From the distinction of having six All Stars named to the American League team — and technically even one All Star on the National League team — to the announcement that Josh Donaldson would be joining teammate and reigning Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes in the Gillette Home Run Derby on Monday, the 2014 MLB All Star festivities will be an Oakland A’s showcase.
Although the All Star celebration technically begins today with the Fanfest activities around Minnesota and continue with the All Star concert tomorrow evening, baseball activity will not kick off until Sunday with the Futures Game.
Following the departure of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, the A’s farm system took a bit of a hit in terms of top-level talent, however that does not mean that A’s fans won’t have a reason to check out the Futures Game on Sunday. Renato Nunez, current third baseman for the Class-A Stockton Ports, is in the middle of a fine season and will represent the A’s organization.
Nunez, currently rated as Oakland’s No.4 prospect, is batting .282/.348/.522 with 21 homers and 61 RBI through 81 games with the Ports. He will be participating as a part of the “World Team” at the event against the “US Team.” The 20-year old A’s prospect was originally signed for $2.2 million out of Venezuela.
Following the conclusion of their game Sunday in Seattle against the Mariners, the A’s seven All Star representatives will board a private jet (presumably) and head to Minneapolis where all eyes will be on Yoenis Cespedes in the Home Run Derby on Monday evening. Cespedes won the event in New York at Citi Field last year and put on quite the show in the process. Joining Cespedes though, and giving Oakland a bit of a statistical advantage towards retaining the HR crown, will be third baseman Josh Donaldson, added to the Derby lineup Thursday.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of watching either Cespedes’ or Donaldson’s batting practice sessions, you already know they put on quite the power display when they want to. While Cespedes routinely bounces balls off the suite windows on Mount Davis, and occasionally launches one into the second level above the batter’s eye in center field, Donaldson has been routinely planting souvenirs in the upper rows of the outfield bleachers during batting practice this season as well.
Donaldson currently leads all A’s sluggers with 20 homers on the season while Cespedes sits in third on the team with 14 (fellow All Star Brandon Moss is second on the team with 19 homers, but won’t be competing in the home run derby — wouldn’t that have been fun to watch if he were though?).
Third base coach Mike Gallego will be accompanying the players to Minnesota and throw to Cespedes. Bullpen coach Darren Bush will throw to Donaldson.
If either player gets into a groove, as we saw last season with Cespedes, the title should stay in Oakland for another season. Cespedes will try to become the first player since Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1998-1999 to win back-to-back titles.
Then there’s the main event…
Named to the American League roster: Josh Donaldson 3B & starter, Scott Kazmir SP, Sean Doolittle RP, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Derek Norris C, Brandon Moss 1B/DH.
Named to the National League roster as a Cub (but now an Oakland Athletic): Jeff Samardzija SP (though ineligible to play).
Although the honor will likely go to Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir could get some consideration to be the American League starting pitcher with his 11-3 record and 2.38 ERA. And what a story that would be, just two years removed from pitching in Independent League Ball with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Regardless of whether Kazmir gets the nod to start the game or not, Donaldson will be starting at third base, marking the first time the A’s have had a position player elected as a starter since Jason Giambi in 2001. With five of his teammates in the dugout with him, A’s fans will have far more reason to check out the game this season than in years past.
There should be plenty of green and gold on display in Minnesota, and center stage with the national spotlight focused on them, from Sunday through Tuesday.
It will be a good warm-up exercise of handling the spotlight for a team that is destined to have an even larger spotlight focused on them in October.
In short, it will be fun to watch, as it has been all season long.