Let's be honest. The real showcase of Major League Baseball's three-day All-Star event is the Home Run Derby. We all love watching the best players in the sport on one field, but there's nothing like the thrill of watching grown men hit a ball as far as they possibly can.
This year's field is particularly notable because of how heavy it is on both star power and big bashers. The National League squad alone features the top two home run hitters in the contest (Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton).
Moving over to the American League, defending champion Yoenis Cespedes, his Oakland teammate Josh Donaldson and captain Jose Bautista have combined to hit 51 home runs.
It's a crowded field, and MLB has adopted a new format, including decreasing total outs per round from 10 to seven and a bracket style that will separate the leagues from each other until the championship round, so anything can happen.
We've got all the information you need to prepare for Monday's big event, including the participants, viewing schedule and which players to keep a close eye on.
Where: Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Monday, July 14 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: MLB.tv (Premium Subscription Required); also available on MLB At-Bat app on iPhone and Android
|2014 MLB Home Run Derby Participants|
|American League||National League|
|Captain: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (17 HR)||Captain: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (21 HR)|
|Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (20 HR)||Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (21 HR)|
|Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics (14 HR)||Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (12 HR)|
|Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (16 HR)||Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (17 HR)|
|Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (16 HR)||Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies (13 HR)|
The Favorite: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
There might be players in the American League with more home runs, but no one possesses more natural power than Stanton. Miami's 24-year-old superstar has blasted 21 long balls this season despite playing in the eighth-hardest park to hit homers, according to ESPN.com's Park Factors.
Stanton makes up for Marlins Park's huge dimensions by hitting balls further than anyone else in the sport. According to ESPN's Hit Tracker, the Marlins outfielder leads the league in average home run distance (423.8 feet).
It doesn't matter what park you put Stanton in. He's so strong and can drive the ball without squaring it up that it would be a huge upset if the title went to anyone else.
The Sleeper: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
It would be easy to say Brian Dozier, who never hit more than 18 homers in a season prior to 2014, is the biggest sleeper of them all because few fans are paying attention to the Minnesota Twins right now.
But when you look at players in the field with huge raw power, which is what you need in this exhibition setting, Todd Frazier is second only to Stanton. Cincinnati's third baseman is making more solid contact than ever with a 23.3 percent line-drive rate, and his home run-to-fly-ball rate has spiked as a result (16.3 percent).
Plus, for all the talk about how the Derby can change players' swings, which isn't true but makes for a nice narrative if they struggle in the second half, Frazier's comments to Manny Randhawa of MLB.com about being on this stage were refreshing:
When you get asked to do something like this, I wasn't even thinking about my swing, not at all. I could come back the next game and when we go to New York [for a series with the Yankees] hit for hours and get it back in case that happens.
With Frazier's upbeat, engaging personality and natural ability to hit the ball really far, it would be a great story if the Cincinnati kid walked out of Minnesota with a Home Run Derby trophy.
The Sentimental Choice: Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
Even though Dozier is the Minnesota representative in this event, Justin Morneau will likely get the loudest ovation during introductions. Colorado's first baseman was a key part of the Twins' success during the mid-2000s, even winning an MVP award in 2006.
Morneau just missed out on making the All-Star team, losing the Final Vote to Anthony Rizzo, but Tulowitzki made sure to include the 33-year-old in the festivities by making him the final participant on the NL Home Run Derby team.
While he may not be the hitter he once was, Morneau does have a solid history in the Derby, as Houston Astros social media manager Amanda Rykoff noted on Twitter:
No one remembers that because it was the night Josh Hamilton brought Yankee Stadium to its knees.
Morneau's bounce-back season isn't just a product of playing in Colorado, as his OPS on the road is only 39 points lower than at Coors (.863 to .824). Other players will garner more attention, but there's no one Minnesota wants to see win more than its former first baseman.
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