The MLB Home Run Derby is held annually as a preview to the All-Star Game, but because of this year’s run-scoring renaissance, the 2017 edition will have special significance.
Broadly speaking, the past decade in baseball has been dominated by pitching, pitching and more pitching. But for whatever reason — and many have been suggested — baseballs have flown out of the park with increasing regularity the last few seasons.
This year’s Home Run Derby is an opportunity to reflect on how much baseball has changed the last few years.
This year’s Derby will feature eight players, seeded based on home run total and other factors, competing in a single-elimination, bracket-style tournament. Each player will have four minutes per round to hit as many home runs as possible, but can gain more time for hitting two home runs over 440 feet. Competitors are allowed to take one timeout per round, and any ties will be broken via a one-minute swing-off.
Below is a look at this year’s crop of Home Run Derby participants, as well as some key stats and the case to win for each one (stats are through the games of July 6).
Right fielder, Miami Marlins
Seed: No. 1
2017 HR: 23
Career HR: 231
ISO (Isolated Power = extra bases per at bat): .273
Why he can win: Because we’ve seen him win before, essentially. One year after outgunning runner-up Todd Frazier in San Diego, Stanton will look to defend his title in front of a hometown crowd at Marlins Park. The 2017 season hasn’t been his best campaign, but he’s still a ludicrously talented power hitter with a career slugging percentage of .539.
Right fielder, New York Yankees
Seed: No. 2
2017 HR: 29
Career HR: 33
Why he can win: Judge leads the American League in home runs, RBI, walks, runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, making his rookie season one of the best in recent memory. He’s also been responsible for the top four hardest-hit homers of this season, and he already holds the Yankees team record for most home runs by a first-year player. He may not be the top seed, but he’ll still enter as the odds-on favorite.
First baseman/outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seed: No. 3
2017 HR: 24
Career HR: 24
Why he can win: The son of former major leaguer Clay Bellinger, Cody Bellinger has enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign of his own, slugging .613 for the Dodgers. The Arizona native was called up in late April and wasted no time making up for lost plate appearances. He now leads the National League in home runs, and while his barrage of power has relented a bit since the calendar turned to July, his whip-like swing is still plenty dangerous.