In this All-Star edition of Turning Two, I’ll be talking about both the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. Then, we’ll dive in to the players you should keep an eye out for in fantasy baseball as we prepare for the 2nd half of the season to get underway.
Home Run Derby
Let’s start with the Home Run Derby. I can’t remember a Home Run Derby that had me on the edge of my seat in, well… ever. A lot of people were upset with Major League Baseball’s decision to put Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Derby. Have you not seen the videos of him murdering baseballs into orbit in the minors? Have you not seen the videos of him taking BP when he was an adolescent? It would appear not.
As I expected he put on an absolute show and made it the most memorable Derby since 2008 when Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in the first round (with the ten-out format). Vladdy broke the record with 29 bombs in the first round. Matt Chapman nervously laughed while he was walking up to the plate. He knew he had absolutely no chance. Alonso, Pederson, and Acuña all advanced to the semi-finals.
This is when the real show happened. Vladdy vs. Joc provided 79 home runs. They went to triple overtime and Joc Pederson had one swing left and failed to hit a dinger. Vladdy advanced to the finals winning 40-39. If you look at Joc’s spray chart from the semi’s, pretty much every single home run was hit in the first section in fair territory next to the foul pole. Then you look at Vladdy’s, and every ball is hit somewhere into left field, but a little scattered. It is impossible for Vladdy to hit a normal home run. Every single one was either a moonshot or a screaming line drive. There were only a handful of Vladdy’s 91 homers that I wasn’t too impressed with. Credit to Joc for keeping up with the madness and putting on a show as well.
During Vladdy’s incredible run, Pete Alonso was creeping to the finals as well. He had walked off in the first round against Carlos Santana and in the second round against Ronald Acuña. He would go on to face Vladdy in the finals and hope to silence the crowd who was very obviously rooting for Vlad.
After the semi-final matchup between Pederson and Guerrero, nothing was going to match it. Guerrero would hit first, and he launched 22 homers over the fence with Alonso ready to take his turn. This was without a doubt in reach for Alonso, who is sitting at 30 home runs so far this season. Alonso’s cousin was pitching to him over the course of the night, and he was not doing a very good job. There is actually a good amount of pressure on the pitchers in these events. However, this was clearly not a big issue for Alonso as he secured the 23 home runs and took home the hardware.
Pete Alonso is an incredibly talented player. Him and Aaron Judge are really the only players to come into the league and have this much success as a power hitter in their rookie seasons. I don’t want to take away any of his credit from the evening, but this was Vlad Jr.’s night. He grabbed all the headlines, broke the records, and put on the best show. Vlad hit 91 homers over the night. That is outrageous. Even though Polar Bear Pete only hit 57, he beat Vladdy fair and square to win the event and cap off a remarkable evening.
I always feel like I should be excited for the ASG, but it never meets expectations. I certainly do not think I’m alone in this boat, either. The AL has won the previous six Mid-Summer Classics and they were looking to keep the streak alive. Justin Verlander was on the bump against Hyun-Jin Ryu. The AL’s lineup and depth did look slightly better than the NL’s in my opinion. However, they were both very close in talent that it was anybody’s game.
I’ll say this. Mic’ing up players and having live conversations with them is awesome. I wish they could do this during the regular season, but it would be slightly unprofessional. But, whenever they do it, it’s a treat. The AL took the lead, and the pitching was shutting the NL down. As a team, the AL struck out 14 NL batters. Joey Gallo was the only AL player to hit a home run. One of the NL’s five hits was a Charlie Blackmon homer.
In what was a boring All-Star Game, the AL won 4-3. I thought it was pretty obvious that Joey Gallo should have received MVP honors. Joe Buck mistakenly said that Michael Brantley would be the recipient of the award, but shockingly enough he was incorrect. They gave the award to the hometown player Shane Bieber. He did play well, though. He pitched one inning and struck out the side which livened up the crowd. But in a 4-3 game you have to give the award to the player who came up most clutch on offense. It was a one-run game and Joey Gallo’s homer in the late innings was easily the most clutch moment. Nothing against Shane Bieber, but I certainly do not think striking out the side in the 5th inning should win All-Star MVP honors.
At the end of the day the most entertaining event was the Home Run Derby. The All-Star Game is always such a letdown and it never meets expectations. Do I set my expectations too high for the annual event? Probably. Doesn’t it feel like it should be entertaining that Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are all on the same field at the same time? Absolutely. I need to find a way to lower my expectations, stat.
Waiver Wire Targets
Brett Gardner (31.5% owned/ESPN)
The bald man is having a good year thus far. He’s found his power stroke with 15 home runs on the season. Even though the Yankees play in a stadium built for ants, if a ball goes over the fence it counts as a home run no matter what. He’s not exactly hitting for average, but it’s certainly manageable at .249. His .805 OPS is what stands out to me the most. With how often the Yanks lineup gets on base, Gardner will knock in runs for your squad and even poke one out to the short porch in Yankee Stadium for a homer a decent amount.
Franmil Reyes (40.8% owned/ESPN)
For whatever reason Franmil Reyes isn’t even owned in half of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues. Sure, his 42 RBIs is weak considering his 25 round-trippers on the season. But as I just stated, he has 25 home runs. He has an OPS of .850 and is sandwiched between an extremely talented Padres lineup. I think he is without a doubt worth a go to be on your fantasy baseball roster as we get ready for the second half of the season to kick off this weekend.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.