Those in charge of America's pastime haven't always been that wise when it comes to making decisions that impact All-Star weekend. Thankfully, while the format has changed, MLB was smart enough to leave the Home Run Derby as an exhibition.
Toronto's Jose Bautista and Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki are serving as team captains for the event, representing the American League and National League, respectively, and both have a huge field of candidates to consider before settling on a five-man squad that will do battle for home run supremacy.
Serving as team captain is a great honor, but nobody ever said it was an easy gig. The pair has some tough decisions to make, and more than a few deserving players are going to have to wait until next year to have a chance at putting on a show at the Midsummer Classic.
What follows is our dream lineup for the Derby.
We've included five players for each side, giving Joey Bats and Tulo a chance to pick one player as an alternate, just in case a freak illness or injury should befall one of the participants between now and July 14, when the festivities begin at Minnesota's Target Field.
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
On pace to tie the major league record for most home runs hit by a rookie (49), set by Oakland's Mark McGwire in 1987, Jose Abreu is quickly making the six-year, $68 million deal that he signed with Chicago last October look like one of the offseason's biggest bargains.
More than half of Abreu's 26 home runs, which put him in a three-way tie for the MLB lead, have traveled more than 400 feet. Toss in the chance that we could see Abreu destroy another baseball, and his inclusion is a no-brainer.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
It's been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so Bautista must be thrilled to see his teammate, Edwin Encarnacion, emerge as one of baseball's premier sluggers. From 2010 to 2011, nobody hit as many home runs as Joey Bats (97).
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Encarnacion is making a run at the current two-year mark (2013-2014):
Earlier today-- Edwin Encarnación: 62nd HR since start of last season (only Chris Davis of the Orioles has more during that span, 66)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 3, 2014
Tied with Abreu (and Baltimore's Nelson Cruz) for the MLB lead with 26 dingers, the 31-year-old would have to be considered one of the favorites heading into the event.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
We don't know how much longer 38-year-old David Ortiz is going to play, so we have to take advantage of plugging one of baseball's most prolific power hitters over the past decade into the event while we have the chance.
A six-time Home Run Derby participant and one-time champion (2010), watching Big Papi clinch his second Derby crown in Minnesota, where his major league career began back in 1997, would be kind of neat.
George Springer, Houston Astros
It's been quite an eventful first few months in the career of Houston's George Springer, who sits tied with Baltimore's Adam Jones for 11th in the American League with 16 home runs, trailing only Chicago's Jose Abreu in the race for most bombs by a rookie.
Oh, I don't know, I'm not really a good home run derby guy. I don't know ... I can hit home runs here (in batting practice), but I'm not a home run derby guy. I mean, who knows, I don't know. I did 'em in the minor leagues. I wasn't that good at 'em.
But there's reason for optimism in Houston, and Astros fans deserve to see their team's best player (sorry, Jose Altuve) participate in the All-Star weekend festivities. That's not to discount Springer's power, which is very real—real enough to win the whole thing.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
We tend to gloss over Mike Trout's power and focus on everything else that makes him the best player in baseball. That's a mistake, as his raw power just might be the most impressive tool that he's got.
His 489-foot blast off Kansas City's Jason Vargas on June 27—the one that landed in the fountain beyond center field at Kauffman Stadium—stands as the longest home run in baseball since 2012, when Giancarlo Stanton sent a pitch from Colorado's Josh Roenicke screaming 494 feet into the left-center field stands.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
With 15 home runs on the season, Paul Goldschmidt trails some of the players who didn't make the cut for Tulo's NL squad. But you don't pass on the chance to add a player who can hit the ball 470 feet to dead center, like the one seen in the video above.
A perennial MVP candidate, Goldschmidt doesn't get the national recognition that he deserves—showcasing him in the Home Run Derby would go a long way toward rectifying that situation.
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
No player in the past 50 years has had as much hype surrounding his freakish power before he ever stepped on a major league field as Washington's Bryce Harper. That's what happens when you're crushing 500-foot bombs at the age of 16, I suppose.
Runner-up to Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes in last year's Derby, the chance to watch Harper, who sits in the midst of another injury-filled season, take out some of his pent-up frustration would make for must-watch television.
Who knows—maybe his dad will hit him with another pitch, and we'll see the first-ever mound-charging incident in Derby history.
Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Like Goldschmidt, Hunter Pence doesn't have the gaudy home run totals that some of the other competitors and players who didn't make the cut do, but San Francisco's right fielder puts a charge into those shots, with eight of his 11 home runs traveling at least 400 feet.
Pence also puts on a show in batting practice, something he's done at each of the three stops that he's made during his eight-year career. While with the Phillies, he developed a nasty habit of hitting cars in the parking lot outside the team's spring training facility.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Home Run Derby is all about entertainment, and there may not be a more entertaining player in baseball than Yasiel Puig. It helps, of course that he can absolutely crush a baseball when he sees a pitch that he likes.
A final that pitted Ortiz against Puig could be the greatest thing we've ever seen.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
When you leave your contemporaries scratching their heads and questioning their manhood, you know that you're doing something right. That's exactly what Miami's Giancarlo Stanton does, as noted by the Bay Area Sports Group's John Hickey:
Baseball's most prolific slugger has already accepted an invitation from Tulowitzki to participate (h/t the Miami Herald), making up for being forced from 2012's event due to arthroscopic knee surgery and a bizarre omission from last year's Senior Circuit squad by then-captain David Wright.
What does your dream Home Run Derby field look like? Let us know in the comments below.
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