Yasiel Puig Could Steal the Show in 1st MLB Home Run Derby

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Yasiel Puig Could Steal the Show in 1st MLB Home Run Derby
Al Behrman/Associated Press

Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig was among the more notable absences from MLB All-Star weekend last year, as he was just 38 games into his big league career.

This year, his talents will be on full display at Target Field in Minnesota, and he has a chance to steal the show.

Not only was he voted to start in the NL outfield, joining Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gomez, but it was also announced on Tuesday that he will participate in the Home Run Derby.

Dodgers MLB.com beat writer Ken Gurnick confirmed the news:

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (18 HR) was named the captain of the National League side, so it was him who selected Puig to participate.

"He has tremendous power, watching him from afar," Tulowitzki told Thomas Harding of MLB.com last week when mentioning Puig as a potential candidate.

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista (17 HR) will captain the American League squad, and he'll be joined by reigning champion Yoenis Cespedes (14 HR), Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (16 HR) and second baseman Brian Dozier (16 HR) of the host Minnesota Twins.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton (21 HR) and Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (17 HR) will join Puig and Tulowitzki on the NL side. One more participant from each league has yet to be announced, per an MLB press release.

Nelson Cruz, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout all declined invitations from Bautista to swing it for the AL side, according to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.

Trout noted that he'd rather take the event in as a spectator, while Cabrera didn't want to mess with his swing.

Puig made it clear he was not worried about his numbers suffering as a result of his inclusion in the Derby, joking that he has already been struggling of late:

Puig was hitting .344/.436/.615 with 11 home runs at the end of May, ranking as one of the most productive hitters in baseball.

However, he's hit just .252/.324/.362 since the start of June.

Recent struggles aside, Puig was made for this kind of event.

He has tremendous raw power and has always played with a flair that borders on cocky. Now he'll legitimately be the center of attention and have a chance to put on a show on the national stage.

Puig will be looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Cuban defector Cespedes, who put on a show in last year's Derby with 17 home runs in the first round and 32 overall on his way to claiming the trophy.

Moonshot home runs are what the Home Run Derby is all about, and while Puig ranks just 27th in the NL in long balls, his average distance of 417.3 feet is good for third in all of baseball.

Longest Average HR Distance (Min. 9 HR)
Player HR Total Avg. Distance
Giancarlo Stanton, MIA 21 423.8 ft
Michael Morse, SF 14 420.5 ft
Yasiel Puig, LAD 12 417.3 ft
Mike Trout, LAA 20 417.0 ft
Ian Desmond, WAS 15 416.4 ft
Hanley Ramirez, LAD 11 415.7 ft
Hunter Pence, SF 11 415.0 ft
Pedro Alvarez, PIT 13 414.2 ft
Justin Upton, ATL 17 413.1 ft
Carlos Gomez, MIL 13 412.5 ft

ESPN Home Run Tracker

We could dive into all sorts of advanced statistics for Puig and his power numbers through his first year-and-a-half in the league, but instead let's just watch some video of his more notable bombs.

A 453-foot bomb off Jacob Turner of the Miami Marlins on May 3 of this year, the longest of his career:

A 451-footer off Adam Ottavino back on July 2 of last year in the launching pad that is Coors Field:

A 444-footer off Chase Anderson of the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 17 of this year:

A 442-footer off Brandon McCarthy that is the definition of a moonshot:

The one disappointing part of Puig in the Derby? No bat flips.

Luckily, the Los Angeles Dodgers Twitter feed has you covered there:

Who knows, maybe it will come down to a slug-off to end it, and Puig can still work a bat flip in with a walk-off winner. Regardless, Puig in the Derby should make for good television.

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