Who’s ready for some MLB All-Star Home Run Derby excitement?
The field for the most anticipated event of the summer is now set. Some of the biggest names in the sport are heading to Hollywood and gearing up to take aim at the Dodger Stadium bleachers on July 18 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
With the first participant in this summer’s eight-player field unveiled this past Monday, one thing is clear: Everyone will be trying to keep up with back-to-back derby champion Pete Alonso.
Is there a chance Ronald Acuna Jr. upsets the reigning champion in the first round? And how do the rest of the participants stack up to the home run king?
We’ve broken down each player chosen — and his case for taking the belt from the Mets slugger known as “Polar Bear.”
MLB All-Star Home Run Derby bracket
(7) Ronald Acuna Jr. vs. (2) Pete Alonso
Play: ESPN’s Derby Pick’em
2022 HR total: 23 | Longest: 447 feet
Why he’s the home run king: Alonso has participated in two All-Star Home Run Derbies during his MLB career and twice ended the night as champion — and twice won a $1 million prize for his efforts.
In 2019, Alonso took down Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in an epic derby battle by blasting a total of 57 long balls in Cleveland. When the event returned in 2021, Alonso outslugged the field at Coors Field in Denver, topping Trey Mancini in the final round and hitting 74 total home runs — including 20 that traveled at least 475 feet.
After his 2021 win, Alonso said: “I think I’m the best power hitter on the planet. Being able to showcase that and really put on a fun display for fans, it’s truly a dream come true for me. When I was younger, my parents actually let me stay up past my bedtime to watch this.”
Clearly, all those nights staying up watching paid off for the Mets slugger.
Ronald Acuna Jr.
2022 home runs: 8 | Longest: 464 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: There might not be another player in this year’s field who competes with as much flair as Acuna does — and that could go a long way in front of a star-studded crowd in Los Angeles. While Acuna is known for his all-around skills and Alonso more for his slugging alone, their career home run totals show that the difference in power between the two National League East stars isn’t as big as you might think:
Acuna — 113 HRs, 448 games
Alonso — 129 HRs, 455 games
Why he might not: After coming back earlier this season from an ACL injury suffered last July, Acuna’s power stroke has been the last part of his game to return. So far in 2022, he has hit just eight homers in 53 games, after blasting 24 long balls in 82 games before his season ended last summer.
Derby fun fact: Acuna appeared in the 2019 Home Run Derby, eliminating Josh Bell in the first round before falling to, you guessed it, Alonso in the semifinals. Acuna hit 19 home runs in the round, before Alonso hit 20 to move to the finals.
2022 home runs: 5 | Longest: 426 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: Well, the guy does know a thing or two about hitting home runs, considering he has smacked 684 of them in the regular season in his career — not to mention 19 more in the postseason. Sure, it’s been a long time since peak Pujols, but he still has the raw power to do damage in this contest, and his swing late in his career has been more fly ball oriented anyway. He’ll be the sentimental favorite, and maybe the crowd will root him on to a few extra home runs.
Why he might not: Did we mention it’s been a long time since peak Pujols? If he remains at five home runs over the next week, he’ll have the fewest homers for a player entering the contest. (Ivan Rodriguez of the Tigers had six when he participated at his home park in 2005.) Pujols will be the oldest player ever to partake; the previous oldest participant was 39-year-old Barry Bonds in 2004. And it’s difficult to imagine Pujols having the stamina to win three rounds. Heck, we’ve seen young guys getting fatigued after a round or two — and Pujols is 42!
2022 home runs: 17 | Longest: 451 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: Because he clearly wants to. A lot of young players are one-and-done in the Home Run Derby, but Soto is back for the second year in a row. You might remember that he ousted Shohei Ohtani 31-28 a year ago in an epic overtime match before losing 16-15 to Alonso in the semifinals. He wants his revenge.
