He might not be an All-Star, but Yoenis Cespedes is this year’s Home Run Derby champion.
The 27-year-old Cuban defector and second-year outfielder for the Oakland Athletics, handpicked by American League derby captain Robinson Cano even though Cespedes didn’t make the All-Star team, beat Nationals star Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final to win the crown.
Cespedes, who produced 17 home runs in the opening round — tied with David Ortiz for the third-best round in derby history, blasted a towering shot to center field to win it. He flipped his bat in celebration as the ball landed behind a pair of Chevrolet trucks and the home run apple in front of a crowd of 43,558 at Citi Field.
“During the first round I felt like I was getting into a very good rhythm and as long as the ball was over the plate I would remain in a groove,” said Cespedes, who received pitches from A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego.
“I just want to thank the people who believed in me and thought I could play on this level.”
Cespedes, whose longest home run was estimated at 456 feet, slugged 32 homers in all.
He hit 23 homers over the first two rounds to help the American League beat the National League in the head-to-head challenge for charity with a total score of 44-42.
Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer finished third with 15 homers, and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, the major-league leader in homers at the All-Star break with 37, finished fourth with 14.
Sporting his trademark mohawk, Harper, who became the second-youngest derby competitor (20 years 269 days) behind Ken Griffey Jr. (20 years 230 days), slugged 16 homers through the first two rounds and then opened up the finale by crushing another eight with his father, Ron Harper, on the mound.
Harper’s father didn’t make it easy on him during the derby, throwing him cutter fastballs and painting the corners to make it more difficult.
Cano and David Wright, the two hometown representatives, finished in the final two spots.
Cano hit four homers, and Wright hit five.
Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez spent a few extra moments after the National League finished up its work out Monday afternoon soaking up the All-Star atmosphere at Citi Field with fellow Cubans imports Aroldis Chapman and Cespedes.
Fernandez, who spent the early parts of Monday night snapping photos on his cellphone of the Home Run Derby, said he’s fairly confident he will get to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
“I talked to the pitching coach and most likely I’m pitching,” Fernandez said. “I don’t know what inning. But I’m good to go.
“It’s going to be fun, for sure. I don’t think it will be early in the game. ... I have no idea how it’s going to go. Whatever it is, I’m going to enjoy it.”• Fernandez’s agent, Scott Boras, said Fernandez’s first-half numbers (5-5, 2.75 ERA, 103 strikeouts, 40 walks) put him in the realm of young aces Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals and the Mets’ Matt Harvey.
Asked if the Marlins have started discussing long-term plans for Fernandez Boras said: “I’ve talked to [Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria] a number of times, but we have not talked about that.
“Obviously, [Fernandez has] got five more years there, and I think he enjoys playing for the Marlins,” Boras said.
“It’s something that if the team decides to look at that, we’ll have to evaluate it and go from there.’’
Two of the top three leaders in strikeouts will take the hill and start Tuesday’s All-Star Game: Max Scherzer of the Tigers for the American League and Harvey of the Mets for the National League.
Scherzer, 28, became the first pitcher to begin a season 13-0 since Roger Clemens in 1986 before taking his first loss of the season Saturday against the Rangers. He’s 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA and 152 strikeouts (second-most in the majors).
The 24-year-old Harvey (7-2, 2.35) has had a quality start in 15 of his 19 outings. He has 147 strikeouts on the year. Carl Hubbell Esteban Loiza