Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo is your Home Run Derby favorite

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With Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium serving as the battleground, Monday’s Home Run Derby figured to yield fewer souveniers than usual. Kauffman is one of the game’s tough home run parks. Using Stats Inc. park factors, only Minnesota’s Target Field played tougher on home runs for AL parks  from 2009-11 and that only slightly. It’s played closer to neutral this year, but Yankee Stadium it’s not.

That’s especially true for left-handed hitters. With 100 being average, Kauffman had a home run park factor of 64 from 2009-11, the lowest of any AL stadium. It was a more reasonable 89 for right-handed hitters. Yankee Stadium, in comparison, was at 143 for lefties and 117 for righties.

So, the righties should have the advantage tonight. Kauffman is a symmetrical park, but the ball just tends to travel better to left field.

And that’s one big reason I expect the Angels’ Mark Trumbo to be the champ. Of the participants, he’s hit the longest homers this year.

Data taken from ESPN Stats & Info:

R – Trumbo: 22 HR – 419.5 ft
L – Prince Fielder: 15 HR – 411.7 ft
L – Robinson Cano: 20 HR – 406.8 ft
R – Jose Bautista: 27 HR – 403.3 ft

L – Carlos Gonzalez: 17 HR – 412.4 ft
S – Carlos Beltran: 20 HR – 408.9 ft
R – Matt Kemp: 12 HR, 400.2 ft
R – Andrew McCutchen: 18 HR – 398.9 ft

Interestingly, Beltran says he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll swing lefty or righty tonight.

Apart from Trumbo, I think Cano, the defending champ, and Beltran are the favorites. Bautista and Kemp were both eliminated in the first round last year, and Kemp still has some rust to shake anyway. Fielder has the muscle to start off strong, but as much effort as he puts into his swing, I think he’d fade if he ever made it to the finals.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.