I’m not a big fan of the all-star game, but I am a sucker for the spectacle of the Home Run Derby. I don’t think it’s a perfect event – it was a shame that Josh Hamilton did so well in the early round and wound up with nothing to show for it last year. Still, it’s always good for some drama and a few jaw-dropping moments. It’s also a chance to make some bets – always a good thing. Here’s a look at the field this year:
Albert Pujols (+200) – Needless to say, he’ll have the support of the crowd in St. Louis. He’s also in the midst of an incredibly good season, and he is hitting home runs at a monster rate – by far the most rapid pace in the field. This is his third time in the contest – he made it as far as the finals in 2003. There’s little doubt that Pujols should be the favorite in this situation, but it’s hard to find a lot of value in anyone at this price in an eight-horse field.
Ryan Howard (+250) – He’s won the Derby before, he’s broken out of his early season slump, and he’s got power galore – he’s a serious contender. I have the same value issues as I did with Pujols – a good pick, but not a great price. If I was going to pick someone at such a low price I would definitely take Pujols over Howard.
Prince Fielder (+350), Adrian Gonzalez (+500), Carlos Pena (+600) – I lump these three together because I see them in almost exactly the same way. Fielder is the only guy in the field with previous experience in the contest. They all can hit home runs, but they all don’t have as much deep power as people think they do – they can hit them out, but they don’t hit them way, way out. Any one of them could win, and I would have no real argument with any of them, but I still don’t see any value here.
Joe Mauer (+650) – If this contest were taking place in early May then I would be all over Mauer. He was ridiculously hot back then, hitting almost a home run every second game. He’s slowed down a lot on the power front since then, though. That means he’s back to what he has normally is – a serious, serious hitter who isn’t primarily a power guy. His name has him at this price, but his game shouldn’t. No value.
Brandon Inge (+1000) – Really?!? Why is this guy in this field. Nice guy. Decent hitter. But home run derby winner? Not likely. He’s beating Joe Mauer in home runs, but I don’t see how his power is sustainable, and I don’t really see how you can trust him here.
Nelson Cruz (+800) – I save this one for last for one good reason – I think he’s the best value in the field. He’s second in the American League in home runs, he’s hitting home runs at a faster clip than some of the bigger names in the field, and he comes into this contest in good power form. No one knows much about this Texas outfielder but he’s a solid power hitter. If he played for a more visible team or had a longer track record of success then he would be down in at least the Adrian Gonzalez price territory. That means that he presents real value at this price. Not the most likely winner, but the most likely to make a profit over the long term if this contest were held repeatedly.