One year ago, our hero Yoenis Cespedes showcased his remarkable abilities when he crushed 32 bombs on his way to the 2013 Home Run Derby title. It was one of the most incredible displays of power in Derby history, and Yoenis was finally recognized as one of the elite power hitters in the game today. He concluded his glorious night with one of the greatest bat flips in the history of bat flips; a majestic flip signifying his superiority over the rest of the baseball universe:
Tonight, he returns to the Derby to defend his precious title. The only player to ever win the Derby in back-to-back years was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999, so history is most certainly against our hero. Also in his way is a significantly stronger group of competition compared to last year’s opposing crop of sluggers. Sure, Yoenis had to defeat the religious experience that was #ChristDavis, as well as Nationals phenom BRUCE HOOPER. But 2014 brings a whole new challenge; a challenge that may or may not rhyme with the words “Ziancarlo Blanton”.
This year’s home run contest includes ten hitters instead of eight, and a new format that I don’t entirely understand. I can reasonably assume that the main objective is still to hit as many gargantuan over-the-fence balls as possible. Under that assumption, here’s a preview of tonight’s extravaganza:
Derby competitors ranked by likeliness to win, from least likely to most likely:
10. Brian Dozier (0% chance to win)
- This is a nice story. Brian Dozier is an awesome baseball player with more power than one might expect from a 5’11” second baseman. But no. There is absolutely no way this guy comes anywhere near the Derby crown. I do fully expect the Minnesota crowd to give him a hearty applause for every line drive he laces into the enormous gaggle of incompetent children attempting to field the baseballs. He might even hit a few actual home runs! Just a few, though. Just a few
9. Justin Morneau (0% chance to win)
- This is an even nicer story! Morneau, the consistently concussed Canadian, returns to his old stomping grounds to prove to his former fans that he can still hit the ball out the park, and not just his friendly new Coors Field home. But again, the Derby is not about nice stories; it’s about ruthless destruction of baseballs into parts of the park that we don’t even know exist yet. I’m a big Morneau fan, and I genuinely hope he performs at a respectable level. Unfortunately, he doesn’t match up very well against some of the powerhouses in this year’s contest.
8. Josh Donaldson (0% chance to win)
- A teammate of our beloved slugger, Donaldson has recently emerged as one of the premier third baseman in all of baseball. He’s certainly got the kind of raw power you wanna see in a Derby contender, but his swing just doesn’t quite scream HOME RUN CHAMPION to me like some of the others he’ll be competing against do. Donaldson is much more likely to seriously injure one of the juvenile outfielders with a screaming line drive than he is to hit a tape-measure bomb to the third deck in left field. He’s a fantastic baseball player, but he does not appear to have the best skill-set to win this competition.
7. Todd Frazier (0% chance to win)
- Just when you thought the Derby couldn’t get any more DAD after Michael Cuddyer’s inspiring 2013 performance, here comes good ol’ Toad Frizzer. Frazier does have legitimate power, but it’s weird power. If you recall, Frazier’s the one that once THREW THE BAT AT THE BALL AND HIT A HOME RUN. It will be interesting to see if he employs that unique strategy tonight, although I’d imagine he’d be quickly disqualified for endangering the lives of those in the vicinity of his swing.
6. Troy Tulowitzki (0% chance to win)
- Tulo might just be the best non-Trout player on the planet, and it will be fascinating to see how his elite intensity carries over into the Derby. The best part about Tulo this year has been the fact that he’s actually playing baseball almost every day, which we haven’t seen him do in nearly three years. Tulowitzki is heading into the All-Star break with a comical 1.048 OPS, and yes, of course you can attribute a lot of that to Coors Field, but HE IS STILL REALLY FREAKIN’ GOOD OKAY GOSH. Anyway, while Tulo has always had impressive power, he never really comes to mind as someone that can put on a crazy show in batting practice. As the captain, Tulo’s already achieved exactly what we were all hoping for, and that’s picking Yasiel Puig and Giancarlo Stanton to be on the NL team with him. Whatever Tulo actually does in the Derby probably won’t matter at all. How clever! Maybe Tulo will show up and hit lefty. He’d still probably out-homer Dozier.
5. Adam Jones (1% chance to win)
- Jonesy is the first challenger that I’m giving any outside chance to win, and this is almost entirely because of what we saw last week at Nationals Park. Jones is certainly known for his power, but what we saw was far more impressive than anything we’ve seen in game for him. During his few rounds of batting practice during the series in Washington against the Nats, Jones was routinely parking balls way, WAY beyond the left-center field fence. He’s not gonna win, but he could totally win. He’s got more pop than you think.
4. Jose Bautista (1% chance to win)
- We have a complicated history with Mr. Bats. A while back, Jose Bautista followed us on Twitter. This was certainly not any sort of achievement; Jose Bautista follows everyone on Twitter. What happened several weeks later was significantly more impressive: Jose Bautista unfollowed us. What could the BBQ have POSSIBLY done to get Joey Bats to click the unfollow button? How did he even notice us in his presumably insane news feed full of random weirdos? There are many questions left unanswered. What we do know is that Joey Bats can still hit some moon shots. He’s hit some crazy home runs in-game against the woeful Twins in Target Field, like this second-deck shot from 2011. He’s certainly weird on the Internet, but he can still mash with the best of them. I expect an impressive performance from Sir Bats.
3. Yasiel Puig (3% chance to win)
- Do we love Puig? Of course we love Puig. He’s a ridiculous baseball player with an even more ridiculous personality. There’s no one quite like him, and he’s got the kind of raw power to win this competition. His subtle rivalry with Yoenis is one that has been bubbling ever since he started tearing up the National League early last year, and tonight’s Derby might elevate the competitive Cubans to another level of competitive Cuban-ness. Puig is a wildcard though, and while we can be sure he’ll hit some obscene bombs to deep left field tonight, there’s an equally good chance that he pops some balls up in the infield. He’ll certainly have fun with it, but I’m not convinced he has the focus to win the entire thing.
2. Giancarlo Stanton (5% chance to win)
- There are a lot of very smart people that believe that this competition is already over; Giancarlo has more power than any other non-Wily Mo Pena hitter in the world, and he should steamroll the competition in his first ever Derby. I absolutely love watching Giancarlo hit baseballs hilariously far distances with ease. He’s amazing. He’s younger than George Springer! He has a legitimate chance to dethrone our hero from Granma. I have no inside info regarding how badly Giancarlo wants to win this competition, but I can guarantee you the Derby crown doesn’t mean as much to him as it does to La Potencia.
1. Yoenis Cespedes (90% chance to win) (click here for our official Derby preview video)
- Here’s the thing everyone needs to understand about Yoenis Céspedes Milanés: he lives for the long ball. He may not pimp them like Big Papi, flip them like Puig, or crush them like Giancarlo. Those aesthetics are unquestionably great. But they simply can’t match Cespedes on a spiritual level. ‘Tonight, every ball that travels from Yo’s barrel to the outfield seats will mean so much more than any other home run. As each ball flies into the great beyond of Target Field, take a moment to appreciate the simplest thing we have in life: the dinger. A man, his bat, his eyebrows, and Chris Berman screaming “BACKBACKBACKBACKBACKBACK”. Tonight, we believe.