The 2012 Major League Baseball season goes dark for a few days after Sunday's games for next week's All-Star Game in Kansas City. One of the highlights of any All-Star Game is the annual Home Run Derby, staged on the Monday night before the Midsummer Classic.
Barring injury, the field is set for this year's Derby.
National League captain Matt Kemp, the Dodgers star who led the NL in homers a year ago with 39, chose all first-time Derby contestants in the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who beat out Kemp for NL MVP honors in 2011 and currently leads the NL in homers, wasn't chosen.
Kemp will compete this year despite being on the disabled list for Los Angeles with a hamstring injury — the team is essentially including this contest as the final stage of his rehab assignment. Kemp was in the Derby last year and finished last after hitting just two homers in the first round. He is 6-1 on Bovada to win this year.
Stanton, arguably the purest power hitter in baseball, is the top NL favorite at 4-1. He has two of the longest homers in the majors this year and is third in the NL through Tuesday with 19 homers. A season ago, Stanton hit the longest home runs of the season by any player at the Mets' Citi Field (465 feet), Washington's Nationals Park (455 feet), the Rockies' Coors Field (475 feet) and the Marlins' former home, Sun Life Stadium (466 feet).
Beltran (22-1) signed with the Cardinals this offseason to help replace the production of Albert Pujols. Largely because of injury, Beltran, who began his career in Kansas City with the Royals, hasn't hit more than 30 homers since 2007. But he is on pace to go well past that with 20 so far this season entering Tuesday.
The Rockies' Gonzalez (13-2) has a career high of 34 homers, set in 2010, but is on pace to potentially top that with 17 dingers entering Tuesday.
As for the American League, captain Robinson Cano of the Yankees chose first-timer Mark Trumbo of the Angels along with former Derby contestants Prince Fielder of the Tigers and Toronto's Jose Bautista.
Cano (11-2) is the defending champion after the New York second baseman outslugged the Red Sox's Adrian Gonzalez 12-11 in the final round to win last year. Those dozen home runs set a record for a final-round total. Cano has 20 homers this season as of Wednesday.
Bautista is the 7-2 favorite and should be. He was the majors' home-run leader in 2010 and 2011 and is currently leading the league with 27 longballs. Bautista was on fire in June with 14 homers after entering the month with only 12. He competed in the 2011 Derby and was knocked out in the first round after going deep four times.
Fielder (5-1) won the Derby once, when with the Milwaukee Brewers. He also competed last year for Milwaukee and reached the second round before being eliminated. Fielder is struggling some in his first season in Detroit with only 12 homers.
And finally, the Angels' Trumbo (6-1) is having an MVP-caliber season and has hit 20 homers to lead the team. In just his second season, Trumbo is likely the least-known player in the Derby.
The eight players in the field will be cut to four after the first round and then two for the finals, when the totals are reset. Players get 10 outs, and any swing that doesn't result in a home run is considered an out.
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