Someone tell the light rail operators behind Target Field to watch for flying objects. And here’s hoping Minnie and Paul can take a punch up there on the sign above center field. The All-Star Home Run Derby starts Monday night, and some of baseball’s most powerful sluggers are ready to hit the living sweet spot out of batting practice fastballs. ¶ Justin Morneau is back, Yoenis Cespedes could defend last year’s title, Brian Dozier will represent the Twins, and those who haven’t seen Giancarlo Stanton swing are in for a treat. ¶ “I saw him when he was playing in Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera was playing shortstop, and [Stanton] almost put him in Erie Lake,” former Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “[Cabrera] tried to catch it, and he couldn’t even jump. That ball was hitting the wall before he was landing down on his feet.” ¶ Get ready for more hyperbole. Here’s a closer look at the 10-contestant field:
Blue Jays, RF
HRs, 2014/career: 17/228
His story: Bautista is a late bloomer who didn’t become an All-Star until age 29. He led the majors in homers for two years, smashing 54 and 43, but injuries limited him to 27 and 28 the previous two seasons. This year, he’s fully healthy again and has re-established himself as one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters.
Why he’ll win: Target Field has been a home away from home for the Dominican slugger. He has 11 home runs in 14 games at the ballpark, including three in one game on May 15, 2011.
Why he’ll stumble: He didn’t make it past the first round in the 2011 Derby but advanced to the finals in 2012, losing 12-7 to Prince Fielder. He’s 33 now and doesn’t need a Derby crown to prove himself. He might hold back, rather than push himself if he starts to fatigue.
HRs, 2014/career: 14/63
His story: After he defected from Cuba in 2011, his agents promoted him with a workout video that became the stuff of legend. The tight-fisted Athletics landed him with a four-year, $36 million contract.
Why he’ll win: The Derby was invented for performances like the one Cespedes gave in winning last year’s event at New York’s Citi Field. He wasn’t an All-Star and was a late addition to the Derby, but he smashed 17 first-round homers and edged Bryce Harper 9-8 in the finals. Cespedes, 28, has batted .447 with eight extra base hits (five doubles, one triple and two homers) in nine career games at Target Field.
Why he’ll stumble: The question now is his health. He hasn’t hit a home run since June 19. He injured a hamstring July 1 and missed a game before returning to the lineup. Only one hitter has won back-to-back Home Run Derbys — Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999.
HRs, 2014/career: 20/54
His story: Raised by his mother while his father was imprisoned for drug and domestic abuse charges, Donaldson went to Auburn and got drafted No. 47 overall by Oakland in 2007. He converted from catcher to third base in 2012 and finished fourth in the AL MVP voting last year. This year, he ranks second in the AL to Mike Trout in WAR (wins above replacement).
Why he’ll win: Donaldson, 28, was the final AL hitter selected for the Derby, but he’s riding a nice wave and seems to be in peak condition for this event. The Oakland Coliseum isn’t a great home run park, but he’s done plenty of damage there.
Why he’ll stumble: Donaldson’s longest two home runs this year were both 448-foot shots — one in Toronto and one in Houston. But he’s had his share of wall-scrapers, too, with 10 homers categorized as “just enough” by ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.
HRs, 2014/career: 18/42
His story: An eighth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi in 2009, the 27-year-old Dozier has blossomed into one of the Twins’ most valuable players, with a salary this year of $540,000.
Why he’ll win: He’ll be a fan favorite, and he knows the ballpark well. Dozier’s spray chart shows his home runs have been clustered to extreme left field – left of left-center field. Few expect him to win, so he can have fun taking swings off his brother, Clay, a former lefthanded pitcher from Delta State in their home state of Mississippi.
Why he’ll stumble: Dozier is far from a quintessential power hitter. He hit 16 home runs in 1,613 minor league plate appearances. The Twins were surprised he hit 18 home runs last year, and he has already matched that. According to ESPN’S Home Run Tracker, Dozier’s average home run distance this year is 379.6 feet, compared to 423.8 for Giancarlo Stanton.
HRs, 2014/career: 16/156
His story: Jones, 28, is a five-tool center fielder who might remind you of Torii Hunter in his prime. Drafted 37th overall by the Mariners out of San Diego Morse High School in 2003, he was traded by Seattle to Baltimore in the lopsided 2008 Erik Bedard trade.
