Home Run Derby 2014 Contestants: Grading Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista's Picks

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterJuly 8, 2014

Home Run Derby 2014 Contestants: Grading Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista's Picks

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    Choosing Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the Home Run Derby was a no-brainer for NL captain Troy Tulowitzki.
    Choosing Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the Home Run Derby was a no-brainer for NL captain Troy Tulowitzki.Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    With the 2014 Home Run Derby coming Monday, July 14—that's less than a week away!—and most of the players participating having just been picked, it's time to evaluate and grade the jobs done by Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista, the captains who did said picking for the National and American Leagues, respectively, on Tuesday evening.

    Before that, though, here's a quick reminder that there are a few noteworthy changes this year: The field is expanding to 10 sluggers, the number of outs per hitter has been reduced from 10 to seven, and the competition will play out in a bracket format.

    Oh, and the final two participants will be announced Thursday to round out each side with five hitters.

    While it would have made all our dreams come true to get to see the likes of Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion, among others, swing (and swing and swing) for the fences, invitations were declined and injuries were suffered.

    That can't be held against the captains too much, howeverin particular Bautista, as that lot hails from the AL.

    There are two quirky aspects of this derby field as it's currently constituted. First, all eight contestants, including Tulowitzki and Bautista, hit from the right side. And second, aside from Bautista, only one other has any previous derby experience, but at least it's the winner of the event last year at Citi Field in New York.

    Rather than evaluating Tulowitzki and Bautista as hitters themselves—it's safe to say they pass with flying colors anyway—this is all about grading their abilities to coax intriguing and exciting names into the act of hitting as many balls out of Target Field as humanly possible next week.

    The grades are based on factors both objective (number of career home runs, average distance of home runs hit this year) and subjective (Q rating).

    Here are the grades of the six selections so far, listed in the order Bautista and Tulowitzki announced them on SportsCenter on Tuesday evening.

NL: Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds

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    Size: 6'3", 220 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 61

    2014 Home Runs: 17

    Longest Home Run: 446 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 401.0

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 294.0

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: None

    Q Rating: 6/10

    A case could be made that Todd Frazier has been the best third baseman in all of baseball in 2014. In fact, his 3.5 bWAR is tops in the NL, and his 3.6 fWAR actually checks in at No. 1 in MLB at the hot corner, ahead of Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics.

    That said, the 28-year-old remains, much like Donaldson, an unheralded performer and far from a typical "name" slugger type that is so often chosen for the derby.

    For what it's worth, Buster Olney of ESPN.com has stumped for Frazier to be included, in large part because Frazier is a fun-loving personality who just might make a fun event even more fun. (That sentence was filled with "funs.") Of course, Frazier also has more power than many might think, as only 13 players have hit more than his 17 homers.

    If Frazier soaks up the atmosphere and doesn't let the big stage get to him, he could become a fan favorite with some early home runs—and just as many smiles.

    Grade: B

AL: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

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    Size: 5'11", 190 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 40

    2014 Home Runs: 16

    Longest Home Run: 418 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 379.6

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 275.6

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: None

    Q Rating: 6/10

    OK, Jose: So this one was the hometown pick all the way. That has to count for something, right?

    Otherwise, though, Bautista's selection of Brian Dozier feels a bit like when last year's NL captain David Wright chose Michael Cuddyer, who immediately became the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other pick.

    While Dozier, 27, has been enjoying one of the best breakout campaigns around this year and does have 16 long balls already, he's still nobody's idea of a slugger. Not only is he the first true leadoff hitter in the derby since, like, ever, he's also the smallest contestant this year at 5'11", 190 pounds.

    Also? Dozier has managed to hit only one homer that traveled more than 400 feet—a distance that's below the average home run length of three competitors (including Frazier).

    Here's hoping Dozier can do what Cuddyer did in 2013 by surprisingly advancing to the second round and hitting a total of 15 homers.

