New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso, secret weapons in tow, is ready to defend the Home Run Derby crown he captured in 2019, but Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani is the No. 1 seed in this year’s bracket.
The eight-man Home Run Derby field was officially unveiled Wednesday night, and Alonso’s slugging rivals will include Ohtani, Texas Rangers right fielder Joey Gallo (No. 2 seed), Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson (No. 3), Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (No. 4), Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini (No. 6), Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (No. 7) and Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto (No. 8).
The derby will be staged Monday at Denver’s Coors Field.
Alonso, the No. 5 seed who defeated Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final round in Cleveland two years ago, will come equipped with eight customized, painted bats, featuring phrases like “Family First” and “LFGM” as well as an homage to “300,” his favorite movie.
“Anytime I’m in the box, that’s my mentality,” Alonso told ESPN’s Joon Lee. “Even though I’m outnumbered nine to one, I’m in my little area, like when the Spartans defended, only 300 of them defended against all odds. That’s how I describe how I play.”
While the hometown fans will be cheering on Story, Ohtani is the big draw. He has been the big individual story of the season’s first half with his performance as a hitter and a pitcher, and he leads the majors with 32 home runs, many of them of tape-measure variety. Ohtani will start Tuesday’s All-Star Game as the designated hitter, and Angels manager Joe Maddon has talked to American League skipper Kevin Cash about using Ohtani as a pitcher.
Ohtani announced his intention to participate in the derby in June, becoming the first Japanese player in the contest.
“I always wanted to see a Japanese player participate in the derby, and it happens to be me,” Ohtani said through his interpreter at the time. “It’s really exciting for me.”
A rundown of the participants:
Ohtani (32 home runs): He isn’t only on pace to shatter the Angels’ franchise record of 47 home runs in a season, he has a chance at hitting 60 after slugging 13 home runs in June and four so far in July. Season’s longest home run: 470 feet.
Gallo (23 home runs): Known for his prodigious power when he connects, fans have long clamored for Gallo to be in the Home Run Derby. He has been hot of late, hitting two more home runs on Wednesday to give him 10 in his past 10 games. Season’s longest home run: 462 feet.
Olson (21 home runs): Olson hit 36 home runs in just 127 games in 2019, and he is on track to surpass that career high in 2021. He also has improved at the plate after hitting .195 last season, cutting his strikeout almost in half and raising his average to .283. Season’s longest home run: 445 feet.
Perez (20 home runs): Perez will be making his sixth All-Star start behind the plate and should easily pass his career high of 27 home runs, which he has done twice. His power is no fluke, as he ranks ninth the majors in average exit velocity at 93.0 mph. Season’s longest home run: 460 feet.
Alonso (15 home runs): He hasn’t been able to match his home run rate of 2019, when he set a rookie record with 53, but few players hit the ball as hard, as he ranks 11th in average exit velocity. He should enjoy Coors Field, as 14 of his 15 home runs have come on the road. Season’s longest home run: 443 feet.
Mancini (15 home runs): One of the season’s best stories, Mancini missed all of 2020 after undergoing treatment for colon cancer. He hit 35 home runs in 2019 and started off hot in 2021, although has just four home runs since the beginning of June. Season’s longest home run: 451 feet.
Story (11 home runs): Story’s home run numbers are down from the 37 he hit in 2018 and 35 in 2019, but nobody doubts his power. This also could be a send-off of sorts for him in Colorado, as he will be a free agent after the season, and the Rockies could look to trade him following the All-Star break. Season’s longest home run: 466 feet.
Soto (11 home runs): Soto’s offensive numbers are disappointing after he led the National League in average, OBP and slugging in 2020, but he has the youthful enthusiasm that could work well in the derby. Season’s longest home run: 437 feet.
Since the new format of the Home Run Derby was introduced in 2015, Guerrero holds the single-round record of 40, when he outdueled Joc Pederson 40 to 39. That included three swing-offs, as each had 29 in regulation (matching Guerrero’s total from the first round). With the ball expected to fly at Coors Field, that record could certainly be in jeopardy.
Ken Griffey Jr. won the last Home Run Derby to take place at Coors Field, hitting 19 home runs in 1998, beating out Jim Thome’s 17.