2012 MLB Home Run Derby captain Matt Kemp said earlier this week he wouldn't select Bryce Harper as a participant, that his stats didn't qualify. It was reported, however, that he planned to select teammate Andre Ethier who has more homers than Harper, but not enough to put him at the top of the league.
Kemp's participation has been in serious question because of injury and now Ethier looks headed to the disabled list with an oblique strain. If both are still hurting on July 9, that could open some spots in the derby. While many will clamor for Harper to get in, another Nationals player may be even more worthy.
With two home runs in Tuesday's game, first baseman Adam LaRoche moved all the way to sixth in the National League with 15 home runs on the year. He is tied with Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers and trails five N.L. players including Carlos Beltran and Ryan Braun who lead the league with 20 homers each.
One thing that could help LaRoche is his recent surge in power numbers. LaRoche has hit seven home runs in the month of June which is tops in the National League. He is legitimately the hottest power hitter in the N.L. at the moment.
LaRoche has more home runs than any N.L. first baseman or infielder for that matter. Six of the other top seven sluggers this year are outfielders and Houston shortstop Jed Lowrie is the only other infielder in the top ten.
Will Kemp mix it up and put some infielders in the competition? If so, then LaRoche should be included. He would be the first Washington Nationals participant and the fifth overall in franchise history.
Hubie Brooks represented the Montreal Expos in 1986, Larry Walker did it in 1992, left fielder Henry Rodriguez (the other one) in 1996, and Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. All four players combined for a total of 10 home runs across the four appearances, not a good showing overall. LaRoche himself has never been in the showcase, but once hit 32 home runs in 2006 and has 179 overall in nine seasons.
At 32 and in the middle of a comeback year, LaRoche wouldn't exactly draw viewers to the event. But then again, if they pass on Harper then ratings must not be the primary goal.
There is also the concern of LaRoche's swing being thrown off by participating. It is always possible for a player to come out of the derby in a prolonged funk after swinging for the fences over and over to please the crowd. But all in all, it would be fun for the Nats to have someone in the event and another highlight of a season to remember so far.