Picking the Ideal Home Run Derby Lineup
For the first time in history, fans can vote for MLB Home Run Derby participants. While not as much is on the line as the All-Star Game, the Home Run Derby can be just as exciting, with humongous bombs from the game's greatest home run hitters.
Everyone wants an epic Home Run Derby, with lots of long home runs, but that's not happening with the players on this ballot. The ballot is filled players from previous derbies, rather than those who are performing well this year. Players like Carlos Beltran (7 HRs, .412 SLG) and Bryce Harper (1 HR, .422 SLG) don't deserve to participate, as their power numbers aren't anywhere near the best in baseball. Even Prince Fielder, who is out for the season, is on the ballot.
The MLB has also changed the format, again, adding two participants to each side and introducing a bracketed tournament.
Who really should be in the Home Run Derby? Taking a look at some power-hitting statistics, such as slugging percentage (SLG), home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) and the average true distance of home runs via the ESPN Home Run Tracker, we can figure out which players should be in the Home Run Derby and have greatest chance of launching ball after ball out of Target Field.
Here's the ideal MLB Home Run Derby lineup:
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
Slugging: .595 | HR/FB: 20.5 percent | Average True Distance: 409.7 feet
Edwin Encarnacion leads the MLB in home runs with 24. But more so, Encarnacion is hitting home runs at an astounding rate - once in every 12 at-bats - which is tied for second best in the MLB. And according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, Encarnacion has hit the most no-doubt home runs in baseball, with 12 of his 24 being sure things. Encarnacion also leads the MLB in isolated power, which while similar to slugging percentage, doesn't take into account singles, and gives less weight to doubles and triples.
Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
Slugging: .549 | HR/FB: 24.5 percent | Average True Distance: 403.3 feet
While Nelson Cruz's home runs may not have the distance that Encarnacion's have, Cruz has just as good power numbers overall. He's fifth in the bigs in slugging percentage, and second in isolated power and HR/FB ratio. In addition, Cruz, who has 21 bombs on the season, hits a home run every 12 at-bats, and he plays in Camden Yards, a ballpark with very similar dimensions to Target Field. Cruz also has five no-doubters and six "just enoughs", which should be just enough for the Home Run Derby at Target Field.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Slugging: .593 | HR/FB: 17.4 percent | Average True Distance: 417.9 feet
While Mike Trout doesn't have as many home runs or as good of power numbers as the others on this list, when he hits them, they're long gone. Trout is third in Major League Baseball in average true distance, and has hit five no-doubters, good for third in the AL. And while his power numbers aren't spectacular, he still hits a home run every 16.8 at-bats.
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Slugging: .598 | HR/FB: 34.4 percent | Average True Distance: 403.6 feet
While just a rookie, Jose Abreu's power numbers rank up there with the best hitters in baseball. Second in isolated power and slugging percentage, Abreu leads the league in HR/FB ratio, meaning when he hits a fly ball, 34.4 percent of the time it's a home run. And Abreu hits a home run every 11.6 at-bats, the best in all of baseball.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Slugging: .474 | HR/FB: 17.4 percent | Average True Distance: 408.4 feet
David Ortiz may have a low slugging percentage, but he makes up for it in other areas. Ortiz is top 25 in the MLB in isolated power and HR/FB ratio, and has the seventh-most home runs in the AL with 17. Six of his bombs have been no-doubters, including the second-longest home run this year, with a true distance of 482 feet.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Slugging: .585 | HR/FB: 23.5 percent | Average True Distance: 426.2 feet
If there's one hitter that's known for his huge home runs, it's Giancarlo Stanton, who leads Major League Baseball in average true distance by a good seven feet. As Marlins Park is much larger than Target Field, there is no doubt that Stanton, who has six no-doubt bombs, should be in the Home Run Derby.
Michael Morse, San Francisco Giants
Slugging: .524 | HR/FB: 20.6 percent | Average True Distance: 419.8 feet
Similar to Trout, Michael Morse may not have hit the most homers (only 13), but when he hits them, he crushes them. When Morse hits a homer (once every 19.1 at-bats), he crushes it an average of 419.8 feet, good for second in baseball, just behind Stanton. In the Home Run Derby, fans don't want to see homers barely over the wall, they want to see the ball crushed. And Morse, who had four no-doubters, will do just that.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Slugging: .552 | HR/FB: 20.8 percent | Average True Distance: 402.7 feet
He may not crush it like Morse or Stanton, but Paul Goldschmidt has the power to be a force in the Home Run Derby, having hit 15 homers this year, with three no-doubters including a 470 foot true distance shot, good for the fifth-longest homer in baseball. Goldschmidt has top-10 power numbers across the board, while hitting a homer an average of every 19.9 at-bats.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Slugging: .648 | HR/FB: 23.7 percent | Average True Distance: 401.4 feet
While Troy Tulowitski's statistics are inflated because he plays in the thin air at Coors Field, his numbers are just too good to keep him out of the derby. Tulowitzki leads the MLB in slugging - having hit 18 home runs - and is top five in ISO and HR/FB. While his average true distance is low, and half of his homers were just long enough, Tulo should be just fine having hit a home run every 13.7 at-bats.
Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
Slugging: .496 | HR/FB: 19.4 percent | Average True Distance: 410.5 feet
Justin Upton's 14 home runs put him at sixth-best in the National League, and with an average true distance of 410.5 feet, when Upton hits one, it's long gone. Upton also recorded the third longest true distance home run this year, at 477 feet. With a home run every 18.1 at-bats, Upton would make the most of his second Home Run Derby appearance, even though his power numbers may not be off the charts.