On Tuesday, the MLB All-Star game might have been happening in San Diego, but Akron had their own All-Star festivities. It started with a celebrity softball game, but continued on to the Home Run Derby where the victor would take him a championship belt. 1
Now, any talk of a MiLB Home Run Derby has to begin with Rhys Hockins and Dylan Cozens who are teammates for the Reading Fighting Phillies. Not only do they lead the Eastern League in home runs, but the only players with more playing professional baseball — at any level in the United States or Canada — are Mike Trumbo, Todd Frazier, and Kris Bryant. So, yeah, these teammates entered the game with big expectations.
http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1685952-akron-hosts-celebrities-for-double-a-softballIn interviews before the game, neither player showed any extra competitiveness between themselves before the showdown. Both players were laidback and easygoing about the whole thing. And, maybe it was that lack of killer instinct that caused both to be eliminated in the first round. Boom! Well, they weren’t the only players from Reading at the derby, as Jorge Alfaro made me sad for the baseballs he hit. Several were towering shots that slammed into scoreboards, walls, and small children in the outfield. Alfaro hits were not caught, as much as as objects just happened to step into the trajectory of a deadly weapon. Alfaro can straight hit and hit for big-time power.
StatCast, sadly, was not available to track exit velocities as everything he hit was a screaming shot. Yet, his first round was not the most impressive nor did he post the highest total. He crushed 10, then another 10, before hitting nine in the last round which was just not enough. Alfaro would come up one home run short of the title belt.
Ryder Jones was taken in the second round of 2013, a surprise pick with a commitment to Stanford. There were many questioning the pick, and the cost to sign him. So far, it has not been a pick which has worked out. Still, on Tuesday, it was easy to see why the Giants fell in love with Ryder Jones. He hit several moonshots, one of which left the stadium.
If you are not familiar with Akron’s field—it's big. It's a pitcher's park, and to clear the entire stadium is quite a WOW moment. Several of us reporters were standing in the dugout watching, and Jones elicited the most audible gasps. He hit another home run which got stuck in the wall in center. He didn’t have the violence or raw power of Alfaro, but his display was just impressive.
No need to be rude, yes, there were Indians prospects as well. Before you ask—no Clint Frazier, while in attendance, did not participate. He was in the Futures Game and had to deal with the travel that went with it, so instead, he got to hang out with teammates and just enjoy a night off. Bradley Zimmer is such a big guy at 6-foot-6, but it is difficult to understand the immensity of the man without standing next to him. 2 Zimmer didn’t get out of the first round though, losing on a recount to his teammate Nellie Rodriguez. Rodriquez is similar to Jesus Aguilar a few years ago, but with better skills and more explosion in his bat. He is thick and strong and quite capable of hitting home runs. He also was incredibly consistent on the night hitting well enough to make it to the finals, where he finished third overall. 3
In the end, the winner of the Double-A All-Star Home Run Derby was the most unlikely of candidates: Jason Krizan. Krizan had the fewest home runs of anyone in this year's contest with seven, tying a career high when adding in his one from Triple-A. Krizan was a sixth-round pick back in 2011 out of Dallas Baptist, the oldest competitor in the draft, and a player who isn’t thought of as a prospect. Kirzan, however, is the man who won the belt and the day. Good for him. For Krizan, this event might end up being a career highlight, and it is a nice moment for a guy who worked hard and managed to have a career power night. He hit 30 total home runs through three rounds against some of the best young players in the game.
1 Who wants a trophy when instead you get a belt? Tons of credit to the people who work for Akron for a great idea there, and the MVP of the All Star game tomorrow will also get a belt instead of a trophy.
2 He uses that size to generate power. The profile on Zimmer has changed from the player who two years ago had a good hit tool and a little power. Now, Zimmer is a guy with a lot of raw tools, but he is struggling to translate them. His power is the one tool that does excite though. As mentioned, Akron is a pitcher's park, and he has put up big power numbers there. He has a chance to be a Joc Pederson type of player for the Indians down the road, but there is a lot of work that needs done.
3 Nellie is the type of prospect who gets overrated due to power totals, but this was exactly the perfect stage for a player with his skillset to perform.