Why he might not: That 16-15 loss to Alonso wasn’t actually as close it appears. Soto went first and tired out after his big first round. Alonso actually had about a minute left on the clock when he beat Soto, so he would have destroyed him if he had used his full time allotment. Alonso has proved he can go the distance all three rounds; Soto hasn’t.
Derby fun fact: Soto’s 520-foot home run in the Derby last year was the longest in the contest during the Statcast era.
2022 home runs: 28 | Longest: 468 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: Schwarber has big-time Home Run Derby experience, finishing as the runner-up to Bryce Harper in 2018. Harper was the clear fan favorite of the Washington, D.C., crowd, but Schwarber — a member of the Cubs at that time — got on a roll, blasting drive after drive into the right-field seats, impressing peers with his consistency in the event, in how he settled into a rhythm with his swing. That could be pivotal against Alonso.
Earlier this summer, a veteran slugger mused about the Home Run Derby this summer, about Alonso’s dominance, and suggested that it would take somebody with prior experience in the event to take down the two-time defending champion. “It’s a grueling event,” the slugger said. “You are exhausted. And nobody who is dealing with that for the first time is going to beat him.”
Why he might not: As of just a few days ago, Schwarber didn’t seem inclined to participate this year, citing the event as “a bucket list thing” that he had already crossed off and noting concerns about the effect on his body. If Schwarber backs off from his approach out of fear of injury — especially with his now teammates Harper and Jean Segura already on the IL for the Phillies — Alonso will be a tough hang. But if Schwarber is up to rise to the occasion, he could present a special challenge to Alonso.
Derby fun fact: Despite his loss to Harper in the finals at Nationals Park, Schwarber’s 55 total home runs was the most of any 2018 Derby participant.
2022 home runs: 15 | Longest: 450 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: In a rookie season when he has already accomplished so much, who are we to doubt J-Rod adding another amazing feat to the list? He has already become the fastest player to 15 home runs and 20 career steals in MLB history and joined Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. as the only Mariners to be named All-Stars before turning 22. Plus, Rodriguez can flat-out hit for power: He has 15 long balls in his first 82 major league games after going deep 28 times in 162 career minor league games.
Why he might not: Well, it’s really hard to know how any hitter will handle the pressure of a home run derby until we actually see them do so — especially a 21-year-old who will be playing on by far the biggest stage of his career. If this were a five-tool player contest, Rodriguez would clearly rank near the top of the field, but his pure power and ability to hold it through multiple rounds might not register to Pete Alonso levels … yet.
Derby fun fact: At 21 years and 196 days old, Rodriguez is a little more than half the age of this year’s oldest derby participant, Albert Pujols (42 years, 178 days).
2022 home runs: 17 | Longest: 422 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: Ramirez isn’t usually viewed as one of the game’s elite sluggers — perhaps because he’s only 5-foot-9 — but since the start of 2018 (when he hit 39 home runs) he’s tied for seventh in the majors in home runs with two guys named Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. As a dead-pull hitter, his swing might be tailor-made to launch balls down the line, even if they aren’t the towering blasts you’ll see from the other contestants.
Why he might not: Raw power seems to be how you win this thing — not just for Alonso, but past winners like Harper, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — and Ramirez simply doesn’t have the raw power of the others in the field. Eleven of his 17 home runs have been less than 400 feet. Oh, he also missed a couple games in June because of a bruised thumb and has hit just one homer over his past 30 games through July 13.
2022 home runs: 21 | Longest: 435 feet
Why he could take down Alonso: Home-field advantage? The former Dodgers shortstop might have departed for the greener pastures of the Metroplex, but you have to think Dodgers fans will be rooting him on. Over the past eight Home Run Derbies, Harper, Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes won on home turf, so the fans could be the extra boost Seager needs. He has also been hot, recently homering in five straight games.
Why he might not: In game action, most of Seager’s home runs go to center field or right center. That can be a disadvantage in the Home Run Derby, where you want to hit to your pull field and get some cheap home runs rather than blasting everything 400-plus feet.