Few moments in sports announce themselves like the home run.
The sharp crack of the bat draws every eye in the ballpark to the exchange at home plate, followed by a brief moment of silence as the crowd watches in amazement as the ball lifts high above the field, growing into a roar as it soars over the outfield fence and plunks itself into a sea of outstretched hands.
It’s the best thing in baseball, which is why the home run, dinger, long ball, round tripper, four-bagger, big fly, moon shot, tater, and going yard is celebrated every summer during the MLB All-Star Game.
The field is set for the annual MLB All-Star Home Run Derby, and that means odds are also out for the event scheduled at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City Monday night.
Eight major league sluggers will be vying for the home run crown. Here’s a look at the field and our favorites to win:
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (27 home runs) +350
Joey Bats started the schedule slowly but has erupted at the plate in recent weeks. Bautista, the 2011 season home run king, caught fire with 14 homers in June and is tied for the most HRs heading into the break. He participated in last year’s derby but only hit a disappointing four out of Chase Field in Arizona. Bautista did manage to hit one home run during a four-game stop in KC earlier this season.
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (20 home runs) +500
The defending derby winner paid off at nearly +900 last summer, socking 32 total dingers -12 in the final – to edge Adrian Gonzalez. Cano has hit 13 of his 20 home runs inside Yankee Stadium, where routine fly balls turn into round-trippers with a gust from the baseball Gods. He may be lacking that extra push at Kauffman Stadium.
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (20 home runs) +550
The Angels’ addition of Albert Pujols has been good and bad for Trumbo. The bad, Trumbo was forced to move to third base where he got eaten up like a Snickers bar. The good, he’s seeing a lot more pitches hitting behind Pujols, which is why he’s got 22 homers at the break after hitting 29 all of last season. Trumbo has been consulting with 2003 derby winner and former Halo Garret Anderson, who beat Pujols in the finals that year.
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (12 home runs) +600
You know how a lot of batters complain that the home run derby messes with their swing in the second half of the schedule? Well, maybe it can work in reverse for Fielder, who has been downright lifeless in his first year in Detroit. He won the 2009 derby at +500 and seems to be coming around with three home runs in this final four games before the break. Great value with the Prince at this price.
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (20 home runs) +750
Beltran’s big bat had them saying “Albert who?” in Missouri through the first chunk of the schedule, hitting 15 of his 20 jacks in April and May. Those old knee issues have cooled off the Cardinals outfielder, with just five home runs in his past 127 at-bats heading into the break. The switch hitter will likely take his hacks from the left side, where he’s more powerful, and does have inside info on Kauffman Stadium, having played for the Royals.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates +800
steps in for the injured Giancarlo Stanton but many are questioning his
home run power. The Pirates stud outfielder quieted those doubters with
two big flys against the Giants Sunday. McCutchen has 18 home runs at
the break after hitting 23 total last season. I think he has more than
enough power, but could the derby throw a wrench in his swing in the
second half of the schedule? The first-place Bucs better hope not.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (17 home runs) +800
A home run derby title for Gonzalez is about the only thing Rockies fans can cheer for these days, and according to the odds, even that’s a long shot. He had a bit of a knee scare in June and isn’t a pure power hitter. His home run total is inflated thanks to the thin air at Coors Field, where Gonzalez has hit 12 of his 17 home runs this season.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (12 home runs) +900
Kemp hasn’t played since May 30 due to a nagging hamstring injury and if the Dodgers brass had any smarts, they would sit their star for the entire All-Star Break. Sure, he’s the captain of the National League, but he only mustered two homers in last year’s derby – and that was at 100 percent. Hopefully, Kemp will come to his senses and take a seat for another NL slugger – Bryce Harper perhaps?
Picks to win:
1. Trumbo +550
2. Bautista +350
3. Fielder +600