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Seitzer surprises in SL's Derby07/17/2013 11:36 PM ET
By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After winning the Southern League All-Star Home Run Derby, Cameron Seitzer headed to the indoor batting cage to work on regaining his normal line-drive stroke.
The Southern League boasts a variety of Derby winners over the years, but none as unlikely as the slender Montgomery first baseman.
Seitzer, who had just two home runs for the Biscuits coming in to the competition, was understandably surprised when asked to participate. But the Rays prospect decided to embrace the unlikely opportunity and did just that in a big way Wednesday night in Bragan Field at the Ball Grounds of Jacksonville.
The left-handed hitter went deep for the second time on his fifth swing in the final round to beat out 240-pound Birmingham slugger Dan Black.
"I was coming to have fun, and if I hit any home runs, it would be a bonus," said Seitzer, who tied Black with two homers in the first round. "Once I got that first one out of here, I was pumped."
The only other home run event for the 6-foot-5 Seitzer came in the Instructional League after his first season.
"I put up a big goose egg," said the 11th-round pick in the 2011 Draft.
The former University of Oklahoma standout did much better this time. After Black hit just one out in the final round, Seitzer went deep on his first swing and then won it on his fifth.
Black, who leads the Southern League with 57 RBIs and has 10 homers, had been Seitzer's choice to win the six-player competition.
"He's a big man and got a lot of thump in his bat," said Seitzer, who didn't smack his second homer of the season until July 6. "Every time we play [Birmingham], he hits big home runs."
Seitzer usually doesn't, concentrating on driving balls to the gaps like his father, Kevin, who was a .295 hitter during a 14-year Major League career.
The younger Seitzer is batting .278 with 21 doubles and 40 RBIs in 95 games, his on-base percentage of .380 higher than his slugging mark of .363. There were 93 players in the Southern League with more homers than the 23-year-old at the All-Star break.
After hitting 11 homers in 64 games with Rookie-level Princeton of the Appalachian League in 2011, Seitzer hit just four in 118 games with Class A Bowling Green last season. But he did bat .307 with 36 doubles in the Midwest League.
"I normally hit line drives, not homers," said Seitzer, who received an engraved watch for winning the Home Run Derby. "But this was fun."
So was the All-Star Game. Seitzer was 2-for-5 and drove in a run in the South's 6-0 victory.
Missing stars: The promotion of Jackson RHP Taijuan Walker (No. 5) to Triple-A and the withdrawal of Mobile RHP Archie Bradley (No. 21) after pitching in the All-Star Futures Game left the All-Star Game with three players ranked among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects. Jacksonville CF Jake Marisnick stands at No. 56 with Chattanooga RHP Zach Lee at No. 36 and Lookouts CF Joc Pederson at No. 69. The highest-ranked Southern League prospects are Jacksonville OF Christian Yelich (No. 5) and Tennessee SS Javier Baez (No. 13). Yelich recently came off the DL and Baez didn't join the Smokies until recently.
Back for more: Mississippi C Christian Bethancourt, ranked as Atlanta's No. 2 prospect, was the only position player back from the 2012 All-Star Game. The 21-year-old native of Panama started for the South after being a backup last season. He had a hit in two at-bats. Bethancourt was also named to the All-Star Futures Game for the second straight year and played in both games despite being hit on the left wrist by a four tip last Thursday. Back on the North team was RHP Alberto Cabrera of Tennessee, who struck out one in a perfect third inning.
Stepping stone: This year's All-Stars can look to last season's event for encouragement. Thirteen players from a year ago have already made the Major Leagues. LHP Tyler Skaggs, who started for the South while with Mobile, is now part of the Arizona rotation. He received credit for the victory last year despite allowing a first-inning home run as the South defeated the North, 6-2, at Tennessee. Also playing a key part in the victory was Pensacola SS Didi Gregorius, a D-backs regular after a winter trade with Cincinnati.
Home cooking: The host Jacksonville Suns boasted nine players in the All-Star Game, including four replacement pitchers, and the South squad included manager Andy Barkett and his coach staff. First-half North champion Birmingham paced the North team with seven players, the same number as South winner Mobile. Barkett managed the South in 2011 at Jackson in his first year as Jacksonville manager. It was also the second time as manager for the North's Jim Pankovitz, who beat Barkett's team, 6-3, in 2011 during his first year as Jackson manager.