Imagine being named American League Home Run Derby captain. You have the decision of picking four of your peers from 16 teams to help you win a contest that was never meant to be won by a team but rather by an individual. The MLB has tried to change the Derby into a team event, but fans continue to view it as who the individual winner will be.
When the captain is in the stage of choosing his four teammates to help represent his league the first idea is to look down his own clubhouse. That had to be the first thought of 2014 AL Captain Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. Bautista is lucky enough to be teammates with the AL leader in home runs Edwin Encarnacion. Bautista and Encarnacion have hit a combined 39 home runs this year which is the best of any two teammates in MLB.
Encarnacion has hit a league leading 25 home runs so far this season and 16 of those came in the month of May when he won AL player of the month. There was no question Bautista would ask his teammate and friend to join him in Minnesota but Encarnacion told Rogers Sportsnets Barry Davis that he has no interest in participating in this years home run derby. Last year Encarnacion did have interest in participating but wasn’t asked by captain Robin Cano.
The third place Blue Jays slugger is a tie (12) with Jose Francisco, who has been a surprise this year but has struggled of late and Brett Lawrie, who will be on the DL for the next 3-6 weeks. So Bautista doesn’t have many options from within his own organization, however, there are no shortage of options from the other 15 teams. So here’s a look at who could team up with Bautista in Minnesota on July 14th.
Nelson Cruz- Baltimore Orioles
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (3/67)
Cruz tied Encarnacion in home runs Wednesday night, but that was only his fourth home run for the month of June. Cruz has the type of power that when he’s on, he’s crushing every ball. In April he had six and just like Encarnacion he crushed the ball in May with 13.
Since Encarnacion isn’t available, Bautista might go next in line. Cruz has no home run derby experience which could be a factor in Bautista’s decision but it’s going to be tough for Bautista to go to Minnesota without at least one of the two top power hitters in the American League.
Jose Abreu- Chicago White Sox
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (1/17)
The 27 year old Abreu is having one heck of a rookie season with 23 home runs which is right behind Encarnacion and Cruz. Abreu is not a household name in the MLB as he is only a rookie so choosing him to join the Home Run Derby might not be in the MLB’s best interest but Bautista himself was a no-name before becoming a consistent all-star. Bautista could give Abreu the chance to show all the baseball fans his true power and create a special moment for the young MLBer.
Victor Martinez- Detroit Tigers
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (3/90)
After missing all of 2012 with an injury Martinez returned in 2013 only to smack 14 home runs. Martinez was no longer a power hitter, or at least many thought that was the case. So far this season Martinez has hit 20 home runs, but at the age of 35 it is tough to see him participating in a contest that involves stamina. Martinez may have found his power but the home run derby really is not for him. Although he’s currently fourth in the American League in home runs, Bautista has better and younger options.
Josh Donaldson/Brandon Moss- Oakland Athletics
Donaldson: Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (1/29)
Moss: Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (1/24)
Donaldson and Moss have both hit 18 home runs this season making them a dangerous duo like Bautista and Encarnacion. Also like Bautista and Encarnacion, both Donaldson and Moss were late bloomers in their MLB careers. Donaldson’s break out season came last year when he hit 24 home runs. The previous two seasons in 89 games Donaldson only hit 10 balls out of the park. Moss had 20 home runs in 2009 with Pittsburgh, which was his fourth season in the bigs. The next two seasons Moss took a setback only appearing in 22 games, but reestablished himself in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since.
Donaldson and Moss play for an Oakland team that has been one of the best teams in the American League all season, but it’s only possible to see at least one of the two in the Derby this year. Even though they are on a 48-win team, Bautista could possibly still pass up on both of them.
Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (0/20)
The 22-year old Trout is one of the games bright spots for the future, but has yet to take part in the home run derby over his short four year career. Could this be the year? Could Bautista possibly go for some young blood to try and spark energy out of the American League side. Trout isn’t blowing anyone away with his 17 home runs, but having players who’ve never participated before could be good for the Derby’s future.
Brian Dozier- Minnesota Twins
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (20/578)
It’s the home team guy. Everyone wants a home team guy in the home run derby and with the break out year 27-year old Dozier is having everyone in Minnesota hopes to see him participate in this years Derby. Back when Kansas City hosted the all-star festivities, captain Cano did not pick home town Billy Butler which led to a lot of boos for Cano.
For Dozier, 15 of his 20 career home runs at Target Field have come this year. He’s an obvious all-star at second base, but Dozier could be part of the American League Derby roster as well. With an added spot to both Leagues (four participants to five), Bautista could easily save a spot for Dozier.
Yoenis Cespedes- Oakland Athletics
Career Home runs vs. At bats at Target Field (2/38)
Two of Cespedes teammates, Donaldson and Moss have already been brought up as possible participants in this years Derby, but the power bat of Cespedes can’t be forgotten as an option. The 28-year old was last years Home Run Derby Champion so for Bautista it’s not easy turning his back on someone who’s proven he can be a strong participant. Cespedes put on a show last year making him an obvious choice, but Bautista could easily go a different direction.
Other options: David Ortiz (18), Albert Pujols (16), Adam Jones (14), George Springer (14), Mark Teixeira (14), Miguel Cabrera (13), Chris Davis (13)
American League Home Run Derby Roster Predictions: Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Brian Dozier, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu
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