2014 MLB Home Run Derby Preview: Final Predictions, Odds for All Contestants
Headlined by Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, the 2014 MLB Home Run Derby promises to be an entertaining affair.
Not only are some of the game’s best sluggers participating, but there’s been an alteration to the format (to be explained) that should make this season’s Derby more exciting.
True, Mike Trout, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu and Miguel Cabrera won’t be participating for a variety of reasons, which puts a dampener on the festivities. After all, they are four of the most prolific hitters in MLB today, and their inclusion in the Home Run Derby would have made great theater. Alas, they will not be showering the outfield stands at Target Field with leather-wrapped pieces of cork.
There is still plenty of pop in the group that captains Bautista and Tulowitzki have assembled, however. So let’s take a moment to look at all of the players' odds of winning the whole thing, with projections for their home run total and where they will finish.
As a note, the odds taken from OddShark.com (via Bovada) will be listed on each player’s slide, but they won’t be presented in that order. Rather, they will be listed in the order of projected finish.
The Home Run Derby is on Monday, July 14 at 7 p.m. CST and will air on ESPN.
An Overview of the New Format
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to dissect the new format.
There have been two things that have dragged the Home Run Derby down in recent years. As a result, MLB made some rather dramatic adjustments to the way the competition is formatted.
First, there have been several occasions when players put up massive home run numbers in the first round, only to see their totals take a dive in the following ones. Last season, for example, Yoenis Cespedes hit 17 dingers in the first round, but only knocked out six in the second and nine in the finals. Another instance occurred in 2008, when Josh Hamilton hit 28 in the first round and then only hit seven in the next two, losing the event to Justin Morneau.
Simply put, heavy swing totals in the opening stanza were impacting the power show the rest of the way.
As a result, MLB cut the total number of outs in each round from 10 to seven. It should save some of the pop for later in the competition and give the exhibition a more competitive feel.
The second thing MLB did was split the Derby up so that each league will compete in a bracket format. The highest home run total from the first round in each league will get a bye to the third round as the No. 1 seed. Round No. 2 will feature the players who finished second and third in the opening stanza, with the winner facing off against the top seed in a league-specific, semifinal matchup to determine the final pairing.
There is one drawback. If a player finished second or third in the first round and makes it to the finals, he will have competed in four rounds. Depending on how many home runs he hits in each round, that could make for a monumental swing total.
With the format laid out, let’s get going.
10. Justin Morneau, 1B, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .307/.340/.498, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 36 R, 20 2B, 1.8 WAR
Derby Odds: 15-1
A late addition to the Home Run Derby, Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau is having a nice season. He has a .307/.340/.498 slash line with 13 home runs, 59 RBI, 20 doubles and 36 runs scored.
True, he is only the fourth- or fifth-best hitter in the Rockies’ lineup, but when we consider that he slashed out at .259/.315/.426 with 17 home runs and only 74 RBI in 152 games last season, the turnaround is rather remarkable.
Now you would think that his familiarity with Target Field—he played there from 2010-13 as a Twin—would be a benefit, but the oddsmakers are on to something. Let’s not forget that he has hit eight of his 13 round-trippers at Coors Field. He can still drive the gaps in other parks, but he has a hard time generating home run power at normal altitudes.
Morneau won’t make it out of the first round.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 3, Last in NL
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .344/.435/.613, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 71 R, 17 2B, 5.6 WAR
Derby Odds: 13-2
When it comes to hitting, there aren’t many who do it as purely as Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Not only did he lead MLB in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.435) and on-base plus slugging (1.048), but he had a .311/.462/1.016 slash line with runners in scoring position when play began on Sunday. In other words, Tulowitzki is raking.
How well that translates into production in the Home Run Derby is another story altogether.
With temperatures forecast in the 60s, it is going to be difficult for Tulowitzki to generate the type of power associated with advancing. He will go yard four times with his seven outs, but he'll call it an early night.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 4, Fourth in NL
8. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: .303/.326/.488, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 54 R, 19 2B, 3.4 WAR
Derby Odds: 12-1
He can run and play defense, and outside of Nelson Cruz, he is the best offensive weapon at manager Buck Showalter’s disposal. And make no mistake—he is a large part of the reason the Orioles have surged into first place in the AL East.
Like Tulowitzki, however, Jones is more of a hitter’s hitter and not so much one who can summon raw power at will. As a result, he will not advance out of the first round in the American League bracket.