    Grade: C+

NL: Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Size: 6'3", 235 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 31

    2014 Home Runs: 12

    Longest Home Run: 452 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 417.3

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 294.7

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: None

    Q Rating: 10/10

    Now then, this is much more like it, Mr. Tulowitzki.

    Yasiel Puig brings as much—if not more—buzz with him to a festivity that is all about just that. The 23-year-old has his critics and detractors because of his occasionally untamed style of play and flair, but just think: Can you imagine the bat flip we'll see if Puig wins this thing?

    Not only that, but Puig, a Cuban native, also now has a shot to take down a fellow countryman for the title of Home Run Derby King.

    Beyond that, the Wild Horse simply hits balls very, very hard and far, as his astounding 417.3-foot average home run distance shows. 

    Grade: A+



AL: Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles

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    Size: 6'3", 225 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 156

    2014 Home Runs: 16

    Longest Home Run: 439 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 399.2

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 292.0

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: None

    Q Rating: 6/10

    Here's the thing about Adam Jones: He's a great all-around player, but he's lacking that "it" factor for something like the derby.

    Maybe that's because the 28-year-old has been so consistent he's become a bit—dare we say it?—boring. To wit, Jones is on his way to a fourth straight season with at least a .280 batting average, 25 homers and 80 RBI. And yet, you don't necessarily think of him when flipping through MLB's biggest names in your head.

    Perhaps to spice things up a bit, Jones can coax Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Cesar Ramos—against whom he hit his two longest home runs on May 7—to throw to him. One thing's for sure: Jones is likely to swing, like, a lot, considering his career walk rate is just 4.5 percent

    Grade: B

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

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    Size: 6'6", 240 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 138

    2014 Home Runs: 21

    Longest Home Run: 484 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 423.8

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 301.3

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: None

    Q Rating: 10/10

    This. Is. What. Everyone. Has. Been. Waiting. For.

    One imagines that witnessing Giancarlo Stanton in the Home Run Derby might be not entirely dissimilar from watching The Beatles on the The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago.

    The 24-year-old monster masher is all over the leaderboard for longest home runs of 2014 with five of the 30 longest launches—all at least 450 feet. By the way, nobody else has more than two. No wonder he leads the majors in average home run distance at 423.8 feet.

    According to Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-SentinelMiami Marlins manager and batting-practice tosser—and former Twin!—Mike Redmond will be the designated pitcher for Stanton.

    "I've played in a lot of big games, so it's just going to be another big event." Redmond says. "But it's not about me, it's about him. I'm just helping him out."

    As if you needed another reason to root for the presumptive favorite.

    Grade: A+

AL: Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics

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    Size: 5'10", 210 lbs

    Bats: Right-handed

    Career Home Runs: 63

    2014 Home Runs: 14

    Longest Home Run: 427 (see video at top)

    Average Distance of Home Runs: 383.5

    Average Distance of Fly Balls: 280.0

    Previous Home Run Derby Experience: 2013 Winner (32 total HR)

    Q Rating: 8/10

    Even with last year's win, Yoenis Cespedes lacks the reputation possessed by some of the sport's other sluggers, let alone other former derby champs.

    Heck, the 28-year-old Cespedes probably has made more noise with his arm than with his bat so far in 2014.

    Despite being a key cog in the best team in the majors, he's also been overshadowed recently by fellow Cuban stars like Jose Abreu and Jose Fernandez (before his season-ending Tommy John surgery)—not to mention, that Puig dude.

    Still, Cespedes put on quite a show a year ago. Plus, the defending champ deserves the opportunity to defend his title—the last slugger to do so was Ken Griffey Jr. back in 1999—and we'll find out Monday night if Cespedes can end that 15-year drought.

    Grade: A-

     

    Statistics are accurate through July 7 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. Home run and fly ball distance data comes from ESPN's Home Run Tracker and Baseball Heat Maps.   

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11