- There are plenty of new faces, but which of the eight contestants is most likely to win Monday night in Cleveland?
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Matt Chapman, who is replacing Christian Yelich as the No. 1 seed after Yelich dropped out Sunday due to a back injury.
There’s no question the 2019 Home Run Derby field is loaded, and with the last two players (Alex Bregman and Joc Pederson) locked in for Monday night’s competition, it’s time to break down who has a shot to raise the trophy at Progressive Field. (Note: All home run spray charts are overlaid on the site of this year's Derby)
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (21 home runs)
Although it certainly isn’t fair to compare Chapman to Christian Yelich, the fill-in for the reigning National League MVP is no slouch. Chapman is slugging a career-best .534 and his average exit velocity of 93.0 mph puts him in the top three percent of the majors.
Of course, it’s a bit odd that he’ll be the No. 1 seed, meaning he’ll get the advantage of a first-round matchup with Vlad Jr., but with the last-minute change, MLB probably didn’t want to have to reset the entire bracket. Regardless, with a compact yet powerful swing, there’s no reason Chapman can’t take advantage of this opportunity.
Pete Alonso, New York Mets (28 home runs)
What Aaron Judge did in 2017 was special. Up until that point, no player in his rookie season had ever won the Derby, and in fact, none had ever even really come all that close. Also going against Alonso is the fact that no Met has won a Home Run Derby is more than 30 years—Darryl Strawberry took home the crown in 1986.
There are pluses and minuses to Alonso’s style. Some of his best power goes toward right center, which will keep him away from the 19-foot wall in left field. The problem is that in a Derby, Alonso will probably end up pulling the ball more, and he doesn’t have a ton of launch angle (149th among qualified hitters). He’s got plenty of moxie, but his championship chances may not be as good as the numbers suggest.
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (26 home runs)
Everything just seems to be trending in the right direction for this guy. Bell’s numbers are up in almost every category, as he’s already tied his career best for dingers. He also knows what it’s like to deal with that as PNC Park boasts a 21-foot wall in right field. (Only five balls have ever gone into the Allegheny River on the fly—Bell has two just this year, including this blast!)
Only Vlad Jr. has a higher average HR distance in this Derby field and Bell’s 50.8 hard hit percentage makes him only one of 20 qualified players in baseball to get beyond that halfway mark. He might be slept on as a result of playing in Pittsburgh, but Bell should be a favorite in this event.
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (23 home runs)
One of the last two additions to this year’s field, Bregman is the only returning competitor from the 2018 edition. He ran into a first-round buzzsaw in No. 5 seed Kyle Schwarber, who ultimately lost in the finals to Bryce Harper, but will at least be able to lean on his experience from last summer.
Bregman’s overall stats are down from the last two years, but he is on pace for a career best in slugging.
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (20 home runs)
Most would’ve thought that if there were going to be a Dodger in this Derby, it would be Cody Bellinger. Yet, the best player in baseball this season has opted to sit it out in favor of his outfield mate.
While Bellinger is known for his majestic shots, Pederson hasn’t hit them all that far nor high this season. What will be interesting to see with Pederson is who ends up throwing to him Monday night—he wanted current Padres hitting coach Johnny Washington, who tossed to Joc in the 2015 Derby, but San Diego has apparently shut that possibility down.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves (20 home runs)
In most years, the 21-year-old Acuña would easily be the youngest player competing. Still, he’ll have age on his side going up against Bell, 26, in the first round.
If Acuña isn’t going first, he should make a special request—four of his 20 homers have led off a game and he’s already hit 12 in less than two seasons, which means that if he sticks around long enough, there’s no reason he couldn’t eventually pass Rickey Henderson for the leadoff homers record (81). That said, Acuña has absolute light-tower power and could easily get on a run in this thing.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (19 home runs)
The obligatory hometown guy, Santana is actually having a great year after a miserable season in Philadelphia. He’s hitting above .300 and will have a chance to set a new career high in homers (he hit 34 in 2016) although it will take a strong second half.
Nothing with Santana is flashy, yet his exit velocity is as high as its ever been in the Statcast era, and assuming he hits as a lefty—15 of his 19 bombs have come from that side—he’ll pull almost everything and not have to contend with the left-field wall.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (8 home runs)
Ignore the numbers (he didn’t get up to The Show until late April). When your dad hit 449 career homers and won the 2007 Home Run Derby featuring this massive blast, you know you’ve got more than a fighting chance.
That said, Chapman makes for a tough first-round opponent and like we mentioned earlier, rookies haven’t found much success in the Derby. Guerrero has been practicing for this event, though, and if he can find the height to deal with left field, he’s got more than enough power to do something special in Cleveland.