getters for the MVP award despite the Colorado Rockies' struggles.
His 18 home runs are second in the NL behind Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. This is Tulowitzki's first Home Run Derby appearance.
Stanton, to some the NL's best power hitter, will likely be selected. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Astros rookie George Springer are among the many who will garner consideration. Nick Groke of The Denver Post reported that Tulowitzki said he is willing to consider teammate Justin Morneau, who starred in Minnesota for a decade before a midseason trade last year:
Bautista, 33, has been one of the American League's fiercest sluggers for the past half-decade. The Blue Jays outfielder has a career-high .305 batting average to go along with 15 home runs and 49 RBI. Toronto has been one of baseball's biggest surprises this season and currently leads the vaunted AL East by 1.5 games.
Bautista is making his third Home Run Derby appearance, having previously made the final in 2012.
If all goes as expected, Blue Jays players will comprise half of the AL roster. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion leads MLB with 24 home runs and 63 RBI. It'd be a mild shock if Bautista didn't give the nod to his teammate, though the AL is stacked with potential candidates.
Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, White Sox rookie Jose Abreu and Red Sox slugger and Home Run Derby mainstay David Ortiz are among the high-profile players worth consideration. Seven of MLB's 10 highest home run totals come from the American League. Not among those leaders is 2013 champion Yoenis Cespedes, who may get selected as a nod to his amazing outing at Citi Field.
While the final result is largely lost to the ether the moment the Derby ends, the AL will be playing to continue its recent dominance in the contest. An AL player has won the contest each of the last four seasons and six of the last seven. Since the captain format was instituted, the AL has boasted five of the last six finalists.
The 2014 Home Run Derby is July 14 at 8 p.m. ET. Tulowitzki and Bautista will make their announcement on the participants at a yet-to-be-determined date prior to the event. Given the National League's recent struggles, Tulowitzki better think long and hard about his selections.
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