As All-Star week quickly approaches, six of the eight T-Mobile Home Run Derby participants have been announced by Major League baseball, with two more set to be named Wednesday evening on ESPN. So far, we have Carlos Santana, Christian Yelich, Josh Bell, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Ronald Acuna Jr., and Pete Alonso who will all swing for the fences next Monday.
As you can see, five of the six participants except for Santana are all fairly young, especially Guerrero Jr, who is only 20. It’s an exciting time in baseball where young stars are emerging at a higher rate than ever in the big leagues. The youth movement is here to stay and it’s going to be very entertaining to watch these players smash baseballs into orbit at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Everyone knows how truly gifted Christian Yelich is in all aspects of the game. The reigning National League MVP has a smooth, powerful stroke from the left side and despite his slender build, Yelich has outstanding power to all fields, having clubbed 30 homers already at the midway mark of the season. He’s doing all of this at just 27 years old.
But the two players in particular that will be very exciting to watch in their first Home Run Derby will be Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Mets stud Pete Alonso.
Guerrero Jr. and Alonso will be exhilarating
Guerrero Jr may only have eight homers to his name this season, but as all of baseball knows, his power is something from another planet. His bat is the reason Guerrero is in the big leagues at just 20 years old, showing impressive maturity and the ability to hit the ball to all fields with authority. Even though he has struggled at the plate since being called up a couple of months back, his batting practice sessions are mind-boggling to watch for anyone, baseball advocate or not. Before Tuesday night’s game against the Red Sox, Guerrero Jr took some time to practice for the Derby by hitting absolute mammoth shots into the upper deck of Rogers Centre:
— Alexis Brudnicki (@baseballexis) July 2, 2019
Guerrero Jr is averaging 421 feet on his long balls this year, well above the MLB average of just 400. He has a reputation for putting on batting practice displays, dating way back to when he was a 15-year-old in the Dominican, where he first gained notoriety for hitting 33 homers in 60 pitches:
It’s only a matter of time till Guerrero Jr figures out major league pitching and starts to hit homers on a consistent basis. But for now, don’t be surprised if he puts on an absolute show in the Home Run Derby.
Pete Alonso could be one of the best stories of 2019 thus far. On a struggling Mets team, Alonso has emerged as one of the best power hitters in the game in his first big league season. The 24-year old is second in the entire majors, crushing 28 homers, which is just two behind Yelich, who has hit 30. His power is unbelievable there’s no doubt, but it’s the speeds the baseballs are coming off his barrel that make it so exhilarating. Alonso is responsible for the hardest hit home run in the bigs this season, leaving the bat at 118.3 mph. That homer put him in impressive company alongside Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, who are the only two sluggers to hit a ball harder since Statcast was introduced in 2015.
Alonso’s 118.3 and 114.5 mph bombs are the hardest hit home runs in New York Mets history since they started tracking exit velocity. He’s also hit 40 balls at 98 mph or harder, which is third in the majors. His average launch angle is at just over 13 degrees, which is just slightly above the league average. But since he is so strong, even when he hits line drives, they tend to leave the ballpark pretty often. When Alonso does get some lift on a homer though, they go a mile, like this 444-foot bomb to dead center off Dakota Hudson back in April:
ICYMI: Pete Alonso (@GatorsBB) called #Mets skipper Mickey Callaway on Saturday night and insisted that he put him in the lineup Sunday to face an old college nemesis, #STLCards‘ Dakota Hudson (@HailStateBB). And this happened.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 22, 2019
It’s going to be worth the ticket in order to watch these two young sluggers hit bombs on Monday night.
Can’t forget about Bell and Acuna Jr.
Another player who will be must-see TV on Monday is Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Josh Bell. After immensely struggling the last two seasons at the big league level, the 26-year old has broken out as a star in 2019, smashing 25 home runs already. He hit 26 in the entire 2017 season. Bell is also hitting .308 with 77 RBI’s, which is first in the majors. His swing might play well in the Derby because he has a natural uppercut motion, which could help him take a lot of balls out of the yard on Monday.
Another young stud in Ronald Acuna Jr.will step to the plate next week, who has already hit 20 home runs in his first full big league season. Last year, he hit 26 bombs in 111 games, so it’s definitely looking like he will be setting a career-high this year.
Between all of these Home Run Derby participants, it’s going to be one of the most exciting Derby’s we will see in a long time. All of these guys can crush baseballs a long way, even the slightly older Carlos Santana. It will be interesting to see who the last two players will be, but there is no doubt all of them are going to put on a very entertaining show on Monday evening in Cleveland.