The Home Run Derby, an annual slugging competition during Major League Baseball’s All-Star week festivities, has forever been a fan favorite. While the format of the event has changed ever so often, the goal remains the same: smash a lot of baseballs.
The current format consists of four National League batters facing off against four from the American League, whether or not the said players were chosen to compete in the MLB All-Star Game (a reversal of a past regulation).
Eight players are seeded based on their home run totals during the current season and are given five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. However, if a player hits two home runs measuring farther than an estimated 430 feet, they are allotted an additional half-minute of bonus time for extra swings.
Players go head to head and battle it out using this format, advancing to round after round and facing the batters from the adjacent rounds.
This year’s Home Run Derby, as well as the All-Star Game, will be played at Marlins Ballpark in Miami, a ballpark long denoted as a pitcher-friendly park. Nevertheless, the Marlins moved the fences of the outfield wall in before the 2016 season and home runs went up big time. ESPN ranks Marlins Park as the sixth-most hitter-friendly ballpark thus far in 2017.
Consequently, baseball fans have a chance to see perhaps the best Home Run Derby in recent memory, or even in the sport’s history. But after all, it’s the athletes that make the event as fun as it is, so who should be included in this year’s action?
To make this the best Home Run Derby ever, we need the players who simply hurl everything they make contact with; the batters who might hit .220 over the course of the year, but can plaster 40 home runs. Just, simply, physically talented beasts who can hit the heap of cork and leather farther than is comprehensible.
From the American League, we should have:
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, Outfield
Judge can best be described as a football player in a baseball uniform. At 6-foot-7, Judge has a frame that no other elite batters possess, and for that reason he leads all MLB hitters in hits that exit the bat at over 115 miles per hour (six).
Judge has six home runs this year and is slugging .639, which tells me he’d be a perfect addition to the Home Run Derby. He’s a guy who goes for broke and bashes anything that comes his way.
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers, Third Base
Rangers slugger Gallo has drawn comparisons to 462-HR hitter Adam Dunn early in his career, an indicator of his immense ability to knock a ball far and wide.
Earlier this year in a game against the Kansas City Royals, the 6’5″ Gallo locked in and nailed a ball 462 feet at 116.1 MPH off the bat (via Statcast). The Nevada native has seven dingers and 16 RBIs this season.
Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians, Designated Hitter
The biggest prize in free agency over the past season was Encarnacion, as the Cleveland Indians swept up the massive Toronto Blue Jays hitter who led the American League in RBIs in 2016 (127).
Encarnacion is entering the final stages of his career, as the Dominican DH is already a sneaky 34 years old. He has never competed in the Home Run Derby despite 34 or more home runs in each of the past five seasons.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles, Third Base
Three times an All-Star at just 24 years old, and on pace for 600+ home runs over his career, Machado is one of the best players in the game of baseball right now. He doesn’t fit the description of a guy who just swings away at every pitch, but when he connects, a lucky fan walks out with a souvenir.
Machado, another youthful, powerful face in the world of Major League Baseball, suited up in the 2014 Derby, losing to Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers by one run.
From the National League, I hope for:
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, Outfield
The 2016 Home Run Derby champion is arguably the purely strongest hitter in MLB today. Add that to the incentive of putting on a show for his fans in Miami come All-Star weekend and I think a Stanton appearance in the Derby is inevitable.
At 6’6″ and 245 pounds, the former NL MVP runner-up and Silver Slugger would be about as entertaining as anyone possible for this event.
Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers, First Base
Not enough can be said about the astonishing reemergence of MLB home run leader Thames. After four years playing overseas in Korea, Thames remodeled his game and now has 11 home runs and a .371 average for the Brewers.
To see Thames, perhaps the most polarizing player in the big leagues at the moment, slug his heart out against the best in the game come All-Star weekend would be huge for baseball and amazing for the fans.
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs, Outfield
One of the many prolific young Chicago Cubs position players, Schwarber is debatably the best pure hitter on the squad. Miraculously returning for the 2016 World Series and netting seven hits in 17 at-bats is what we remember him for now, but his overall power and proficiency at the plate can not be overstated.
Schwarber, at just 24, has battled through some injuries but has always come back stronger than ever. He makes contact with anything that comes his way — just ask the top of the Wrigley Field scoreboard.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies, Third Base
Only one player in the National League has 40 home runs in each of the past two seasons, and it is Arenado. While being one of the top all-around players in the major leagues, Arenado stands tall at the bat, with two Silver Slugger awards at third base.
Perhaps he’s assisted by playing at the most hitter-friendly ballpark, Coors Field, but talent is talent as far as the Home Run Derby is concerned.
Let’s see who takes the field the night prior to the All-Star Game, but if it’s these eight men, it will be the best Derby of all-time.