March Madness has infected the Home Run Derby.
Everything needs a bracket these days, so it was only a matter of time before the participants in the long-ball contest got crammed into one. But understand that nobody is complaining—watching the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista and Yasiel Puig face off in a bracket is nothing but a good time.
The All-Star Game's official Twitter account put Monday's festivities into visual form:
Expect nothing but moonshots galore in Minneapolis at Target Field Monday night when MLB's 10 best power hitters, led by captains Bautista (AL) and Troy Tulowitzki (NL), converge and enter a fray designed to make what was already an entertaining affair even better.
Let's take a look at the complete roster and full predictions for the event.
|American League||First-Round Total||National League||First-Round Tota|
|Jose Bautista *||16||Troy Tulowitzki *||12|
|Yoenis Cespedes||14||Todd Frazier||10|
|Adam Jones||10||Yasiel Puig||13|
|Brian Dozier||7||Giancarlo Stanton||9|
|Josh Donaldson||7||Justin Morneau||8|
Source: MLB.com. *Denotes team captain.
|American League||National League|
|Round 2 Winner||Round 2 Loser||Round 2 Winner||Round 2 Loser|
|Yoenis Cespedes||Adam Jones||Troy Tulowitzki||Todd Frazier|
|Round 3 Winner||Round 3 Loser||Round 3 Winner||Round 3 Loser|
|Yoenis Cespedes||Jose Bautista||Yasiel Puig||Troy Tulowitzki|
|Finals Winner||Finals Loser|
|Yoenis Cespedes||Jose Bautista|
Already a winner in the minds of many after finally securing his first All-Star berth, Yoenis Cespedes enters with perhaps more pressure than any contestant Monday night because he happens to be the defending champ.
If Cespedes can somehow overcome nine other elite competitors and a new format, he'll be the first player since a certain popular superstar to pull off the feat, as SportsCenter notes:
Yoenis Cespedes will try to repeat as Home Run Derby champ. Last man to pull it off? Ken Griffey, Jr., 15 years ago. pic.twitter.com/yitdAAxiNC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 8, 2014
At face value, he does not seem to stand much of a chance. He has gone yard just 14 times this year, with a .246/.299/.442 line, but it's important to dial in on his performance last season at the Derby. There, Cespedes hit 17 homers in the first round and 32 overall, which ranks him tied with the third-most ever—and he didn't use all 10 outs in the final.
So it's clear that Cespedes performs under the spotlight of the Derby. Recent trends and momentum clearly go out the window at the event, at least for him.
Call Todd Frazier the comeback kid.
Also a debutant, Frazier has hit 19 homers in each of the past three seasons, although this year and two seasons ago were highlights, as it took him in the neighborhood of only 400 plate appearances each time to reach the number.
Frazier is quietly one of the most powerful hitters in the league at the plate, hence his selection. But he should not be so under the radar at this point—the man is known for homers in the minds of those who have followed his career.
He's hit a few recent homers too, so Frazier certainly should not be overlooked, despite the fact that he might just be the smallest name in attendance Monday night.
For Frazier, who has made a career out of coming from nowhere to seize the spotlight, that might just be how he prefers it.
At just 23 years of age, Yasiel Puig might just be the most important name in attendance at the Derby, as his youth and antics are enough to make the event a must-see spectacle once more.
By all accounts, including one from Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register, the young slugger is more than excited for his opportunity to shine:
Yasiel Puig is practicing for the Home Run Derby. He's yelling "HOME RUN" after each of his BP swings, and I can hear it from the press box— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) July 13, 2014
Puig has just 12 homers to his name this season, but when he connects, they fly. According to ESPN, Puig's homer of 452 feet from May ranks No. 24 overall this year, and his total average distance is a stellar 417.3 feet.
The MLB needs Puig to get hot. As Fox Sports' Jon Morosi notes, he's a critical piece of the league's future:
Some perspective: Yasiel Puig is younger than *six* players who appeared in the Futures Game.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 14, 2014
An argument can be made that Puig does not go yard consistently enough to justify his selection for the event, but he has a chance to silence critics and make it a top sporting event once again in one fell swoop.