Why he’ll win: After hitting 32 and 33 home runs the previous two years, Jones has a good chance to reach 30 again this year. Camden Yards is a home run hitter’s paradise, but the Baltimore ballpark hasn’t padded Jones’ totals. Since 2012, Jones has hit 40 home runs at home and 41 on the road.
Why he’ll stumble: Jones has power to all fields, especially center field, which makes him a good hitter. But he’ll need to pull the ball to win this event. In 17 career games at Target Field, Jones has batted .265 with three home runs
HRs, 2014/career: 19/63
His story: He led Toms River, N.J., to the Little League World Series title in 1998, and led Rutgers to a Big East title before the Reds took him with the 37th overall pick in the 2007 draft. In 2012, he saved the life of a choking man in a restaurant using the Heimlich maneuver. Earlier that day, Frazier had hit a home run off Jamie Moyer.
Why he’ll win: Frazier, 28, has little to lose and is easy to root for, making just $600,000 per year. He uses Frank Sinatra songs for his walk-up music. By night’s end, he could have the whole crowd singing “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Why he’ll stumble: Fifteen of Frazier’s home runs have come inside the launching pad at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. It’s questionable how many of those would clear the wall at Target Field, especially since so many have gone to center field.
HRs, 2014/career: 13/234
His story: Morneau won AL MVP honors in 2006 and upended Josh Hamilton to win the 2008 Home Run Derby before suffering a career-changing concussion in 2010. The Twins traded him to Pittsburgh last August for Alex Presley, and Morneau has since rejuvenated his career in Colorado.
Why he’ll win: Morneau, 33, will be the overwhelming sentimental favorite. The Canada native knows the ballpark, knows he’ll need to pull the ball down the right-field line. And he can use his Derby experience, including a 2007 first-round exit, to his advantage.
Why he’ll stumble: It’s going to be emotional. After his huge ovation, Morneau will have to compose himself to compete in his first Derby in six years. Target Field caters more to righthanded power hitters, and Morneau is the only lefty in this Derby.
HRs, 2014/career: 12/31
His story: The movie rights already have been sold to Puig’s story after a defection from Cuba that involved reported ties to a Mexican drug cartel. Puig, 23, has emerged as one of the sport’s most captivating talents but has infuriated veterans with his theatrics. He also has drawn two reckless driving charges after being pulled over going 97 mph and 110 mph.
Why he’ll win: If he finds an early rhythm, he could take the crowd along for the ride. His home run total isn’t impressive, but when he connects, the ball flies. His tape-measure blasts this year have included home runs of 452, 444 and 438 feet.
Why he’ll stumble: He has hit just one home run since May 28. He had an impressive Target Field debut earlier this season, going 8-for-14 in a three-game sweep over the Twins, but none of those hits went for home runs. Puig is a mega-talent, but he might get over-amped on this stage.
HRs, 2014/career: 21/138
His story: The 6-foot-6 tight end, known as Mike Stanton until 2007, had an offer to play football at UCLA and was set to play baseball at USC before the Marlins signed him as a second-round pick in 2007. His legend grew after he cleared the scoreboard with a 500-foot home run in Class AA three years later.
Why he’ll win: Stanton has five homers this year longer than 450 feet, more than any other team has combined, according to ESPN Stats and Info. His 484-foot blast against San Diego on April 4 was the second-longest homer in the majors this season, behind Mike Trout’s 489-foot shot against Kansas City.
Why he’ll stumble: Stanton, 24, has power to all fields but hasn’t pulled the ball as much this year. He’s one of the favorites, so he’ll need to keep his emotions in check if he doesn’t get into an early groove.
HRs, 2014/career: 21/176
His story: He starred at Long Beach State and was the No. 7 overall pick by the Rockies in the 2005 draft. Now 29, he’s a four-time All-Star enjoying a career year, as he leads the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Why he’ll win: Tulowitzki is on pace to surpass his career mark of 32 home runs in 2009. He pulls most of his homers to left field, which is the path to success for righthanded power hitters at Target Field.
Why he’ll stumble: It’s hard to dismiss the Coors Field effect on Tulowitzki’s success. Home runs might not fly from that ballpark in the humidor era, but Tulowitzki is batting .417 with 14 homers at home, compared to .265 with seven homers on the road. Tulo is having a magical season but doesn’t possess the pure power it’ll probably take to win this Derby.