The Miami Marlins have closed out the 2016 first half on a good note and head into the All-Star break with a little positivity. They are in the third place position for the Wild Card spot as of Sunday morning. They hold nearly a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs at that juncture, which is an impressive feat for a team that struggled last year and still does not have a fully ready Giancarlo Stanton.
Giancarlo Stanton’s interesting year full of ups and (significant) downs has led to him participating in the All-Star break festivities somehow. Stanton is set to compete in the 2016 Home Run Derby, a competition in which he wowed back in 2014. Back then, he hit some mammoth home runs en route to six bombs in the first round, but he failed to hit one in the National League finals and ended up out of the running. He says he looks forward to the challenge this year.
Like 2014, Stanton is a favorite to take home this year's trophy. He clearly has the power to last long in the event, but he knows after his first experience that it's more of a marathon than a race.
"Don't let my bat drag," Stanton said of advice to himself. "You want to lift and hit one twice as far as the one before but just stay right there."
Stanton feels it is worthwhile for him to do this competition in large part because he missed two prior Home Run Derbies in 2012 and 2015 thanks to injuries. This year, he comes in healthy but having had the worst first half of his hitting career. As a result, Stanton does not buy into the "Home Run Derby curse," in large part because cursing him any further seems impossible.
"Have you seen my swing the first half?" the slugger joked. "I feel like it's gonna line me back up."
Stanton is not just a regular competitor in the field though: he actually is the favorite going in. The latest odds, according to Bovada.lv, have Stanton eking past Mark Trumbo for the favorite to win the competition.
2016 Home Run Derby - Odds to Win
Giancarlo Stanton 13/4
Mark Trumbo 15/4
Wil Myers 6/1
Todd Frazier 6/1
Adam Duvall 7/1
Robinson Cano 7/1
Carlos Gonzalez 15/2
Corey Seager 9/1
Given that this competition also includes former winners in Robinson Cano and Todd Frazier, the fact that Stanton is favored is a nice surprise. This is especially true since Stanton is not having an All-Star caliber season. His 19 home runs are tied for ninth in the National League.
Stanton’s first-round matchup is against Robinson Cano, and he is reasonably favored in that matchup as well despite being technically the "fifth seed" hitter.
Home Run Derby - 1st round matchup
Robinson Cano +135 (27/20)
Giancarlo Stanton -175 (4/7)
Stanton is not the only guy who is prominently featured in the All-Star festivities. While the Marlins are sending a team record-tying four members to the game, only one is going to get the privilege of starting for the National League. After Yoenis Cespedes was injured in a recent game, Marcell Ozuna has been named the National League’s starting outfielder replacing him. For Ozuna, it is a great honor.
"It made me happy," Ozuna said of the starting gig. "My family's going to be happy for me. They're appreciative and I'll do my best."
Among the happy parties involved in celebrating Ozuna’s ascension to All-Star starter is hitting coach and season-long mentor Barry Bonds.
One of the first to congratulate Ozuna was Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds, who has been his mentor this season.
"He's happy," Ozuna said. "He passed by me and said, 'Oh, you're a starter!'"
Bonds has not necessarily refined Ozuna’s plate discipline; he is not exactly having a Bondsian walk campaign to any degree. However, Ozuna has been better in terms of making contact and at a better angle, which likely implies some sort of swing mechanics changes. He is getting a more level swing that is leading to more line drives and fly balls and fewer grounders. For a guy with Ozuna’s power (17 home runs in the first half), that is a major positive.
These two Marlins outfielders have to be happy being featured contributors in the All-Star festivities, but let’s not forget that Jose Fernandez, A.J. Ramos, and Fernando Rodney are also lurking in the bullpen for the National League. Fernandez will be available to pitch and is going to miss a turn in the rotation thanks to the extra rest days. Ramos or Rodney might also get a chance. If Rodney does well, one can only hope he will drop the arrow after a successful inning.
No Rodney that’s the wrong celebration damnit!
Fish Stripes will be happy to celebrate the break with all the Marlins fans! Enjoy your All-Star Fish!