HOME RUN DERBY:
ANALYZING THE FIELD
The 2017 MLB All-Star Game heads to Marlins Park in Miami on Tuesday, but before the main event, eight of the game’s biggest bashers will go swing for swing in the bracket-style Home Run Derby. Defending champ and hometown star Giancarlo Stanton is the only player with prior Derby experience, but the rest of the field features some capable fresh faces. (Stats through Friday).
Marlins, 24 home runs
The defending Derby champion smacked 61 homers, including 20 in the final round, at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. He’s got the longest hit by a winner in the last seven competitions (497 feet). There’s the comfort factor — 13 of his homers have come at home this season, with 94 in his six seasons at Marlins Park. He’s made his mark with top exit velocity, but many of those hits this year have been for doubles. He lifted the ball last year, and could get himself to the finals if he gets past the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez.
Yankees, 30 home runs
The Yankees’ wunderkind passed Joe DiMaggio’s record for most home runs by a Yankees rookie Friday night with his 30th, and each blast can take on a life of its own. The major-league home run leader holds the longest blast of 2017 at 495 feet, as well as five of the top six spots for exit velocity ranging from 121.1 miles per hour to 118.6. His average exit velocity is 97.3. If you want to snag a Judge long ball in Miami, don’t fall for the leftfield trap for a righty. He’s just as likely to shoot it out to center or right. Factor in the numbers, the Miami heat and his flair for the dramatic, and the 6-7, 282-pound slugger could walk away with the title.
Cody Bellinger Dodgers, 24 home runs
This Derby might belong to the kids. Bellinger has exploded onto the scene this year, hammering 24 home runs in 251 at-bats. He’s fourth in the majors with a .610 slugging percentage (Judge is first at .701). Bellinger is 11 homers shy of Mike Piazza’s Dodgers rookie record of 35 set in 1993. He’ll turn 22 on Thursday and could be celebrating his first of multiple awards this season.
Royals, 25 home runs
Moustakas doesn’t grab the headlines like some of the phenoms in this year’s competition, but he’s put together 25 homers, good for a tie for third in the majors. He’s on pace to break the team’s season record of 36, set by Steve Balboni in 1985. Moustakas has played in 26 major-league stadiums over seven seasons, but has never taken the field in Miami. There’s a first time for everything, but he’ll have to get through No. 5 Miguel Sano and a possible matchup with Stanton to reach the final.
Twins, 20 home runs
Sano already has almost matched last year’s total of 25 home runs. He has 35 home runs on the road and 28 at home in his three-season career, and that comfort in unfamiliar places will come in handy considering he’s never played a game at Marlins Park. If he can send a lot of drives over the wall in left-center (386 feet), this tournament could serve as a national coming-out party where a big audience can take in his power for the first time. He’s done a better job of hitting homers to all fields this year, sending 12 to center and right, as opposed to three in 2016.
Charlie Blackmon Rockies, 19 home runs
Blackmon leads all centerfielders with 18 home runs, three ahead of the injured Mike Trout. His longest shot went 458 feet, only two feet shorter than Stanton’s season best. Only seven of Blackmon’s homers have been away from the high altitude of Denver. He’s put two balls over the fence in Miami in his career, hitting .234 in 51 plate appearances.
Marlins, 19 home runs
The pressure’s on for Bour to upend some higher seeds and set up an all-Miami final with Stanton. He’s got the power to do it, knocking 19 long balls this season. The vast majority of those have been pulled into the rightfield stands, and 31 of his 58 career home runs have come at Marlins Park.
Yankees, 13 home runs
Despite all the hype surrounding Judge, Sanchez has been a Yankees phenom all his own. He hit 20 homers last season, good for No. 6 on the all-time Yankees rookie list, and he’s put 13 over the fence so far in 2017 despite missing most of April with a strained biceps. He held the record for most home runs in a player’s first 51 games until Bellinger broke it by hitting 21 earlier this season. Though he hasn’t been hitting at the same torrid pace in the first half of 2017, he could start some fireworks to answer Logan Morrison’s criticism of his selection.