Maybe Mark Trumbo isn't the dark horse we thought he was for tonight's Home Run Derby. Three of ESPN's baseball experts picked Trumbo to win the whole thing.
Only Jose Bautista, the AL's leading home run hitter for each of the last 2 1/2 seasons, got more votes.
The word is out on Trumbo's power. The average distance of his home runs, 419.5 feet, ranks first in the majors, according to ESPN Stats and Info, and 11 of his 22 home runs have gone at least 420 feet. That, of course, doesn't include batting practice, which is really what the derby is. Trumbo, according to several Angels who witnessed it, hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium last month.
Trumbo's handicap could be his lack of experience. He has the fewest career home runs of any of the participants, because he also has the least service time. It's not only his first Home Run Derby, it's his first All-Star Game. It's also the first derby of the guy who will be throwing to him, Mike Ashman. Nerves could be a factor for everybody.
After the Angels wrapped up the first half with Sunday's 6-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles, Trumbo said he was starting to think about the Derby.
"I'm trying not to get too fired up, because I think that might backfire. ... A lot of 'fires' in there," Trumbo said. "But we'll figure it out when it comes time."
This will be Trumbo's third home run-hitting derby, he figures, including the minor leagues and high school, but I doubt the Orange County Century League contest was televised to millions on ESPN.
"I'm competitive at everything, so if I'm going to enter something and participate, I'm going to try to win it," Trumbo said.
The Angels have a history of doing well when they're invited. Garrett Anderson won it in 2003. Vladimir Guerrero won it in 2007. But with this kind of thing, there's always the fear of embarrassment: Troy Glaus didn't hit any in 2001. Ouch.
Trumbo asked Anderson, now a part-time TV analyst on Angels broadcasts, for his advice.
"He said, 'Treat it like a normal BP, stay in the middle of the field if that's one of your strengths,' " Trumbo said. "And I'd like to think it is. I'm going to try to not get terribly pull-happy and just kind of hit the pitch where it's pitched."