The Home Run Derby is usually pretty silly and always drags on for what seems like far too long, but it’s a spectacle and there’s a chance of seeing something special and it’s just about the only thing on television tonight. Tigers slugger Prince Fielder took the crown last year at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and will be one of the eight participants this evening at New York’s Citi Field. Let’s review tonight’s batch of big boppers:
David Wright, 3B, Mets
Wright was named this year’s captain for the National League and was tasked with inviting three other participants. One of his original picks, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, had to bow out because of a sore finger. Wright has hit only three home runs at pitcher-friendly Citi Field this year; he’s slugged another 10 on the road.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Rockies
Cuddyer roared out of the gates this season and then missed two weeks in the middle May because of an inflamed cervical disc. His numbers have surely benefited from the thin air of Coors Field, but the veteran outfielder has been a legitimate run-producer since his days with the Twins. He’s sporting a cool .330/.391/.568 batting line with 16 homers and 55 RBI in 74 games.
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
Harper only has 13 home runs this season and 35 in his young major league career, but he might be the draw of the night. The 20-year-old loves the bright lights and some of his performances in past amateur home run derbies have become legendary. He has light-tower power.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
Alvarez is a sleeper pick to win the whole thing. He destroys baseballs in batting practice and that is essentially what the MLB Home Run Derby is -- a long, drawn out round of live BP. Alvarez has slugged 21 of his 24 home runs and boasts a stellar .882 OPS this year against right-handed pitching. His thrower tonight in the Home Run Derby at Citi Field will of course be right-handed.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
Cano was named the American League captain for the second year in a row and will try to produce the Derby winner yet again. Heck, he might just go win the thing himself. The 30-year-old impending free agent and recent Roc Nation Sports signee is hitting .302/.386/.531 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI in 95 games this season. He’s no stranger to New York crowds.
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Davis is the current big fly leader in the major leagues with 37 and it barely even looks like he’s trying on some of his home run swings. The guy has easy power and might be able to simply outlast his competitors and their full-effort rounds. Davis is on pace for 62 home runs here at the All-Star break.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
Fielder seems to put everything he has into each one of his swings -- whether the result is a groundout or flyout -- but his stamina was not an issue last year in Kansas City and he could certainly go win it again. The first baseman has an .894 OPS, 46 home runs and 177 RBI in 256 games since signing on with Detroit.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
There was a late push to get Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig into the 2013 All-Star mix, but Cespedes will have to do. Also a defector from Cuba, Cespedes has slugged 38 home runs and tallied 125 RBI in 208 games since signing a four-year, $36 million free agent contract with the A’s in March, 2012. He probably has the most raw strength of any batter in this field.
Archer Shoots Dem Arrows
As far as emergency sixth starters go, it doesn’t get much better than the Rays’ Chris Archer. The 24-year-old right-hander was roughed up in his 2013 regular-season debut on June 1 against the Indians but has been steadily improving since that date and twirled the first shutout of his career Sunday in the Rays’ 5-0 victory over the Astros.
Featuring a high-90s fastball (it is currently averaging 95.1 mph) and two effective off-speed pitches (slider and changeup), Archer boasts a dominant 2.27 ERA and 36 strikeouts over his last 47 2/3 major league innings and is a must-start at the moment in standard mixed fantasy formats.
Alex Cobb is making steady strides in his recovery from a concussion and will be ready to return to the Rays’ starting rotation around late July or early August, but it could be Roberto Hernandez and not Archer who is sent out to make room.
National League Quick Hits: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (shoulder) is expected to return from the disabled list on July 21 -- the first day he’s eligible … Ricky Nolasco suffered his first loss as a member of the Dodgers on Sunday against the Rockies … Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was charged with his fifth blown save of the season on Sunday versus the White Sox … Darwin Barney hit a three-run homer in the Cubs’ loss to the Cardinals on Sunday night … Matt Garza is likely to be traded before his next turn in the Cubs’ starting rotation … Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy allowed five runs over 6 1/3 innings Sunday in a loss to the Brewers and now has a 5.42 ERA on the year … Cole Hamels threw eight innings of two-run ball Sunday in a no-decision against the White Sox … Jay Bruce finished 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and two RBI in the Reds’ defeat of the Braves on Sunday … Cardinals closer Edward Mujica will replace Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright on the National League All-Star team … Wily Peralta allowed just one run over seven innings Sunday in the Brewers’ win over the Diamondbacks … Padres starter Eric Stults held the Giants to one run over six innings Sunday to earn his eighth win of the 2013 season … B.J. Upton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right abductor strain … Rafael Soriano earned his 25th save of the year in the Nationals’ win against the Marlins on Sunday … Braves catcher Brian McCann has replaced Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman on the National League All-Star roster … Carl Crawford remains day-to-day with a stiff back … Ben Revere’s fractured right foot will likely cost him 6-8 weeks … Sergio Romo is replacing Jordan Zimmermann on the National League All-Star team.
American League Quick Hits: Angels slugger Mark Trumbo tallied his 21st home run of the season Sunday against the Mariners … CC Sabathia was hammered for eight runs -- three earned -- over four innings in the Yankees’ loss to the Twins on Sunday … Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer on Sunday versus the Astros and is now batting .352/.444/.556 in 63 plate appearances this month … Scott Feldman earned his first win as a member of the Orioles on Sunday against the Blue Jays … Melky Cabrera (knee) is on track for activation immediately after the All-Star break … Royals closer Greg Holland was a late addition to the American League All-Star squad … Brett Myers (elbow) is still without a timetable to return to the major leagues … Justin Smoak stayed hot on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with a double in the Mariners’ win over the Angels … Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks hit his eighth home run of the season on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium … Paul Konerko (back) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Birmingham … Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar is day-to-day with a slight right hamstring strain … Jim Johnson collected his 33rd save of the 2013 season in the Orioles’ defeat of the Blue Jays on Sunday … Jason Kipnis went 2-for-2 with two walks, a double, two RBI and a run scored Sunday against the Royals … White Sox catcher Josh Phegley is day-to-day after taking a foul tip off his right index finger on Sunday afternoon … Justin Verlander held the Rangers scoreless over seven innings Sunday before being lifted with mild quad tightness … Chris Perez earned his 13th save of the year in the Indians’ victory over the Royals on Sunday … White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy looked sharp over five innings Sunday in a rehab start at Double-A Birmingham … Tigers signed Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract; assigned him to Triple-A Toledo.