Picking the Home Run Derby team for the American League

Norm Hall

If you could pick the Home Run Derby team for the American League, no restrictions, who makes it?

You read the last installment, "Picking the Home Run Derby team for the National League," because you got an e-mail from your Google Alert for "home run derby." Finally, that baby paid off. But it was an excruciating wait to get to Part Two. It was like the season finale of Game of Thrones and Dec. 26th in one! So cruel.

Fear not, Derby aficionados, it's …

You know, is it okay if instead of "aficionado," I just call you Stan? Really, you're the only one who cares about this, Stan. But fear not, here is my best-case scenario for the American League Home Run Derby team.

Thanks for reading, Stan.

Chris Davis

Chris Davis is one of those players who could have been on this list two years ago, even when he couldn't make contact during a game. He's always had absurd power, the kind that gives you moments like this:


Absurd power. Jeff Sullivan over at FanGraphs collected a bunch of Davis's flickier home runs, and they were just as impressive.

But now Davis is using that absurd power in games, and he's become one of the scarier hitters in the American League, even if only for the first half of the 2013 season. Even if you're not buying him as a top-tier masher just yet, he always would have fit in a Derby-style competition. Wily Mo Pena would have been a blast in a Derby. Kyle Blanks would be amazing. But there's an unwritten stipulation that Derby contestants have to be at least kinda close to All-Stars, so Davis had to hit to be in. He's hit. He's in.

Mark Trumbo

Another large, large human and contributor to the dinger arts, it would almost seem like he's redundant with Davis. Similar strengths, weaknesses, and physiques. But Trumbo is complementary rather than redundant because he hits right-handed, while Davis hits lefty. They're two distinct home-run swings, and it's nice to have a variety of lefty/righty players alternating in one of these things, Stan.

But here's another thing: When you're picking three contestants, you're going to leave some deserving players off. I could make a deserving, entertaining team with just Blue Jays. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and J.P. Arencibia would be wildly entertaining, even if especially because Arencibia would chase balls in the dirt if you slipped the BP pitcher a $20. But you can't have all those guys.

Also worth mentioning is that left-handed swings are aesthetically better than right-handed swings. There needs to be a study why -- a senior thesis for a visual-arts major or something -- but it's true. And if you're including Trumbo, you're either leaving out great left-handed swings like Davis and Prince Fielder, or you're leaving out right-handers like Bautista and Yoenis Cespedes.

This is the hardest decision anyone has ever had to make. Good luck, Robinson Cano.

Mike Trout

You can't have two Angels, right? There aren't any rules against it, and both are deserving players. But if you have to exclude deserving players, the easiest way to make a first round of cuts is to say "no teammates." So Trout doesn't qualify, because Trumbo is more of a pure home run hitter.

Except, look at the American League hitters with the longest average distance to their homers, minimum seven home runs:

1. Colby Rasmus (423.0 feet)
2. Mike Napoli (422.1)
3. Mike Trout (421.3)
4. Mark Reynolds (418.4)
5. Mark Trumbo (417.8)

I think we can all agree that the less we see of Colby Rasmus, the better America will be. Because hair. But Trout's home runs have gone farther than Trumbo's on average. I think Trout gets penalized because he does everything well. It's like paying so much attention to Dave Mustaine's guitar playing, you don't pay enough attention to his mellifluous voice. Or something like that. Trumbo does one baseball thing really well. Trout does everything well, and he might do the Trumbo thing even better. But we're stuck on Trumbo when we want a batting-practice hero to thrill us in the Derby.

Yoenis Cespedes

I think part of my Alfredo Despaigne obsession -- and I'd trade the Giants' 20 best prospects for a year of Despaigne in the majors, by the way -- is that we got used to Cespedes so quickly. He was a complete enigma, a player on whom you could project anything. When he came up, he was as good as could reasonably have been expected. Probably better. But now he's just another terribly exciting baseball player. There aren't a lot of them, but there are others. For a while, Cespedes was a myth, though. Our imagination turned him into something he could never be.

A turn in the Home Run Derby could remind us of the YouTube phenomenon we grew to love. There's no curveballs, no pressure. Oh, and like Hunter Pence, Cespedes is a certifiable batting-practice legend. Did you hear the one about him hitting a batting-practice homer with a donut still on his bat?

Here is a video of Cespedes hitting a home run with a donut still on his bat:


The funny part about that is the donut was still on the bat, which isn't conducive to players hitting home runs, typically.

So Cespedes is in. I'm not going to hear arguments about Davis, Stan, and I'm not going to hear arguments about Cespedes. That means that we have to pick between Trout and Trumbo, and …

Prince Fielder

Oh, man. I'm wondering if we're not appreciating Fielder enough. He's been one of the better all-or-nothing swings in the majors for a while, even if his results were usually better than all-or-nothing. He swings like Rob Deer with better results than Rob Deer.

Jose Bautista

He's on a tear right now, and he's the most prodigious home-run hitter of the last three seasons. If a Home Run Derby falls in the woods without Jose Bautista, does it even make a sound?

Mark Reynolds

Why Trumbo and not Reynolds? They're both BP gods, both from the right side. And like Trumbo and Davis, Reynolds is doing well overall this season. Well, he was. No one's been paying attention to baseball much in the past couple months anyway, so maybe he should make it …

Justin Upton and Bryce Harper

I got yelled at for not including those two in the last one, so I had some make-up work to do ...

Okay, so there are a lot of possibilities. And you know who's missing? Miguel Cabrera. But I think the beauty of Miguel Cabrera is his ability to do something with the pitcher's best pitch. He can take a pitch on the fringes of the strike zone and hit it 420 feet effortlessly. That doesn't mean he'd be bad at the Home Run Derby -- he'd probably be excellent -- but for some reason I want one-note hitters, or something close to them, in the Derby. Cabrera's almost too good.

So my list:

1. Robinson Cano (he wasn't an option)
2. Chris Davis
3. Mike Trout
4. Yoenis Cespedes

Kicking myself for leaving Trumbo off. But I think he'll make Cano's squad. Here's my prediction:

1. Cano
2. Davis
3. Trumbo
4. Prince Fielder

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