David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday Bring Experience to Home Run Derby

by

David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday Bring Experience to Home Run Derby From Mark McGwire's moon shots onto the Mass Pike in 1999 to Bobby Abreu's shocking power outburst in 2005 and Josh Hamilton's Herculean 28 home runs in the first round at Yankee Stadium in 2008, the Home Run Derby has had its share of memorable moments.

Every year, every round and every swing is a chance for someone to etch his name in MLB lore. Often, the event is criticized for its lack of star power, as players and teams have grown wary of the competition's long-term impact on a player's health and second-half production.

Nevertheless, there is something mesmerizing about watching eight of the game's best swing for the fences in the ultimate test of power, regardless of who those eight end up being. You never know how many, how high and how far you are going to see balls travel, contributing to the must-see value of the event.

Simply put, it's DVR-worthy television.

After all, if hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports, then blasting a ball almost 500 feet is nearly impossible. Yet, each year, eight contestants vie to become champion of what is seemingly a test of masculinity.

So who will be this year's king of swing? Here's a look at the eight guys who will be swinging for the Angels Stadium fences on Monday night.

David Ortiz, designated hitter, Red Sox
2010 home runs: 17
Career home runs: 334

Ortiz returns to the competition after a three-year hiatus. He is a veteran when it comes to the competition however, having competed three times from 2004 to 2006. Though he's never won the derby, Ortiz has put up some impressive first-round totals on two separate occasions. After testing the waters and struggling in the 2004 competition, the slugging DH returned the following year and belted 17 first-round dingers at Comerica Park, but was overshadowed by Bobby Abreu's 24-home run barrage. In 2006, Ortiz had 10 home runs in the first round but was again eliminated following the second round. His 334 career home runs are the most among the contestants.

Miguel Cabrera, first baseman, Detroit Tigers
2010 home runs: 22
Career home runs: 231

Cabrera is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, leading the league in average and RBIs, and ranked third in home runs. Like Ortiz, Cabrera returns after a three-year break from the derby. In his lone appearance in 2006, the Venezuelan hit 9 home runs in the first round at Comerica Park, the place he now calls home. He went on to smash six dingers in the second round but was eliminated at the same time as Ortiz. Cabrera's highest single-season home run total came in his first season with the Detroit Tigers in 2008, when he smashed 37 long balls.

Vernon Wells, center fielder, Toronto Blue Jays
2010 home runs: 19
Career home runs: 211

A three-time All-Star, Wells has never participated in the event. He is no stranger to the long ball though, having had six seasons of 20 or more home runs, and he's lined up for a seventh. Wells saw a drastic drop in production last season when he had only 15 home runs to go with 66 RBIs and a .260 average. This season, though, the Blue Jays' center fielder is back to the intimidating form that earned him a lucrative contract from the team. Wells' biggest power output came in 2003 when he hit 33 home runs.

Nick Swisher, right fielder, New York Yankees
2010 home runs: 15
Career home runs: 148

It's been a big week for the Yankees' right fielder. Three days after learning that he would be making his first All-Star appearance, Swisher was asked to take part in the Home Run Derby, an invitation that he could not decline. In his seven seasons between Oakland, Chicago and New York, the always vocal Swisher has been a major power source in whatever lineup he's hit in. He's had over 20 home runs the past five seasons and is on pace to surpass that mark again this season. Though Swisher's average is usually in the mid .200s, he has raised his average to up over .300 this season, making him even more of an offensive weapon. In 2006, Swisher hit 35 home runs with the Oakland Athletics, his highest season total.

Matt Holliday, left fielder, St. Louis Cardinals
2010 home runs: 15
Career home runs: 167

The 30-year-old left the friendly confines of Coors Field after 2008, but he has shown that his power was not just a byproduct of the Colorado air. Holliday has provided some major pop in the middle of the Cardinals order, which has earned him a trip to his fourth All-Star Game. The Home Run Derby will be the second for the Cardinals' right fielder. His first appearance came at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2007. In that competition, he hit 13 total home runs — he had five in the first round and eight in the second round. Holliday was eliminated following the second round, though, in the contest won by Vladimir Guerrero.

Hanley Ramirez, shortstop, Florida Marlins
2010 home runs: 13
Career home runs: 116

Ramirez is a speedy middle infielder, which usually doesn't scream "Home Run Derby candidate." However, the 26-year-old former Red Sox farmhand has blossomed into one of the game's elite and has shown a knack for smacking the ball out of the ballpark and driving in runs. Ramirez, who won a batting title last season, can almost pick his spots when he's at the dish and is widely regarded as one of the game's most complete players. As far as power goes, Ramirez's biggest season was in 2008, when he hit 33 bombs. This year's All-Star appearance will be the third for the 2006 Rookie of the Year. The Derby appearance will be his first.

Corey Hart, right fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
2010 home runs: 20
Career home runs: 87

Hart has never really been a household name, which is probably due to him playing in the shadows of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun in Milwaukee. But the 6-foot-6 outfielder has shown that he can swing a big stick, too. Though Hart only hit 12 home runs in 115 games last year, the 28-year-old has regained the swing that helped him hit 24 and 20 home runs in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In fact, it often gets lost in the shuffle that Hart was an All-Star for the Brew Crew in 2008, a season in which he also stole 23 bases. Hart's appearance might have some people scratching their heads, but his 20 home runs this season is no joke, and he could introduce himself to the baseball world with a few big swings on Monday.

Chris Young, center fielder, Arizona Diamondbacks
2010 home runs: 15
Career home runs: 86

Young, along with Swisher, is the latest addition to the competition. After a couple of solid seasons that had many wondering the outfielder's ceiling, Young struggled throughout his 2009 campaign, finishing with only 15 home runs and a .212 average. This season, he looks more like the guy who smacked 32 home runs for the D-Backs in 2007, and like Hart, could really introduce himself to the world with a solid performance on Monday night. Perhaps if Young played his home games at a more favorable hitter's park, his power numbers would be even more impressive. Like Wells, Swisher, Ramirez and Hart, this is Young's first Home Run Derby appearance.

So with five first-time contestants, this year's Home Run Derby will have a new look to it. Will the veteran sluggers show the new guys a thing or too, or could a late addition like Chris Young make a splash?

The edge has to go to Ortiz, Cabrera and Holliday because they've been here before and have a better understanding of what it takes to conserve energy and disperse it throughout the three-round competition. All too often, fatigue, mixed with nerves, can spell the end for the Derby rookies.

A competition like this seems to be built for hitters like Ortiz, who has historically hit the ball out of the ballpark at a solid clip. The question will be whether he can get over the second-round hurdle that has doomed him in the past. Ortiz and Cabrera should at least get to that second round, though.

Joining them could be Swisher, who has had a whirlwind week. Everything seems to be working in his favor, so why should it stop now?

Ramirez's talent is off the charts and, while he is usually more of an average hitter than a power hitter, one has to expect big things from the still-young shortstop.

Prediction: Ortiz, Cabrera, Swisher and Ramirez advance. Cabrera over Ortiz in the finals.  

Picked For You