The 2012 Home Run Derby will feature eight long-ball specialists. Four of the American League's best and four of the National League's top bombers will do their best to provide fireworks July 9 in Kansas City.
While there may be eight official contestants, only five of those competitors have a chance to win this year's crown. They may have violently explosive power, but that doesn't always translate. Hitters must have an easy swing, and they must be able to sustain it for longer than one round to walk away with a Derby victory.
Let's take a look at three hitters who have no chance of winning this year's home run contest.
Beltran has 20 home runs this year, and 322 for his career, but he isn't what I would call a "pure home run hitter." He certainly has long-ball potential, but he's only cleared 30 home runs twice in his career.
I'm not knocking Beltran's approach at the dish. He has one of the most fluid swings in the game today, and it doesn't matter which side he's hitting from. I just don't see him in the same class as some of this year's sluggers.
One thing working in Beltran's favor is his familiarity with Kauffman Stadium. He played the first seven seasons of his career in a Royals uniform, and he knows the ins and outs of this park.
It's hard to see a switch-hitter winning this year. The field is stacked, and Beltran isn't going to have the one huge round necessary to claim victory.
He has had a remarkable season for a 35-year-old veteran, but it won't translate to success in this year's Derby.
Gonzalez is one of baseball's true five-tool talents. He isn't cut from the same cloth as Prince Fielder, or Jose Bautista, but he can hit the long ball.
He won't perform well in the Derby because he's too good of a hitter, if that makes sense. CarGo hits home runs because of his picture-perfect swing and incredible pitch selection.
He isn't the type of guy who tees off on lollipop pitches with his brute strength. He uses his sound mechanics to drive pitches in "real game" action. They are two totally different things and require two different approaches.
Gonzalez is a gap-to-gap hitter. He hits his share of long balls, but this just isn't his kind of event. You can't blame Matt Kemp for selecting him due to his size, but his ability won't translate Monday night.
If you haven't noticed, I believe the winner of this year's Derby is going to come from the American League. I don't see the National League as a major threat outside of Giancarlo Stanton, and that includes their captain, Kemp.
Kemp has only played in 36 games this season. Granted, he did hit 12 home runs in that span, but the layoff is simply too much to overcome. Home run swings have everything to do with rhythm and flow. Kemp's time off won't work in his favor despite his incredible raw power. If he were healthy, it would be very tough to pick against him.
I would argue that Kemp has no business participating in this event at all, but that's a different issue for a different time. For now, I'll stick with saying that Kemp isn't going to win this year's Derby title.
He certainly brings star quality to this year's event, and he puts marketing through the roof, but fans will notice Kemp's injury through the inconsistency of his swing.
Kemp did a great job of picking his National League teammates, but that's the only thing he will do to help his team try to claim victory.
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