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What to watch for this All-Star Break

The MLB regular season is about to pause, but there’s still plenty to pay attention to.

MLB: All Star Game-Home Run Derby Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star Break is all but upon us, and we will soon have to face a four-day stretch in which no MLB games are played. That doesn’t mean there’s no baseball to keep us sated though. The Futures Game, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game itself provide plenty of story-lines to follow throughout the week.

The Yankees have one player to watch in Sunday’s Futures Game: Justus Sheffield. Sheffield’s name has of course been floated in the trade rumors that are constantly swirling around the Yankees. Every time Sheffield takes the mound, it’s easy to wonder whether he’s auditioning for potential suitors who see him as a trade target, or whether he’s convincing the Yankees to hold on to him, and maybe even plug him into the rotation down the stretch.

MLB Pipeline ranks Sheffield 39th on the their Top 100 prospects list, while Baseball Prospectus just placed him 40th their updated midseason Top 50. He was promoted to Triple-A this year, and has a shiny 2.25 ERA in 28 innings to go with an eye-popping 39 strikeouts. At age-22, he’s probably close to major-league. Keep an eye on him if he’s called upon in the Futures Game.

Monday’s Home Run Derby, however, doesn’t feature a single Yankee. Somehow, the team that just set a record for most home runs ever before the All-Star Break doesn’t have a single representative in the showcase that is exclusively about hitting home runs.

To be fair, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all just participated in the event just last season. It’s not a shock they would pass on entering in consecutive years, and Sanchez is still working his way back from a groin injury. Still, it feels off that no Bronx Bombers will participate.

The Derby just doesn’t have an entirely exciting lineup in general:

There are certainly some interesting names in the field, but it feels a little lackluster on the whole. Jesus Aguilar has the most homers among the group with 24, and none of the top-five leaders in homers are in the Derby. Still, the one-on-one, bracket-style tournament is an improvement on the Derby’s previous iterations, and should be a fun watch regardless.

The Yankees may not have entrants in the Derby, but they will have representation at the main event, Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Aaron Judge will start in right field for the American League, and Luis Severino has a legitimate case to start the game on the mound for the AL. It’s worth watching to see if manager AJ Hinch tabs Severnio, or goes with one of the league’s other elite starters like Chris Sale or Corey Kluber.

Judge and Severino will each be in the game early on, at the least. As the game progresses, though, the Yankees will be phased out. Aroldis Chapman won’t take part in the game in order to rest a knee ailment. Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ other reserve, also will not appear, as he’s been replaced by Jed Lowrie due to injury.

So the Yankees are currently slated to have two players take the stage Tuesday night. It’s theoretically possible they could send extra representatives should more players pull out due to injury or due to pitching on Sunday. Among the Yankees having the best seasons that went without an All-Star nod were Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and perhaps Dellin Betances, though it seems unlikely any will make the team as a replacement.

Even if there’s no baseball that’s strictly meaningful during the All-Star Break, that doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting and fun. The Yankees will be represented at the Futures Game and the All-Star Game, and all the events provide a certain spectacle, regardless of the level of the Yankees’ participation. The All-Star Break is exactly that, a break, a chance to revel in the greatness of the game’s best and to enjoy a respite from the grind of the season.