Derby field shapes up with eight sluggers named
Defending champ Cespedes, NL homer leader Stanton among participants
We don't yet have the full field of guys taking part in the unique form of "Target" practice known as the 20th annual Gillette Home Run Derby, but the supply of sluggers is taking shape.
As officially announced on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Tuesday night, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers, Todd Frazier of the Reds, Brian Dozier of the Twins, Adam Jones of the Orioles and defending Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes of the A's have joined National League captain Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies and American League captain Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in the All-Star Week event.
They'll all be ready to take aim at Target Field at 8 p.m. ET on Monday night (ESPN).
Home Run Derby participants
|RF||Jose Bautista, TOR (Captain)|
|3B||Josh Donaldson, OAK|
|2B||Brian Dozier, MIN|
|CF||Adam Jones, BAL|
|LF||Yoenis Cespedes, OAK*||National League|
|SS||Troy Tulowitzki, COL (Captain)|
|3B||Todd Frazier, CIN|
|1B||Justin Morneau, COL|
|RF||Yasiel Puig, LAD|
|RF||Giancarlo Stanton, MIA|
That leaves one unclaimed spot in each league. Those announcements will come Thursday.
White Sox rookie slugging sensation Jose Abreu (second only to Nelson Cruz with 27 homers, entering Tuesday) remains a possibility for the AL side. The Brewers' Carlos Gomez has indicated a willingness to give it a shot for the NL and so, too, strangely, has Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner . Tulowitzki said he is also considering teammate and former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau , should Morneau be added to the NL All-Star squad, but he has heard from several guys who want in.
"These guys go to all lengths to compete in it," Tulowitzki said. "I can see why. You dream of it as a kid, you watch it on TV and now you have a chance to participate."
However the rest of the field shakes out, the Derby will be taking on a much different look than it did not only when it was first unveiled at the Metrodome in 1985 but even from last year.
A new format has been installed, as the five players from each league will receive seven outs instead of the usual 10 in the first round. The player who hits the most homers in each league will receive an automatic bye to the third round (semifinals). The next two players from each league with the most homers will square off against one another in a head-to-head matchup in the second round (seven outs), with the two winners advancing to the semifinals against the league's top seed (again, with seven outs).
The final round will also consist of seven outs, and, if necessary, the first tiebreaker would allow each of the two remaining participants three swings apiece.
Cespedes, who has 14 homers this year, has shown he has a swing perfectly geared toward this event, but he'll have stiff competition in his attempt to become the Derby's first back-to-back winner since Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99).
Stanton stands out as possibly the most intriguing of the Derby contenders, simply because of his size (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and brute strength.
"If I didn't get this guy to participate, I'd be in trouble," Tulowitzki joked at the ESPN announcement.
Through Monday, Stanton had amassed 138 homers in the first 2,087 at-bats of his Major League career, including an NL-leading 21 homers this year.
"He's got the strength and God-given bat speed," teammate Jeff Baker said. "No one else is close to him. He hits balls that physically are not supposed to happen."
Last year, Chris Davis was arguably the Derby's most captivating figure going in, given his first-half output. This time, it's Jones representing the O's, on the might of his 16 homers to date this season and 81 since the start of 2012 (the most among AL outfielders in that span).
Puig is going to have to shake off an in-game homer drought if he's going to unseat his fellow Cuban for the title. Puig had gone deep 12 times on the year and just once since May 28, but he's as eye-catching as they come.
"I think the fans all want to see this guy," Tulowitzki said.
For Frazier, this Derby selection is affirmation of the improved production he's shown in what amounts to his third full season, in which he's cranked out 17 homers in the first half.
"I can't wait to see the excitement and the nerves and the buildup," he said. "It'll be pretty cool."
And for Dozier, this should take away some of the sting of the All-Star snub he received in a crowded AL field at second base. Dozier was a good choice to represent the Twins in front of the Minnesota faithful, as his 16 homers are the best on the club, by far.
The captains, meanwhile, are both deserving participants, in their own right.
Bautista joins Cespedes as the only repeat contestant currently in the mix, as he finished as the runner-up to Prince Fielder at the 2012 Derby at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. Bautista has 17 homers this season, to say nothing of the 152 he hit between 2010 and 2013 (second only to Cabrera in that span).
Tulo will take his turn on the heels of a sensational first half in which he's been a clear-cut NL MVP candidate, with a 1.044 OPS and 18 homers. He'll be looking to turn Target Field, which has developed a reputation as a pitcher's park since its 2010 unveiling, into a variation of Coors Field.
If you can't wait for the actual Derby, the MLB.com Home Run Derby mobile game is a good way to immerse yourself in the action immediately, with Target Field serving as the setting. The game is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. New for 2014 is Multiplayer Derby Mode, Achievements and Objectives.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally on July 15 by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.