2018 Home Run Derby Preview

Well, folks, we’ve officially made it to the All-Star break. More than anything, that means we, as fans, can let our hair down and relax a little. For the next few days, baseball is about what it should always be about: having fun. And make no mistake about it, the MLB has the best All-Star break of any professional sport. The NBA All-Star game is a defenseless joke, and the Pro-Bowl might as well not even exist anymore (does it still exist?). Sure, the NBA Dunk Contest puts some asses in the seats, but if we’re being honest, it just ain’t what it used to be.

Fortunately, in the words of Terrence from Field of Dreams, “baseball has marked the time”, and the All-Star festivities are as exciting as they’ve ever been. The most important event, of course, is the Home Run Derby. Who doesn’t enjoy watching baseballs being launched into orbit by the strongest players in the Bigs? Put your hand down, liar.

So, without further ado, let’s meet the participants of the 2018 Home Run Derby (in order of matchup 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5):

#1 Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers (+500)

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In just his second full MLB season, Jesus Aguilar has proved himself to be a beast. The 28-year-old righty is leading the National League with 24 home runs, and they’re not cheap ones either. Aguilar is a big dude with some serious pop. His 90.5 mph average exit velocity ranks him 46th in the majors, and his average home run travels 394 feet. His swing isn’t explosive and he’s not necessarily fast-twitch, but he can muscle the ball over the fence with ease. The biggest question is whether or not he can perform well for the duration of a round. That could pose an issue to Aguilar, who might just be the strongest player in the Derby this year… just look at the size of that leg. My God.

#8 Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (+900)

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Hoskins is in his second big league season, but that hasn’t stopped him from gaining league-wide attention as a power threat. Most notably, Hoskins mashed 18 home runs in his first 50 MLB games last season, which set the stage for his 2018 season. He has just 14 home runs right now, and he comes in with an average exit velo of 88.9 mph and an average home run distance of 393 feet. Hoskins isn’t the most powerful guy in the derby, but he’s got a knack for getting the ball in the air with an average launch angle of 21.7 degrees. Hoskins isn’t going to hit the longest home run of the derby, but he might hit some moonshots that land on the favorable side of the fence. It would be a shock for him to knock off Jesus Aguilar, but hitting a bunch of high, 2-row deep bombs is how he would do it.

#2 Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (+225)

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Bryce Harper has been one of the strongest guys in the MLB since he was in high school. I mean, look at that goddamn forearm. At the age of 16, he was rumored to have hit a ball 570 feet. That report might have been exaggerated, but his power is not. Harper currently sits second in the National League with 23 home runs, and he currently owns the 4th longest home run of the 2018 season with a 473 foot nuke.

In my mind, there’s only one thing that could keep Harper from the crown: his swing. There’s so much going on that I don’t know how he won’t tire out. But again, look at that goddamn forearm. Bryce Harper is stronger than I, and I think it would be unwise to doubt his muscular strength and/or endurance. He may not be having the best season, but he has an opportunity to endear himself to his home crowd. He’s the heavy favorite for a reason.

#7 Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (+750)

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Freddie Freeman is pretty much walking into a pre-dug grave. He got the unfortunate matchup of Bryce Harper, which means he’ll have his work cut out for him if he wants to advance, let alone win. Don’t count Ol’ Freddie Freeswinger out just yet, though. I think his swing is tailor-made for Home Run Derby dominance. He’s got a tiny load (talking about his swing, folks) and a short path to the ball. It’s very repeatable and if he gets in a groove there’s no telling how many bombs he could hit. It might have to be a perfect storm, but Freddie Freeman could very well run the table if he can make it out of the first round. He just needs to pray his BP pitcher keeps it up and out, where his average exit velo is 98.1 mph.

#3 Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers (+650)

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I’ve been to one MLB game this season. I was in California and was lucky enough to see Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers took on the Pirates. This dude I had never heard of (admittedly), Max Muncy, went yard in his first two at-bats. Muncy has hit 21 home runs in just 225 at-bats this year, good enough for the best AB/HR ratio in the MLB (10.2). He’s got a lightning fast bat, and he’s registered a 91 mph exit velocity with a 17 degree launch angle. Depending on which way you look at it, Muncy is either a dark-horse or an easy pick. He’s surprised the entire MLB already with his production level, so it’s foolish to dismiss him just because he isn’t a household name.

#6 Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (+500)

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Javy Baez is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting young players to watch in the MLB. Everything he does is electric, and that includes everything he does at the plate. His swing is complete with a big leg kick, bat tilt, and ridiculous follow through. To say it’s a max-effort swing just doesn’t do it any justice. You know what, please click this link and see for yourself. Thank you.

Baez has an average exit velocity of 90.2, and the longest of his 19 home runs is 450 feet, which isn’t a cheap shot by any means. I just don’t believe he can swing like he does for a full round and not die of exhaustion immediately after. I love Javy Baez, and I would love to see him hit as many bombs as possible, but he’s not my pick to win.

#4 Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (+1000)

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Bregman, the American League’s only representative, has the longest odds in the entire field, and common logic will tell you why. The 24-year-old stud stands at just 5’10 (listed at 6’0, yeah right), 180lbs, which isn’t the typical frame for a Home Run Derby champion. The last 5 winners have been Aaron Judge (6’7), Giancarlo Stanton (6’6), Todd Frazier (6’3, 215 lbs), Yoenis Cespedes (220 lbs), and Prince Fielder (275 lbs). However, that hasn’t stopped Bregman from putting 20 balls over the fence this season.

Bregman’s a great ball player, but I just don’t see it happening. Even if he does beat out Kyle Schwarber in the first round, he’ll have to go through Jesus Aguilar (or Rhys Hoskins) to even get to the final round. He just doesn’t have the raw power to carry him through. Sorry Bregman, love you bud (shoutout to all my fellow Jewish ballplayers), but I don’t think it’s in the stars tonight.

#5 Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (+350)

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If you follow me on Twitter (shameless plug, @Ben13Porter), you’ll know that I LOVE Kyle Schwarber. I don’t care what statcast says, and I don’t care about his stats. He hits the ball harder and more pure than any baseball player I’ve ever seen. His bat gets on plane earlier than anyone in the MLB, and his raw power is absolutely disgusting. He doesn’t even follow through because by the time the ball has left his bat, it’s already halfway to the bleachers. He’s hit 18 home runs so far, and he’s the only player in this field to have hit a bomb of 117+ off the bat. Stamina might be an issue for Schwarber, but he’s not a max-effort guy. I think he’ll be able to keep up and shatter some lights in the process. He’s my ride or die.

So there you have it. This Home Run Derby has all the makings of a great one, so let’s hope it lives up to expectations. As far as predictions, this could literally go 6 different ways (sorry Bregman, Hoskins). I’m going with my guy Schwarber, but I’m honestly not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that it’s going to be fun. Don’t miss out, tune into ESPN @ 8:00 PM to witness the best All-Star event in professional sports.

Images: SB Nation, The Ringer, Reviewing The Brew, Sporting News, USA Today, Outfield Fly Rule, The Sports Daily, Beyond The Box Score, SI


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