Don’t take that the wrong way. The fact that he hit more than 30 home runs the last two seasons isn't forgotten, and we all know that he puts on batting-practice exhibitions regularly. The difference in mindset between those situations and the Home Run Derby, however, is significant enough to hurt his chances.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 6, tied for last in AL
7. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: .237/.338/.415, 16 HR, 41 RBI, 67 R, 15 2B, 2.5 WAR
Derby Odds: 12-1
Was Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier selected to participate in the Home Run Derby because he plays for the All-Star Game's host city? Perhaps, but he does have some legitimate pop in his bat. Besides, when Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu declined invitations and with Edwin Encarnacion hurt, American League captain Jose Bautista didn’t have a lot of other options.
That is all beside the point.
Regardless of why he was chosen to participate, Dozier isn't going to embarrass himself for one reason—he mashes the ball at Target Field. Nine of his 16 home runs have come there, and he has a legit .481 slugging percentage in 196 plate appearances at his home park.
Will Dozier advance to the second round? No, he won’t. He will surprise some skeptics, though, and give his fanbase a show they will remember.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 6, tied for last in AL
6. Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: .291/.354/.496, 18 HR, 51 RBI, 56 R, 17 2B, 14 SB, 3.6 WAR
Derby Odds: 12-1
Entering play on Sunday, he was third in batting average, fourth in slugging and fourth in OPS in MLB at the position. The number that matters here, however, is 18. As in his 18 home runs that rank second among all third basemen behind Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A’s.
To be sure, there is a split within that number that is troublesome. See, of his home runs, only four have come away from the Great American Ball Park. By itself, that is disconcerting, but when Target Field’s reputation as a cavern is added to the equation, the prognosis does not look good.
Frazier will have his brother throw to him during the Home Run Derby, according to MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa. He will make it to the second round on Monday but won't advance any further.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 12, Third in NL
5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland A's
2014 Stats: .249/.303/.447, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 53 R, 21 2B, 2.4 WAR
Derby Odds: 5-1
That doesn’t mean he won’t put on a show. In fact, he “has a batting-practice swing perfectly tailored to this event,” per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. If anyone is going to be hurt by the reduction in the number of swings each participant gets, though, it will be Cespedes.
Of course there is nothing concrete to back this up. Still, I expect Cespedes to get bounced in the second round. I’ve been wrong before, however, so don’t be surprised if he ends up becoming the first back-to-back Derby winner since Ken Griffey Jr. did it in 1998 and 1999.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 16, Third in AL
4. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A's
2014 Stats: .241/.320/.454, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 61 R, 13 2B, 4.5 WAR
Derby Odds: 10-1
Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A’s has really come into his own as both a third baseman and as a hitter.
True, he is not stroking as many doubles as he did last season, but he is is no less effective creating runs and being a force in the lineup. Known for his ability to hit on the road (he owns a .269/.352/.455 slash line away from the Oakland Coliseum), Donaldson has a .552 career slugging percentage at Target Field.
He will make it to the third round by defeating his teammate Yoenis Cespedes, but he will not make it any further.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 20, Second in AL
3. Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: .307/.392/.519, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 53 R, 26 2B, 3.2 WAR
Derby Odds: 6-1
There is no question about his ability, though. He is simply one of the most electric players in MLB and has keyed the resurgent Dodgers’ run past the San Francisco Giants in the standings. Already this season, he has more doubles, triples and RBI than he did last year, when his arrival sparked an incredible turnaround in Los Angeles.
Puig doesn't sound too concerned about the dreaded derby curse. Per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
Yasiel Puig was asked if he was worried about HR Derby affecting swing: "Why? My numbers are already going down." And laughed.
Puig will deposit quite a few in the stands during the first two rounds before fizzling in the third round.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 20, Second in NL
2. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: .292/.410/.505, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 58 R, 16 2B, 3.6 WAR
Derby Odds: 5-1
And he found success in his lat Home Run Derby. In 2012, for example, he hit 20 and finished second to Prince Fielder. The year prior, he only had four, but hey, he is trending in the right direction.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that he owns a career .966 slugging percentage in 14 games at Target Field. That is far and away the highest of any stadium where he has played in more than six games. For whatever reason, he is quite comfortable in the batter’s box there.
Based on that incredible metric, it is safe to say that Bautista is going to light it up on Monday night. Unfortunately, he will fall painfully short of walking away with the Derby crown.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 25, First in AL
1. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marilns
2014 Stats: .295/.393/.540, 21 HR, 63 RBI, 61 R, 21 2B, 4.7 WAR
Derby Odds: 2-1
Not only was he tied for the lead in the National League with 21 home runs entering play on Sunday, but the ones he hits are moonshots. His swing—and the results—are simply majestic.
The dimensions at Target Field won't hold sway over the numbers he is going to put up, either. He simply has too much power for any baseball park to contain.
That said, there is one thing to watch for. With cool weather in the forecast, his home run total won’t be as high as it might have been, but it will be enough to edge Bautista in what is sure to be a memorable Home Run Derby.
Projected Home Runs and Finish: 27, Home Run Derby champion