Throughout much of this season, despite his struggles at the plate, there has been a grassroots movement from within the Athletics fan base to get Yoenis Cespedes into the 2013 Home Run Derby. Honestly, I figured that most of the efforts of these fans would be in vain as Cespedes would be overlooked and perhaps an inferior slugger from a bigger market would get the nod. So it came as quite the surprise a few days ago when it was announced that team captain Robinson Cano had tapped the broad shoulder of Cespedes to round out his AL team for the Derby alongside Chris Davis and Prince Fielder.
From the standpoint of the competition itself, it’s extremely exciting to think of Cespedes launching home runs all over Citi Field much like he does at the O.co Coliseum on a daily basis. While he may be surrounded by household names, Cespedes may be the sleeper of the Derby. He may not win the whole thing, but he could find himself sticking in the memory of baseball fans with an impressive first round. We all remember Josh Hamilton‘s incredible first round performance at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008, but not many people remember that Justin Morneau actually beat Hamilton in the finals. As long as they don’t give homefield advantage in the World Series to the league that wins, who cares really?
Oftentimes there is much trepidation about sending your prized slugger to the Home Run Derby, as there has been much speculation that the competition can throw off a hitter’s swing. During normal batting practice, hitters go through routines of going the other way, and hitting the ball to all fields and working to keep their timing crisp; but in the Home Run Derby a rocket line drive the other way is about as useful as a dribbler back to the mound. These guys are there to launch balls into the bleachers, and over them as well, so naturally their swings will be tailored for hitting the long ball.
There’s no proof that the Home Run Derby ruins hitters, much like there’s no proof that the World Baseball Classic wrecks seasons for those who participate. But the anectodal evidence is there, just ask Bobby Abreu.
While the risk remains, for Cespedes there is a chance this experience could jump start his lackluster sophomore campaign. The power has been there, he has 15 home runs despite struggling to make consistent solid contact all year long. The chances of Cespedes finding his stroke in this competition are rather slim due to the nature of the beast, but an experience like this could be just the spark he needs.
The recent speculation that Jay-Z’s upstart Roc Nation agency was interested in prying Cespedes away from his current agent shows that people do take notice of his ability and the marketing potential that goes along with it. While he may not leave to go rub elbows with Jay-Z and Beyonce, and his team captain Robinson Cano who is represented by Roc Nation, his taste of the spotlight will likely leave a lasting impression on him.
The point is, Cespedes has all the talent in the world, that’s no mystery. Many expected him to explode in 2013 and perhaps insert himself into the MVP race, and that hasn’t happened. But the recognition he’ll receive tomorrow, and the potential confidence boost it all can bring could light a fire under Yoenis for the rest of the season. Besides, if he can take Mike Gallego deep, he can take anyone deep right?