With the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game weekend steadily approaching, a lot of great events usually lead up to the annual Mid-Summer Classic. Target Field in Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Twins, will be the site for most of the in game festivities. All-Star Sunday will consist of the Future Stars game as well as the Celebrity Soft Ball Game. Tuesday of course, the main event, the 85th edition of the game that will decide home field advantage in the World Series.
Monday is one of the more popular events of All-Star Week, the Home Run Derby. This years Derby will feature a wide array of Major League Baseball’s most powerful hitters. For the first time, two of these hitters will represent Cuba as well as their California based teams. There will be allot of excitement now that the fifth and final competitors from each league have been called upon in Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, and Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau. This event will mark Morneau returning to Minnesota where he played a majority of his great career.
The other participants include, from the National League, Troy Tulowitzky (Colorado, Team Captain), Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers), Todd Frazier (Cincinnati Reds), and Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins). The American League will include Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays, Team Captain), Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles), Brian Dozier (Minnesota Twins), and defending Champion Yoenis Cespedes (Athletics).
One of the best story lines to come from the derby this year will be the return to Minnesota of Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau. Morneau hit 221 of his career 234 home runs through ten and a half seasons with the host Twins between 2003 and 2013. The 33 year old first baseman has 13 home runs this season.
The other story line fans are looking forward to is the battle of Cuba between Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, and defending champion, Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who will be participating against the wishes of A’s general manager Billy Beane, and manager Bob Melvin. Puig has 12 home runs this season for the Dodgers but can supply a lot of power. A victory in the Derby would be the spark he could need to turn his season around. Cespedes is on pace to set his career high mark in home runs (26 in 2013) and is the favorite to defend his crown after putting on a fireworks display, 32 home runs, in New York’s Citi field last season.
For Cespedes to defend his crown he will need to put on a bigger display then he did last season. He will need to do it with a new format for the competition. The new format will feature all 10 participants receiving seven outs in the first round, followed by bracket rounds thereafter. It will bring an interesting twist for the 20th anniversary of the contest.
With the Oakland Athletics owning the best record in baseball, don’t expect Donaldson and Cespedes to blow out their swings. Expect a great effort, but nothing like the 32 home runs Cespedes hit last season. This could be anyone’s competition. Here are my picks for the contest.
First Round (Top 3 from each league move on to brackets with the leaders receiving a bye into the finals)
- American League: 1)Cespedes 2)Bautista 3)Donaldson 4)Jones 5) Dozier
- National League: 1) Puig 2)Morneau 3)Stanton 4)Frazier 5)Tulowitzki
Second Round (Two vs. Three winner meets number one in Semi-Final)
- American League: Bautista over Donaldson
- National League: Stanton over Morneau
- American League: Cespedes
- National League: Stanton
- Cespedes 9- Stanton 7 (Cespedes repeats as Champion)