McKechnie Field should be friendly host for FSL All-Star Home Run Derby

Marauders' Bell among 8 participants in all-star day event

jlembo@bradenton.comJune 11, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Bradenton Marauders outfielder Josh Bell shares a laugh with teammates before Tuesday's game against the Palm Beach Cardinals at McKechnie Field in Bradenton on April 8, 2014. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

BRADENTON -- If you're going to have a home run derby, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better host than McKechnie Field.

The venerable ballpark in downtown Bradenton allowed 1.4 home runs per game from 2010-12, according to a study conducted by Baseball America, ranking McKechnie as the second-best home run park in the 12-team Florida State League. Dunedin's Florida Auto Exchange Stadium averaged 1.52.

Those results will be put to the test at 5:30 p.m. Saturday during the Florida State League's Home Run Derby, a precursor to the FSL All-Star Game, which begins at 7:05 p.m.

The derby features eight participants, including Bradenton Marauders outfielder Josh Bell, and will be broken into two rounds. Each hitter will have three minutes to hit as many home runs over McKechnie's regular wall (worth two points) or an auxiliary fence placed in the outfield (one point).

The two players with the best point totals advance to a timed finals.

Minor-league home run derbies aren't as cut and dried as their major-league counterparts -- some players are promoted to the next level prior to the game while others are barred from competing by their parent organizations.

Here is the skinny on the derby participants:

[ ] Josh Bell, Bradenton Marauders: Ranked the Pittsburgh Pirates' sixth-best prospect by MLB.com, Bell has stroked six home runs, but just two in 92 at-bats at McKechnie Field. He does have 13 doubles and is slugging .466, so Bell may be able to make some noise in the first round.

[ ] Dante Bichette Jr., Tampa Yankees: A former supplementary-round pick of the New York Yankees, Bichette has six home runs but hasn't hit one in 31 at-bats thus far in June. He does have an impressive pedigree, His father, Dante, hit 274 home runs in 14 big-league seasons, winning the National League home crown with 40 in 1995.

[ ] Austin Green, Lakeland Flying Tigers: The first-time all-star is a surprising pick, considering Green has just three home runs and is slugging .324 in 185 at-bats. But with two fences and a points system, maybe Green can surprise some people.

[ ] K.C. Hobson, Dunedin Blue Jays: Though he has hit just four home runs thus far, Hobson hit 19 last season with Dunedin and 10 in 2012 with low Single-A Lansing. Hobson has 43 home runs in 480 professional at-bats, which averages out to one in every 11 at-bats.

[ ] Patrick Leonard, Charlotte Stone Crabs: One of the prospects the Tampa Bay Rays acquired in a 2012 deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, Leonard has already hit as many home runs this year (nine) as he hit all of last season with low Single-A Bowling Green. And he has done it 66 fewer at-bats. Leonard has thrived on the road, hitting six home runs while slugging .643 in 30 games away from Charlotte Sports Park.

[ ] Justin O'Conner, Charlotte Stone Crabs: While the Rays are searching for offense, two of their high Single-A minor-leaguers will be competing in a home run derby. Ranked the Rays' 20th-best prospect by MLB.com, O'Conner has four home runs while slugging .435 -- decent production for a catcher -- and is hitting .321 in June.

[ ] Bijan Rademacher, Daytona Cubs: Rademacher has cooled since April, when he hit .355 with two home runs and a .440 slugging percentage. Rademacher has three home runs on the year while hitting .292.

[ ] Adam Brett Walker, Fort Myers Miracle: The odds-on favorite on paper, Walker has 14 home runs in 61 games and led the Midwest League with 27 last season. A third-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2012, Walker played college ball at Jacksonville and has 55 home runs and a career .502 slugging percentage in 248 professional games. He's ranked 13th on MLB.com's list of the Twins top 20 prospects.

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