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Why Carlos Beltran Will Win the Home Run Derby

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Beltran will win tonight’s Derby in his first big league ballpark. How can he not?

Why Carlos Beltran Will Win the Home Run Derby

If it's true that chicks dig the long ball, plenty of ladies will be tuned in to the Home Run Derby tonight.  Since I correctly predicted that Robinson Cano would take home the title last year, it proved that my powers of second sight apply only to meaningless exhibition contests.  But for continuity's I will give it a try again, and I have a pretty good vibe about tonight's winner.

This post would be a lot shorter if slugger Mike Stanton hadn't recently gotten surgery.  The man was put on this Earth to compete in Home Run Derby's.  His mammoth power would have been exciting to watch, and his withdrawal from the event squandered my plan to pick the overwhelming favorite.  His replacement, Andrew McCutcheon, has 18 home runs this year but doesn't have the raw power of Stanton.  I would have liked to see someone like Bryce Harper get a crack at this, but McCutcheon's numbers make him more deserving.

Either way, there are still eight viable competitors in the field.  Jay Jaffe does a terrific job highlighting each player over at his SI.com blog "Hit and Run."  He makes a great point near the end of the post about the struggle left-handed hitters might face at Kauffman Stadium, which is much friendlier to right-handed bats.  Because of this, I'm already eliminating three of the top contenders: Prince Fielder, Carlos Gonzalez, and reigning champion Robinson Cano.  It pains me to not go with Cano, but I don't think he will be able to pull off a performance like last year.  There will be no repeat, even if his Dad is on the mound.

That leaves five right-handed hitters as potential winners.  I'm eliminating Matt Kemp because I don't think he's healthy enough for this and is only competing because he's a captain in the event.  I'm also eliminating Jose Bautista because his swing is just too vicious.  He produces too many line drives and often doesn't get enough lift on the ball.  That kind of swing doesn't translate to success in an event like this where you have a finite number of outs.

While McCutcheon has sneaky power, I just don't see a player like him winning an event like this, although he could make it interesting.  And I don't envision Mark Trumbo coming through seeing as he might get caught up in the festivities, being a first-time All-Star and whatnot.

That leaves one player to win the whole thing: Carlos Beltran.  It seems like things line up for him to win this thing, too.  For starters, he is returning to his old ballpark in Kauffman Stadium.  He got his big break with the Royals and will get to come back for one more big moment in front of his first fans (and the ones that made the trip from St. Louis.  

Next, he's a much better power hitter from the right side.  Beltran will likely elect to bat right-handed (since he knows the ins and outs of Kauffman Stadium) and that will give him a much better chance at winning.  The splits don't lie.  In his career from the right side, Beltran is a .292 hitter with a .528 slugging percentage and an average of one home run every 19.6 at bats.  As a lefty, he's a .281 hitter, slugs at .488, and hits a home run every 22.8 at bats.  The differences may not seem like much, but when he gets to take all his swings righty it will play a bigger role.

Finally, Beltran's swing is smooth.  It isn't a max-effort swing like Bautista or Fielder.  Beltran's bat almost glides through the zone, and his swing is highly repeatable.  It's perfect for this event, which is why I think he will get hot tonight and win the Home Run Derby.  Lock it down.

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