The 2018 Home Run Derby takes place in Nationals Park in Washington D.C., a park somewhat partial to lefthanded hitters, but without any major quirks besides a deep centerfield. Last year's returning champion, Aaron Judge, isn't back for the 2018 competition, which means a new champion will be crowned.
1. Jesus Aguilar vs. 8. Rhys Hoskins
Tale of the Tape:
Aguilar: .298/.373/.621, 24 HR, 70 RBI
Hoskins: .252/.363/.456, 14 HR, 56 RBI
Matchup Analysis: Aguilar and Dodgers infielder Max Muncy are the breakout power hitters of the 2018 season, but Aguilar's burly presence and mammoth home runs make him a worthy top seed for this year's derby. Despite entering the season with just 374 plate appearances and 16 career home runs, Aguilar compiled a 160 OPS+ in 87 games and 14 homers over his last 33 games. Hoskins has a long, fluid power swing and showcases strong power to all fields, but hasn't homered since June 29th and has just two extra-base hits in that span. That's hardly an issue in the Home Run Derby, but Hoskins looks a bit less comfortable than he did during his second-half surge in 2017.
Predicted Winner: Aguilar. Hoskins has the fluid, consistent swing that usually plays well in the derby, but a fresh Aguilar should overpower him with relative ease.
4. Alex Bregman vs. 5. Kyle Schwarber
Tale of the Tape:
Bregman: .288/.389/.539, 20 HR, 64 RBI
Schwarber: .249/.375/.498, 18 HR, 41 RBI
Matchup Analysis: In a year when Carlos Correa is struggling with injuries, Bregman is maturing into one of the Astros' most reliable power hitters. His 20 HR lead the team and he has nine over his last 90 plate appearances. Schwarber altered his swing for less launch angle and a more line-drive approach this season (it's worked), but he still has the raw power to win the derby.
Prediction: Schwarber. Bregman will hit lasers over the short leftfield wall, but Schwarber's strength is still his calling card. This event should suit him perfectly.
2. Bryce Harper vs. 7. Freddie Freeman
Tale of the Tape:
Harper: .214/.365/.468, 23 HR, 54 RBI
Freeman: .315/.405/.533, 16 HR, 61 RBI
Matchup Analysis: The hometown favorite may only be hitting .214 this season, but Harper sits just one homer behind Aguilar for the National League lead. Harper's knowledge of the park should aid his quest for a derby championship. Freeman is a fellow lefthanded hitter who can exploit the (fairly) short rightfield wall, and has one of the most remarkably consistent swing levels in baseball. If there's an upset brewing, it's going to be in this round.
Prediction: Harper, but it's going to be close.
3. Max Muncy vs. 6. Javy Baez
Tale of the Tape
Muncy: .271/.409/.604, 22 HR, 41 RBI
Baez: .292/.326/.566, 19 HR, 72 RBI
Matchup Analysis: Muncy is an even bigger surprise arrival than Aguilar and remains a relative unknown to most fans outside of the NL West. He's hit 22 homers in just 279 plate appearances after entering this season with five career homers and is averaging 400 feet/HR. Baez is having a magnificent season and has the forceful, vicious swing to hit some long bombs. The question regarding Baez is whether he'll be able to maintain stamina after a pretty long event.
Prediction: Baez as long as he doesn't wear himself out.
Once the smoke clears, it's going to be Aguilar. Baez is an intriguing choice and is probably the most entertaining player in the derby, but Aguilar has the raw power and the long swing to sustain the long haul. It'll be another accomplishment for the emerging Milwaukee slugger.