Most bettors like to use the All-Star Break as a chance to recharge the batteries or simply take a couple days off from the grind. That doesn’t have to be the case because Bovada.lv has odds on the 2014 Home Run Derby from Target Field in Minneapolis. This year’s field of 10 features some of the biggest bashers in the league and should be another exciting event.
The first thing to do when handicapping the Home Run Derby is to look at the park itself. Target Field is not known as an offensive ballpark and there are some features that will make it difficult for the hitters. It would be difficult for bettors to back Justin Morneau, this year’s only left-handed hitter because of the tall limestone wall in right field. Only Oakland, Miami, and San Francisco had a lower park factor for lefties last season. A park factor of 100 is average and Target Field rated an 87.
Target Field won’t be a picnic for the righties either. With a park factor of 97, it rates in the middle of the pack, but the left field foul pole is 337 feet away, which is one of the deeper parks in the league. The ball carries well to left center, a 377-foot poke away from home plate, but temperatures are expected to be a little on the cool side with upper 50s in the forecast, though winds could be gusting out from the northwest at up to 25 miles per hour if the current forecast holds true.
Here are this year’s Derby participants and their odds:
Giancarlo Stanton - 5/2
The Marlins slugger enters this year’s Derby as the favorite at Bovada.lv. Stanton entered play on Saturday tied for fifth in home runs with 21, an impressive total given how tough his home park is on hitters. The 24-year-old has hit 138 home runs in 581 career games. He’s known for tape measure home runs and putting on a show in batting practice, but there has to be some concern in this format with the 6’6”, 240 lbs Stanton tiring out from taking so many swings.
Jose Bautista - 5/1
After mostly coming out of nowhere to hit 97 home runs in 2010-11, Jose Bautista has battled various ailments over the last couple of seasons. This year, Bautista entered play on Saturday with 17 long balls in 88 games. Bautista’s HR/FB% has dropped in each of the last four seasons because of those injuries and he’s now 33 years old. He could put up a great first round total and hit some bombs, but he may wear down if he doesn’t save some for later.
Yasiel Puig - 5/1
It would be fitting for Yasiel Puig to win the Home Run Derby and give the most epic of bat flips to signify his win. Ever the showman, Puig entered play on Saturday with 12 home runs in his second season in the Majors. Fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes won the event last year, even though rookie Derby participants have struggled in previous years. Hitters have to know how to pace themselves and that may not be Puig’s strong suit.
Yoenis Cespedes - 5/1
The reigning champion is back to try and defend his title. Cespedes entered play on Saturday with 14 home runs in his third season in the bigs. Like Puig, Cespedes has more of a line drive swing than guys like Stanton and Bautista, which may be the way to win the Derby. It seems that the prolific home run hitters win the distance title, but the line drive guys are better equipped to win the event. Cespedes could be worth a look again this year because down the line is the best place to be and he likes to get out in front and hook the ball.
Troy Tulowitzki - 7/1
Approach Troy Tulowitzki with caution in this event. He entered play on Saturday tied with Giancarlo Stanton for fifth in home runs with 21, but 14 have been hit at home and seven have been hit on the road. For Tulo’s career, he has hit 99 home runs at home and 77 on the road with a nearly identical home/road split of games and at bats. He’ll probably be the trendy pick because of the season he’s having, but Tulowitzki should probably be avoided.
Josh Donaldson - 9/1
Josh Donaldson is a great sleeper pick for this year’s Home Run Derby. Donaldson entered play on Saturday tied for eighth with Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs with 20 home runs. Donaldson also has to contend with a home park that suppresses home runs, so his season is that much more impressive. If you’re looking for value, Donaldson might be the guy to look at.
Justin Morneau - 12/1
It’ll be a fun homecoming for Justin Morneau, who was a long-time Twin before stints with Pittsburgh and now Colorado. Morneau has resurrected his career in the thin air with a great season so far. Morneau has performed well away from Coors Field, but his slugging percentage is 30 points higher at home than on the road. In his career at Target Field, Morneau has a .436 slugging percentage with 20 HR in 766 at bats. His career slugging percentage is .483. Bettors would be wise to pass on Morneau.
Todd Frazier - 12/1
Todd Frazier is having a huge year for the Reds, largely without a healthy Joey Votto to help out. Frazier entered play on Saturday with 17 home runs, tied for the 16th-most in the league. This event would seem to be out of Frazier’s element, but he is only two home runs away from exceeding his career high, so maybe the power surge is legit. It’s unlikely, however, that Frazier has the ability to win this contest.
Adam Jones - 14/1
Adam Jones is a free swinger, with one of the lowest walk rates in the league. Even though this is a controlled environment that’s no more than glorified batting practice, Jones may get impatient in the box. Patience is everything in the Derby because hitters need to get pitches to hit in their “nitro zone” because of the precious number of outs they get. For Jones, he may expand his zone a little bit too much and swing at pitches that he should probably take.
Brian Dozier - 14/1
The fans will undoubtedly be in the corner of Minnesota Twin Brian Dozier. Dozier entered play on Saturday tied with the aforementioned Adam Jones with 16 home runs. Unlike Jones, Dozier is one of the more patient hitters in the league and that should be a big asset for him if he can stave off the nerves of participating in front of the home crowd. His pitch selection could be better than that of his competitors and could make him an interesting long shot.
Pick: Giancarlo Stanton
He's a chalky pick, but Giancarlo Stanton is in the best position to win the Home Run Derby. He's healthy this season and his incredible power to all fields gives him more of a chance than the other competitors to hit pitches on the outer half of the plate out of the ballpark. Hitters that can swing at a bad pitch, in Home Run Derby terms, and still hit it out have the best shot to take home the title and Stanton is best equipped to do just that.
The 2014 Home Run Derby will be televised live on ESPN on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET.