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Predicting second-half power numbers

Let's be politically correct here: Everyone digs the home run. Sure, fantasy owners also like the .333 hitters and top stolen base guys, and overrate the relief pitchers who end up with the saves, but when it comes to the home run, it's universally loved. On Monday night in Kansas City, eight interesting home run hitters will gather with ESPN's cameras noting every move in the latest Home Run Derby.

Yeah, this competition doesn't have any effect on the big league standings, and there's always room for debate about who gets to participate. But I'm a fan, and I admit it wasn't solely because I was lucky enough to be watching in awe from the Yankee Stadium stands the night Josh Hamilton delivered an incredible show in 2008. I remember the early derbies as well, the one when Wally Joyner tied Darryl Strawberry for the title in 1986, the Eric Davis-Ruben Sierra contest in 1989, feeling badly for Greg Vaughn when he couldn't hit one out in Philly in 1996, and marveling at Bobby Abreu's record-breaking performance in Detroit seven years ago. Hey, it doesn't have to count for your fantasy team to be interesting and worth watching!

Anyway, in recent seasons I have predicted the final home run totals for the derby contestants with, of course, varying degrees of success, which I don't mind admitting. This isn't an exact science. I think we all know Jose Bautista has skills, but this year I'm going to adjust this blog entry a tad to list all the players I think will bash 35 or more home runs in 2012. I mean, all the derby contestants are universally owned anyway, but perhaps you want to sell high, or you don't buy into what a certain Minnesota Twin is doing -- whatever. Anyway, these players will all reach 35 home runs, in order:

Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox: Surprise! He's never been invited to a Home Run Derby despite hitting exactly 40 homers four straight times and with a 46-homer season under his belt. However, he's never had a three-true-outcomes season like this, either. So what if he smashes the Mark Reynolds single-season record for strikeouts. You know what you're getting, and it's valuable.
Final total: 45 home runs.

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays: The current big league leader with 27 is actually only 23rd overall on the Player Rater. Last year, he hit 31 homers before the All-Star break and 12 afterward. I won't say I'm concerned, but I'm taking the under on him hitting 45 homers.
Final total: 44 home runs.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: The fact that so many people questioned him continues to amaze. He's on pace for a career-best 45 home runs and 26 steals. No concerns here.
Final total: 40 home runs.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels: His .260 batting average in June is more like it, but the power isn't tailing off. Good for him for improving his plate discipline in his sophomore year.
Final total: 40 home runs.

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: Not as much fun to own when he's not stealing bases, is he? And Josh Reddick has the better OPS. But the Grandy Man will keep pulling those home runs.
Final total: 36 home runs.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: I don't mean to be pessimistic, but he's missed September before. Of course, he might be fantasy's top player when the next injury comes. Let's be positive, but realize he's never hit more than 32 in a season, and he recently hit four in June. Lack of durability might always make him a sell-high option.
Final total: 35 home runs.

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: What a beautiful swing, tailor-made for the derby. It might be boring, but I say he wins it again. And he'll get legit real-life MVP consideration this year as well. Incidentally, after the 2011 derby, he improved his walk and home run rates.
Final total: 35 home runs.

Trevor Plouffe, SS/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins: Yeah, I believe. I believed in December when I called him the next Mike Morse, too. He might hit around .240 this season, and he doesn't run, but he's destroying lefty pitchers, hitting for power against right-handers. He already has 12 blasts and a .633 slugging percentage at spacious Target Field (it's tougher on lefty hitters there), and he buried 11 home runs in June and has three already in five July games.
Final total: 35 home runs.

Who missed (NL): Starting with the four NL derby entrants, it's tough for me to expect the real Matt Kemp from here on out. This is his second DL stint for a balky hamstring. I'll predict he doubles his current total of 12 home runs, and that's it. ... Carlos Beltran should get NL MVP votes. He's also ninth on the Player Rater. Alas, he's managed to stay healthy but history tells us to be wary, and when the Cardinals get Lance Berkman back they can afford to rest Beltran more, thanks to Allen Craig. Beltran ends up at 33 home runs. ... Giancarlo Stanton can hit for power with only one healthy knee, but he can't carry the team to September relevance alone. Sorry, but with his team under .500 and him hurting, you know there's risk of early shutdown. He hits 33 home runs. ... And the other NL derby entrant is Carlos Gonzalez. If only all the games were at Coors. He does have, well, five road home runs. He ends up at 30 blasts. ... I don't see anyone else in the NL getting to 30 home runs, but I bet Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Alfonso Soriano get close.

Who missed (AL): As for Prince Fielder, he's managed a mere 13 home runs. Clearly the ballpark and change of leagues didn't help. I doubt he reaches 30. ... David Ortiz was a derby entrant last year but managed only 10 home runs afterward. No, I don't buy any notion that big league swings are ruined at this event. They're human; they get tired in a long season. Still, Ortiz ends up at 32 dingers. ... Edwin Encarnacion will top 30 home runs, but he'll do it the final two months for the Los Angeles Dodgers after a late-July trade. ... Miguel Cabrera and Josh Willingham each end up at 32 home runs. ... so does Josh Reddick. He only needs four per month the rest of the way and, like Plouffe, he's hitting all pitching and doing so at his tough home park. ... Mark Teixeira last fell short of 30 home runs as a rookie in 2003. He'll make it again. ... Adam Jones hit three home runs in June. Temper those second-half expectations. He ends up at 30 home runs.

Have a great weekend and look for reports from me while I'm in Kansas City!