SAN DIEGO — Not an All-Star? No problem. You can still steal the stage during All-Star week with enough power.
Home Run Derby finalists Giancarlo Stanton and Todd Frazier proved this Monday night, finishing first and second, respectively, as the only contestants who are not All-Stars this season.
Stanton, who hit a Derby-record 61 homers, including two shots of 497 feet, beat Frazier 20-13. He is the second player in the history of the Derby to win the event without being an All-Star, joining Yoenis Cespedes in 2013.
Frazier, last year’s champion, beat Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Reds outfielder Adam Duvall in the first two rounds to reach the final. The White Sox third baseman entered the event as the defending champion after winning it in front of his home crowd as a member of the Reds last season.
Both players are in the midst of down years, with Stanton hitting just .233/.328/.495 with 20 home runs in 76 games. Despite his struggles, Stanton still accepted an invitation from Major League Baseball to enter the Derby, and came to San Diego with one goal in mind.
“Being on the West Coast and taking the flight out here just for this,” Stanton said. “I figure it's a waste if I don't bring this bad boy home.”
Four of Stanton’s Marlins teammates (Pitchers Jose Fernandez, A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney, and outfielder Marcell Ozuna) made the NL All-Star team, and marveled at Stanton’s performance after the event.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Fernandez said. “I know the kind of power he has. I’m glad that everybody got to see it and enjoy it.”
Ozuna said that Stanton’s impressive batting practice sessions don’t even compare to his derby performance.
“It was really special,” Ozuna said. “What he does in the derbies is awesome. He’s one of the strongest players in the big leagues and I’m proud of him.”
“Right now, it’s hard,” Ozuna said when asked if any player had as much raw power as Stanton. “Trumbo has that power too. He’s one of the best players in the American League and is having a good season right now. But my boy, he’s incredible.”
Both Ozuna and Fernandez were especially impressed by how Stanton decided to compete despite making the All-Star team.
“He was struggling a little and then they invited him to the Home Run Derby,” Ozuna said. “He wins it ... that’s beautiful.”
“He’s a great teammate, great person and great friend,” Fernandez said. “There’s not enough good things I can say about him.”
The night was Stanton’s from the beginning, as the three-time All-Star hit 24 home runs in his first round battle against Robinson Cano and posted the 20 hardest-hit home runs of the night as well as the 10 longest. Stanton’s average home run distance was 446 feet, 6 feet longer than the required distance (440 feet) for bonus time in a round.
Despite the disappointment of losing, Frazier was in awe of Stanton’s performance.
“He wasn’t even using his back leg, and that’s unbelievable,” Frazier said. “He was just swinging with all hands. They’re majestic. There’s not really much you can say about it. Trumbo, too. I was out there for his first round. It’s just so much fun to watch. Everyone loves home runs, and I do too.”
Frazier described Stanton as a unique power hitter, and said that his previous derby round victory over Stanton (1-0 in the semifinals two years ago in Minnesota) did not give him any confidence heading into this year’s final.
“It’s a different beast,” Frazier said. “You look at him, you talk to him, you hear his voice and it’s a deep voice. You say, ‘oh, man, I didn’t know that was coming out.’ It’s like a guy from that movie 300, just walking in, it’s like, “That’s the guy we have to take down or we’re in trouble.’ I couldn’t take him down and that’s what happens a lot of the time.”
Stanton will almost surely try to defend his crown next season, when the All-Star festivities are held in his home park in Miami.
“Just depends, depends how the year is going, depends where it is, depends on a lot of things,” Stanton said when asked about his future in the event. “Next year it's at home, so I mean, pretty good chance.”