By Doug Miller and Anthony Castrovince
MLB.com |@castrovince |
SAN DIEGO -- The clock is ticking down to the 2016 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, and the clock will be ticking down when the eight sluggers selected for this high-profile All-Star appetizer step into the batter's box at Petco Park.
The Derby, which begins at 8 ET/5 PT tonight on ESPN with a simulcast on MLB.com, is the second one to feature the new format instituted in 2015, when Todd Frazier put on a clock-beating, field-beating show in Cincinnati. With the scene now shifted to -- ahem -- Slam Diego, it's not just the four-minute rounds and bracket format that provide a test of efficiency, but the ballpark itself will provide a test of endurance. Petco, after all, is not exactly known as a hitter's paradise, and its deep dimensions will create an added dimension to this display.
"It's endurance, man," Frazier said. "It's a long way, especially if you make it back to the Finals. The advantage is going second and knowing how many you need to hit and how fast you need to go. Hopefully the outs are line drives instead of pop flies, because that takes a few seconds off your time."
Frazier, clearly, has this stuff down to a science, which is how he attained his status as a defending Derby champ and why he decided to come back for more despite not being selected to the American League roster for Tuesday's 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
Fortunately for us, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, a man seemingly tailor made for the Derby stage, made the same decision in an effort to make up for lost time.
"I was scheduled to do two previously and had to pull out [because of injury] a couple days before," Stanton said. "I wanted to regain those opportunities, and this is a good one."
Stanton comes in on a roll. He blasted four homers in four at-bats on July 5-6, with the capper of that amazing feat (only 39 other players have done it) being the 200th long ball of his still-young career. Then Stanton hit another one Sunday.
Frazier won this event last year at Great American Ball Park as the Reds' hometown hero, and he will try to defend as a member of the Chicago White Sox. This time around, it's Padres star Wil Myers who has a chance to win the hardware in front of his home fans. He's in his first Derby, as are Adam Duvall of the Reds and rookie Corey Seager of the Dodgers.
Myers certainly is doing his part to change Petco's pitcher-friendly reputation. He's hit 13 of his 19 homers there this season.
"I don't think there's a secret to it," Myers said. "I just think it's a good park for me to see the ball. It has a good hitter's eye."
The rest of the field features veterans such as Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano (the 2011 Derby champ), Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and the Major League leader in long balls in 2016, Baltimore's Mark Trumbo, who has 28.
Cano will be participating in his fourth career Derby (2011, when he won, plus '12, '13) but his first with the timed format.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "In the past, you had the chance to take a pitch and until you got out, you keep going. Now you're timed. You hit a fly ball, it's going to take a couple of seconds. It's going to be tough, especially for those of us who haven't done it in the past."
Frazier will be competing in the event for the third consecutive year after advancing to the Finals in 2014 and winning last year. Gonzalez (2012), Stanton ('14) and Trumbo ('12) will each appear in their second career Derby.
Here's how it will work:
Players were seeded one through eight, based on home run totals through Wednesday. As the top seed, Trumbo will take on No. 8 Seager in the first round, with the winner of that head-to-head battle facing the winner of No. 4 Cano and No. 5 Stanton in the semifinals.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 seed Duvall faces No. 6 Myers and No. 2 Frazier meets No. 7 Gonzalez in the first round.
The winners of those two dinger duels will meet in the other semifinal. Then the last two sluggers standing hack for the hardware in the final round.
And now for the rules:
• Single-elimination tournament in which the winner of each matchup advances and the loser of each matchup is eliminated.
• If the second batter hits more home runs than the first batter in any matchup, he will be declared the winner and not attempt to hit additional home runs.
• Four minutes per batter for each round. Clock starts with the release of the first pitch. In the first round and semifinals, each batter is entitled to one 45-second timeout. In the finals, each batter is entitled to two 45-second timeouts.
• Thirty seconds of bonus time will be awarded for two home runs that each equal or exceed 440 feet.
• Ties in any round will be broken by a 60-second swing-off with no stoppage of time or additional time added. If a tie remains after the swing-off, batters will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner.
Distances and exit velocity during the event and in the player profiles below come courtesy of Statcast™.
So without further ado, here's the Tale of the Taters for the 2016 All-Star Home Run Derby, listed in order of seeding:
1. MARK TRUMBO, ORIOLES
Trumbo's big league lead in roundtrippers gets him the top seed, simple as that. But let's not forget that he did pretty well in his Derby debut in 2012, when he finished third overall as a member of the Angels and put dents in several seats and back walls of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Trumbo also has nine homers of more than 425 feet this season, which leads the Majors.
Longest HR of 2016: 458 feet, June 2 (sixth inning) vs. Red Sox, off Rick Porcello Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 114.8 mph, June 2 (fourth inning) vs. Red Sox, off Porcello Average HR distance in 2016: 413 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 107.2 mph
2. TODD FRAZIER, WHITE SOX
Frazier is not on the All-Star team this year, but he scored a well-deserved invitation to this party because, well, he's the defending champ. Frazier came up huge last year in front of his then-home crowd in Cincinnati, beating Josh Donaldson in the last second in the semis and besting Joc Pederson in the final. And the swap to the White Sox hasn't slowed him down: Frazier already has 25 homers this year.
