2014 MLB All-Star Game

Home Run Derby 2014: Contestants Whose Power Will Humble Target Field

Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton grounds out in the first inning as Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird looks on during a baseball game in Miami, Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
Joe Skipper/Associated Press
Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2014

We are in awe of the incredible feats of strength Major League Baseball players show, both in games and during batting practice, but not all power is created equal.

In the case of the 2014 Home Run Derby, Target Field isn't a hitter's paradise, so having extra pop is essential to winning. 

The field was finalized on Thursday, with captains Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki announcing that Oakland's Josh Donaldson and Colorado's Justin Morneau will round out the 10-player field. 

Target Field has been surprisingly effective at helping hitters this season, since it has a reputation as a big park where balls die in the outfield. According to ESPN's park factors, Minnesota's stadium is 10th in homers (1.093). 

As a result, the competition would appear to be wide-open for Monday's Home Run Derby. However, don't get fooled into thinking the park will play the same for everyone. There's a gap between the best and worst power hitters in the field, which will become apparent as soon as the event begins. 

The players we want to talk about have the natural strength and raw power to make Target Field look like the park where they hold the Little League World Series. 

 

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

In keeping with the idea that there are home run hitters and HOME RUN HITTERS, what better place to start than with Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the National League in homers. 

The 24-year-old leads all of baseball with an average distance of 423.8 feet per homer this season, according to ESPN.com's Hit Tracker. Only San Francisco's Mike Morse is within three feet of Stanton in that category. 

On top of that, Stanton has clubbed more 450-foot home runs than any team in baseball this season, via ESPN Stats and Information. 

Working in Stanton's favor is his home run prowess comes despite playing home games in one of the worst parks for power in baseball this season. 

Lowest HR Rate By Park in 2014
RankParkRate
25Marlins Park (Miami)0.834
26Petco Park (San Diego)0.769
27Fenway Park (Boston)0.700
28Nationals Park (Washington)0.692
29PNC Park (Pittsburgh)0.646
30AT&T Park (San Francisco)0.609
ESPN.com

Everyone knows that Stanton has been among the best power hitters in baseball since debuting in 2010—he ranks sixth in MLB with 138 homers, despite having the fewest games played of anyone in the top 10—so it won't be a surprise to see him standing tall when the Home Run Derby ends. 

It will still be a lot of fun to watch. 

 

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds

The fact that Todd Frazier is hitting for power isn't a surprise. He was drafted by the Reds with the 34th pick in 2007 based on his ability to drive the ball. 

Baseball America's (subscription required) pre-draft scouting report noted the one drawback to his offensive skill set was being able to hit for average due to "unorthodox swing mechanics."

Patience and contact weren't Frazier's strengths at the MLB level for most of 2011-13, despite hitting 44 homers during that span, but even with little change in his strikeout and walk rates this season, the power is playing better than ever. 

The Reds third baseman has nearly equaled his career high (19) in homers already with 17 through Thursday's games.

He's a prime example of a player whose raw power is going to be better served in a home run exhibition because it plays better in batting practice. 

For instance, Frazier's average home run distance this season is 401 feet. That's a ton of power for a normal hitter, but it ranks just fourth among the NL Home Run Derby participants. 

Don't let that number fool you. Frazier will put on a hitting display at Target Field that will only be rivaled by Stanton. 

 

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics

This one is cheating a little bit because we got ample evidence from last year's Derby, when he brought down the house at Citi Field, that Yoenis Cespedes can shine on the home-run hitting stage. 

Despite his prodigious raw power, Cespedes hasn't been as proficient showing it off during games this year. He does have 14 home runs, which ranks third on Oakland behind Donaldson and Brandon Moss, but hasn't gone deep since June 19 against Boston.

Plus, when Cespedes has hit homers this year, they aren't traveling as far as you would expect. His 383.5-foot average distance is only ahead of Minnesota's Brian Dozier among the Derby field. 

That slump could carry over to the Home Run Derby, which puts more pressure on his swing to drive the ball, though the batting practice-style nature of the competition makes things easier for Oakland's big basher.

Sometimes the bright lights and nature of hitting home runs opens things up for a player in a hitting slump. Cespedes didn't have any problems showcasing his muscle in 2013, when he hit just .225/.293/.420 with 15 homers before the All-Star break. 

 

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