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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.