"I feel stronger, I feel more relaxed, a little quicker swing," he said. "I feel really good at the plate right now."
Longest HR of 2016: 427 feet, May 31 at Mets, off Steven Matz Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 109.4 mph, May 14 at Yankees, off Ivan Nova Average HR distance in 2016: 391 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 102.8 mph
3. ADAM DUVALL, REDS
Here's the breakout dark-horse candidate. Duvall, the Reds and their fans are enjoying the emergence of this onetime top prospect as an everyday Major Leaguer, and he's bringing the pop to match the hype. Duvall, who has 23 homers, will try to make it two consecutive Derby titles for Cincinnati, following up on Frazier's hometown heroics last year before being traded to Chicago.
Longest HR of 2016: 457 feet, May 22 vs. Mariners, off Wade Miley Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 110.3 mph, May 22 vs. Mariners, off Miley Average HR distance in 2016: 401 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 103.5 mph
4. ROBINSON CANO, MARINERS
It's hard to forget Cano winning this event at Chase Field in Phoenix in 2011 with his dad, former big league pitcher Jose Cano, feeding him those middle-middle cookies to get the job done. It's also hard to forget the reception he got from displeased Kansas City fans the following year when the Midsummer Classic was at Kauffman Stadium and Cano -- who was serving as AL captain -- didn't select Royals slugger Billy Butler to take part in the festivities and Cano went homerless in the first round. Cano clearly wasn't fazed by that experience, as he's back for his fourth Derby while on pace to set a career high in homers.
Longest HR of 2016: 427 feet, June 9 vs. Indians, off Bryan Shaw Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 109.9 mph, April 4 at Rangers, off Cole Hamels Average HR distance in 2016: 395 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 104.5 mph
5. GIANCARLO STANTON, MARLINS
Stanton started the 2016 season slowly, but he has been on an incredible tear lately. The Southern California native has an average home run exit velocity of 109.7 mph, which is the best in baseball. Also, among players with at least 10 homers, Stanton's average distance of 419.7 ranks fourth and he has three homers of 450-plus feet, second only to Gonzalez.
Longest HR of 2016: 475 feet, May 6 vs. Phillies, off Hector Neris Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 116.8 mph, April 30 at Brewers, off Chase Anderson Average HR distance in 2016: 419.7 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 109.7 mph
6. WIL MYERS, PADRES
The hometown hero won it last year, and this is San Diego's chance to see a local guy take the crown. The 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner is delivering on his potential in a powerful way with 19 long balls thus far. Myers will become the 19th player from a host team to partake in the Derby, and it marks the fourth consecutive year for the Derby to feature a hometown competitor, following David Wright at Citi Field in 2013, Brian Dozier at Target Field in '14 and Frazier in Cincinnati last year.
Longest HR of 2016: 453 feet, April 9 at Colorado, off Chad Qualls Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 113.2 mph, June 16 vs. Washington, off Tanner Roark Average HR distance in 2016: 401 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 104.8 mph
7. CARLOS GONZALEZ, ROCKIES
He's healthy, and we all know what that means when it comes to CarGo. Gonzalez had a torrid second half of 2015 to finish with 40 dingers last year, and he's doing a much better job hitting left-handers in what's turned out to be a sterling first half of 2016. Among players with at least 10 homers this season, his average distance of 424.3 feet is second only to Nomar Mazara (427.7 feet) of the Rangers. Gonzalez, who plays half his games in the thin air of Coors Field, also has four homers of 450 feet, which leads baseball. His homer against Zack Greinke on April 4 was the hardest-hit home run tracked by Statcast™ this season.
Longest HR of 2016: 462 feet, Sunday vs. Phillies, off Hector Neris Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 117.4 mph, April 4 at Diamondbacks, off Greinke Average HR distance in 2016: 44.3 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 105.5 mph
8. COREY SEAGER, DODGERS
At 22 years of age, the rookie wunderkind of Los Angeles has the chance to become the youngest Derby champion ever. Seager can get tips on how to handle that pressure from his teammate, Pederson, who lost in the finals in Cincinnati last year, and from his brother, Mariners third baseman Kyle, a former All-Star. Seager will become the seventh rookie to compete in the Derby, joining California's Wally Joyner (1986), Oakland's Jose Canseco ('86) and Mark McGwire ('87), Mike Piazza of the Dodgers ('93), and Kris Bryant of the Cubs (2015).
Longest HR of 2016: 440 feet, June 13 at Brewers, off Greinke Hardest-hit HR of 2016: 109.9 mph, May 31 at Cubs, off Trevor Cahill Average HR distance in 2016: 399 feet Average exit velocity in 2016: 103.4 mph
T-Mobile will make a donation for every home run hit during the Derby, with $1,000 for every home run hit with a regular ball and $2,000 for every home run hit with a magenta ball, which will be used during the bonus round. The entire charity pool will be donated to the winner's local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club, and a local youth baseball initiative selected by the winner. The other Derby participants will also receive $10,000 for a youth baseball initiative of their choosing.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.