We’re just a week out of MLB All-Star Weekend and the festivities and fanfare that accompany what is marked as the turning point of the baseball calendar year. There’s so much more to it than merely

honoring the best performers of the first half now- there is the MLB draft, the celebrity game where you can now name maybe a maximum of two celebrities, there is the backlash to the uniforms and hats that are preemptively labeled as awful, and it’s also a weekend of wining-and-dining for trade talks amidst the looming trade deadline at the end of the month.

The game has now taken the backseat to where it’s an afterthought- this used to determine home field advantage during the World Series, mind you, but then we came to our senses and realized that determining something as valuable as that off of an exhibition game is preposterous.

It’s also no longer about the BEST players that will be playing in it. Every single team has to have one representative, which some criticize as it leads to snubs, and it’s also fans that are the ones that initially vote on who makes the team that may ONLY watch their team (never forget the Kansas City fans stuffing the ballot box in 2016 to where 8 of 9 starters were Royals).

It’s a great way to capture a few iconic moments when we get matchups we don’t normally see, but the real event now has become the Home Run Derby. It’s where we really get to see the personalities that are so desperately needing to be promoted let their hair hang down as their teammates go bonkers for them in the dugout as they merely try to hit a moon ball off of their dad or a pitching coach 450+ feet. With stars that are willing to participate (some fans may worry that it leads to injury or slumps after participating; it’s actually helped some batters find their groove back afterwards!), it’s purely a fun showcase event of the flair and the different swings that define the league.

These are the confirmed participants we have thus far:

Gunnar Henderson and his sweet, Robinson Cano-esque left-handed bat.

Two-time-winner and derby dedicated-psychopath Pete Alonso of the Mets.

Phillies’ cult hero third baseman, who now “loves this place,” Alec Bohm. 

5-tool superstar shortstop and North Texas native, Bobby Witt Jr. of the Royals.

The slugging, “big fly BIG BEAR” Marcell Ozuna of the Braves.

We need 3 more ideal participants to fill out a dream bracket, but we want some caveats:

  • We don’t want someone who’s been there before. You want more names promoted.
  • We want a variety of teams
  • We want all kinds of swings rather than just pure muscle and power

Here are 5 of the best varying players as candidates to participate in the Home Run Derby field to join Gunnar, Pete, Alec, Bobby, and Marcell to showcase the incredible talent and personalities around the league with explanations. It’s a narrative showdown for entertainment!

Teoscar Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers OF/DH

The Los Angeles Dodgers spent a billion dollars in free agency in one offseason. They traded for Tyler Glasnow, they signed Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes to take over the world.

Photo: William Frost / athlonsports.com

You know who was an afterthought that was just an embarrassment of riches that is short only of Ohtani of leading the team in home runs and slugging? Teoscar Hernandez.

An all-star and the heart and soul of a Blue Jays team in 2021, he had a bit of a dropoff in 2022 before getting shipped to Seattle, where all batting averages and offense tends to die. The slugger joined the Dodgers on a 1-year, “eh, I guess we’ll pay him $23.5 million to see if he can bring back what he had in 2021” and he’s been worth every penny. Teo CRUSHES bombs from the right-handed side and is such a delightful personality that deserves to get some shine on one of the most star-studded lineups ever to complete the Teo-ssaince!

Josh Naylor, Cleveland Guardians 1B

There may be no one in baseball that enjoys hitting the ball as far as he possibly can as Josh Naylor visibly takes delight in it.

Famous for cursing at Gerrit Cole and calling him a cry baby with the “rocking the baby” motion, Naylor is a personality that needs to be shown on the biggest stage possible with his swing that looks exactly like Happy Gilmore just swinging a golf club to hit the ball as far to the hole in one swing. Naylor is a bowling ball of pure energy having his best year for a surprisingly-delightful first place Cleveland team and would be a great representative for being one of the stories of the first half.

Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds SS AND Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates SS

There happen to be two freakazoid “Cruz’s” in the NL Central that are shortstops built like NBA superstars that hit the ball both with the velocity of a speeding bullet and the raw strength of a minotaur.

Elly De La Cruz of the Reds and Oneil Cruz both need to be put in this derby to continue the “Which Cruz would you rather have” debate. The answer has so far obviously been Elly that has taken over the league as the all-around player with his speed, defending, and better averages, but the theater of Oneil Cruz also being in it as an alien capable of hitting the ball into outer space on his raw strength alone when he’s right would make it feel like a WWE match.

It’s no longer a bracket format, but you’d have to have them face off back-to-back in the order. “In one corner, standing at 6’7 and ready to hit the absolute daylights out of the ball, 25 year-old shortstop, Oneil Cruz! And in the other corner, the 6’5 22 year-old man from outer space, Elly De La Cruz!”

Jurickson Profar, San Diego Padres OF

Traditionally, there is a hometown hero representative in the Home Run Derby depending upon where the game is hosted. The game is in Texas, but the Rangers are having an abhorrent offensive start to the year. They rank 20th in homers, Adolis Garcia did it last season and is having an off year, and Corey Seager, in a year where he’s battled injuries, has already done it before.

The true homecoming and full-circle star of All-Star Weekend would be to have Jurickson Profar in it.

Once upon a time, Jurickson Profar in 2012 was the consensus top prospect for the Texas Rangers that was supposed to be their shortstop of the future. They were selling his jerseys before he had even made an at-bat after their back-to-back World Series appearances and signed with them at age 16.

He dealt with injuries that made him miss all of 2014 and 2015, put up average numbers and was often in the minors before being traded to Oakland in 2018. He batted .218, was traded to San Diego, was out of the league before signing with a desperate Colorado Rockies team in 2023 before being released, and is now back with the Padres on a 1-year $1 million deal.

Where he’s starting the All-Star Game and having the best year of his career.

It would be so perfectly full circle for Profar, who started off in Texas, to have the weekend made about him after all of his struggles. Will Smith, the Dodgers catcher, even called him “irrelevant” this year before he hit a game-winning bomb against them earlier this year. Profar doesn’t have a lot of pop in his bat that makes it go far aside from shooting lasers, but he’s got 14 on the year, more than Bohm, and would be the story of the first half coming back to Texas where it all began.

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