The highest seed in the Home Run Derby is usually the player with the most home runs in the regular season. Which, given Baez’s magic, is a surprise.
What a great time to be a baseball fan. The sport has come full circle, with the most recent World Series crown being held in the city that saw the first one in 1903. Plus, the World Series will have two teams from Southern California in the first two games. There was a time when the dominant ball club in the Los Angeles area was the New York Yankees, but they’re no longer in the picture. Now it’s the Angels, who are the hottest team in the AL West. The Angels are fielding one of the best hitting lineups in the game, and the pitching staff is anchored by two-way star Shohei Ohtani, the biggest hitter-pitcher in the American League.
New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso has a secret weapon ready to defend the 2019 Home Run Derby crown, but Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani is locked into the top spot this year.
The eight-man home run derby field was officially unveiled Wednesday night, and Alonso’s opponents will be Ohtani, Texas Rangers right fielder Joey Gallo (No. 2), Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson (No. 3), Baltimas Orioles catcher Salvador Perez (No. 4), Rangers first baseman 4), Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini (No. 6), Colorado Rockies shortstop (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 held Monday at Coors Field in Denver.
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Alonso, the No. 5 who defeated Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the finals in Cleveland two years ago, arrives with eight painted bats with slogans like Family First and LFGM, and his favorite movie, 300.
When I box, that’s my mentality, Alonso told ESPN’s Jun Lee. Even if I’m outnumbered nine to one, I’m in my own little territory, just like the Spartans back then, who only defended 300 against the odds. That’s how I describe the way I play.
Although hometown fans cheer for Story, Ohtani is the main attraction. He’s been the biggest story of the first half of the season with his play as a hitter and pitcher, and he leads the majors with 32 home runs, many of which were hit by a roulette wheel. Ohtani will start Tuesday’s All-Star Game as a designated hitter, and Angels manager Joe Maddon spoke with American League captain Kevin Cash about using Ohtani as a pitcher.
Ohtani announced his participation in the derby in June, becoming the first Japanese player in the competition.
I always wanted a Japanese player to play in the derby, and it just so happened to be me, Ohtani said through his translator at the time. It’s very exciting for me.
Summary for participants:
- Ohtani (32 home runs): Not only is he on track to break the Angels’ record of 47 home runs in a single season, but he also has a chance to hit 60 home runs after hitting 13 in June and four in July. The longest home run of the season: 470 feet.
- Gallo (23 home runs): Known for his tremendous power when he picks up the ball, fans have long demanded that Gallo compete in the Home Run Derby. He’s been hot lately, hitting two more home runs on Wednesday and now has 10 home runs in his last 10 games. The longest home run of the season: 462 feet.
- Olson (21 home runs): Olson hit 36 home runs in just 127 games in 2019 and is on track to surpass that career record in 2021. After hitting .195 last season, he has also improved at the plate, nearly halving his strikeout rate and bringing his average to .283. The longest home run of the season: 445 feet.
- Perez (20 home runs): Perez will be playing in his sixth All-Star game and should easily surpass his career high of 27 home runs, which he has already done twice. His power is no accident, as he ranks ninth in the majors with an average output speed of 93.0 mph. The longest home run of the season: 460 feet.
- Alonso (15 home runs): He couldn’t match his 2019 home run total, when he set the rookie record with 53, but few players hit the ball as hard as he does rank 11th in average walks. He must love Coors Field, as 14 of his 15 home runs were hit in the outfield. The longest home run of the season: 443 feet.
- Mancini (15 home runs): One of the best stories of the season: Mancini missed all of 2020 after undergoing treatment for colon cancer. He hit 35 home runs in 2019 and is off to a strong start in 2021, even though he has only hit four home runs since the beginning of June. The longest home run of the season: 451 feet.
- Story (11 home runs): Story’s home run total is down from 37 in 2018 to 35 in 2019, but no one doubts his power. It could also be a goodbye of sorts for him in Colorado, as he becomes a free agent after the season and the Rockies might consider trading him after the All-Star break. The longest home run of the season: 466 feet.
- Soto (11 home runs): Soto’s offensive numbers are disappointing after he led the National League in batting average, OBP and slugging in 2020, but he has a youthful enthusiasm that could work well in a derby. The longest home run of the season: 437 feet.
Guerrero owns a record of 40 sure hits since the new Home Run Derby format was introduced in 2015, when he defeated Jock Pederson 40-39 in 2019. Both men landed 29 punches in the main event (equal to Guerrero’s total in the first round). With Coors Field expected to keep the ball flying, that record may be in doubt.
Ken Griffey Jr. won the final home run game played at Coors Field. He hit 19 home runs in 1998, surpassing Jim Thome’s 17 home runs.
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