Party at Petco: Previewing the 2016 Home Run Derby
Ah, it’s that time of the year again. The Midsummer Classic is right around the corner, but before the first pitch of the All-Star Game is thrown, there is business to attend to. The night before the game, tomorrow night, eight of Major League baseball’s most powerful sluggers will convene in one place to showcase their skills in baseball version of the Feats of Strength.
Last year, the format changed and made the derby incredible. In a sport not subject to a time limit, a hitting clock was instituted and produced and unforgettable event. It will be a tough task to follow up that performance, and if you missed it, check out the final round below.
I wrote a long post previewing last year’s derby (you can check that out here). Turns out, maybe I do know a thing or two about this game, as I ended up predicting all but the final round correctly (hometown hero Todd Frazier had to come in here and spoil things…).
Here are the eight competitors that will swing for the fences:
Before I break down the match-ups, I’ll give a little bit on the stadium.
The park currently sits in 18th place for most home runs hit during the 2016 season, with 101 pitches being deposited over the fence to this point. That comes out to just about 2.24 home runs per game, and Melvin Upton Jr. has the longest homer there of the season at 462 feet.
As far as being designated as a “pitcher’s park or a hitter’s park,” it has generally be known as a pitcher’s park over the years. The fences are fairly distant: Left-Field Line: 336 feet, Left Field: 357 feet, Left-Field Alley: 401 feet, Center Field: 396 feet, Right-Field Alley: 400 feet, Right Field: 382 feet, Right-Field Line: 322 feet.
The one thing of note though, is that the fences are not very tall; about eight feet all the way around. Now we can take a look at the match-ups.
Mark Trumbo vs. Corey Seager
Mark Trumbo is on pace to hit 53 home runs this season and become the fourth player to hit 50+ homers in the first year with his new team. The Oriole has 159 career dingers, and only one has come at Petco. The right-handed batter has 28 so far this season. All but 29 of his career homers have been between the left field foul pole and center field.
Corey Seager made his debut late last season, and hit four homers. This year, he has 17 before the break. There is some concern, though, about him possibly damaging his swing as he attempts to help the Dodgers make a playoff run in the second half of the season. Many players have voiced these same opinions as their reasoning behind holding out, but Seager will dive head first into this year’s derby.
Prediction: I have to give the edge to Trumbo here. One, he’s been absolutely mashing this year, and two, he’s done this before (2012 in Kansas City).
Adam Duvall vs. Will Myers
Adam DuvALL-Star. Catchy, right? The Cincinnati Reds’ left-fielder has been one of the few bright spots for the last place team, as he has just been crushing the ball in the all-too-hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Duvall only played in 28 games in 2014 and 27 in 2015 as compared to the 82 games he has already played in this year. He has 23 home runs, a substantial improvement from the combined eight over the last two years.
It is becoming customary to have at least one player from the home team compete in their home run derby. This year, Wil Myers will represent the Padres and take some hacks. The former Tampa Bay Ray (did he swim from Tampa to San Diego?) has 19 home runs to date, already surpassing his previous season-high of 13. Of Myers’ 46 career homers, only 16 have been at Petco.
Prediction: Sorry home crowd. Don’t be too upset! Your city still produces more avocados than any other place in the United States. However, you’ll have to celebrate that after the first round, because Adam Duvall will take care of Wil Myers.
Todd Frazier vs. Carlos Gonzalez
Todd Frazier only hit 10 home runs during the entire 2014 Home Run Derby in Minnesota, yet he found himself in the final round squaring off against Yoenis Cespedes who won with a total of 28 homers. One could say Frazier used the system, but one could also say he just did what he had to do. Then last year, Frazier hit 14 in the first round alone, and finished with 39 total. This season, he has 25 round-trippers already, nearly to his season total of 35 from a season ago.
Carlos Gonzalez was a bit of a dud in the 2012 derby, only hitting four. As far as season totals are concerned, he’s way up there. CarGo hit 40 homers last year and is on his way to about the same this year, sitting at 18. Maybe that derby was an exception? Or maybe he just isn’t accustomed to hitting like this. We’ll see.
Prediction: It’s really hard to pick a champion. Two years ago, Todd Frazier nearly won the whole thing without hitting many homers at all. Last year in his home city, Frazier hit a buzzer-beating homer to keep his hopes alive. This is the biggest toss-up of the first round, but I picked against Frazier to win in the final round last year and I’m not going to pick against him in the first round here. Frazier gets it done.
Robinson Cano vs. Giancarlo Stanton
Unlike Bryce Harper, who has stated that he has no interest competing in the Home Run Derby, baseball’s most powerful hitter readily finds himself in the contest for the second time in three years. I was excited to see Giancarlo Stanton mash at Great American last year, but after he wore a pitch off the face in Milwaukee, it took a little more time to heal than just rubbing some dirt on it and running to first.
Nevertheless, Stanton is back at it again, this time in San Diego. Remember the last time he was in the derby?
Look, Stanton is must-see TV. When he or Bryce Harper steps to the plate, you turn on the respective game because you never know what one of them is going to produce. Some of Stanton’s shots are laser beams that get out quicker than Kim Kardashian from her first marriage, and others are moonshots that are so high up they feel blessed. His swing was built for the home run derby and the home run derby was built for him. Giancarlo, do not let us down.
Cano hit 32 home runs in the 2011 derby en route to the title. He hit 28 home runs that season, then 33 in 2012. He only hit 21 all of last year, but he already has 20. The left side of this bracket is loaded with talent.
Prediction: Not only has Robinson Cano been there before, he’s won it before. However, Giancarlo Stanton had not yet burst onto the national landscape with his magnificent displays of power; his shock and awe factor nearly unmatched throughout the league. This is my bet for the best first round pairing, but I think Stanton moves on.
We move into hypotheticals now!
Trumbo vs. Stanton
This is one of those pairings where you wish it came in the final. Unless there’s a serious flop or a crazy surprise, these two meeting for a chance to go to the finals is a pretty solid bet. They both hit baseballs really, really far, but I think Stanton will hit more baseballs really, really far.
Frazier vs. Duvall
Hey Reds fans check it out! Your former star vs. your current star! If only the home run derby could happen everyday, right? Well, I think Duvall goes on to the championship round. I’m fully prepared to see Frazier bust my bracket for the second straight year, though.
Stanton vs. Duvall
Here is to hoping that Giancarlo Stanton does what fans are so hoping he will do, and that is to obliterate baseballs and shatter records. Should Duvall get to this point, I think he could put up a good fight, but in the end it’ll be Stanton.
Do you want to try it out for yourself? Fill out a bracket for the chance to win some serious dough by clicking here.