Tonight is one of the most popular events in baseball, the Home Run Derby. This year’s there is a mix of young players and veteran players who are chasing a huge pay day. The winner of this event will receive $1,000,000, so this event will definitely have each player giving their best effort with such a huge reward. Our bets will only consist of the first round match-ups, we have three of them we like. Here are the rules for the competition.
It’s a single-elimination bracket system with three rounds total. In each bracket, the higher seed hits second. Batters will have four minutes per round to hit. The clock starts with the release of the first pitch. Players will use these four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible and each batter is entitled to one 45-second timeout that they may use at any point during the four minutes. Whoever has more home runs at the end of each round will advance.
Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio is a ballpark that has home run splits to right field. This will favor left-handed batters in this competition. This advantage for left-handed batters is due to a high wall in left-field and a much shorter one in right-field. In our bets below, that will be a key thing we will take into account as this stadium will favor left-handed batters.
Alex Bregman vs. Joc Pederson
(Joc Pederson @ 1.71/-140)
In the first matchup we’re breaking down, what is most concerning about Alex Bregman is that 41 of his 54 HRs over the last two have gone to left field. He also tends to hit the ball less hard as he has a lower exit velocity, which is why I do not think he fits well in the competition this year. Players gain an extra 40 seconds for two home runs that go beyond 440 feet. He averages home runs of only 380 feet, that is a concern. What I like most about Joc Pederson is he fits the competition perfectly in many ways he’s left-handed as we mentioned being an important factor, has a heavy pull rate that should help him get into a rhythm at lefty-friendly Progressive Field. Pull hitters like him should have an easier time with the shorter fences in right field. It’s also worth noting that he finished in second-place at the 2015 derby and is in a great spot again.
Josh Bell vs. Ronald Acuna Jr.
(Josh Bell @ 1.52/-192)
Bell is the odds-on favorite and for good reason, he’s a power hitting switch-hitter who can easily win this competition. 20 of his 27 home runs this season have come from the left side of the plate. He also pulls the ball at a rate of 43.2 percent and his hard contact rate of 49.2 percent is better than anybody else in this competition. His average exit velocity of 93.9 mph also ranks first on the list of this year competitors. He is a player built for this event and could put on a show. Acuna one the other hand is a right-handed batter who hits more far more fly balls right field. That is something that could possibly help him, but the biggest flaw with Acuna is that he has a longer swing and after watching this competition for many years, those with longer swings tend to fail. It will be much harder for him to get in a rhythm and he will have a four-minute clock that he will have to work against. Considering Bell is the favorite to win this competition, I believe Acuna’s night will be a short one.
Pete Alonso vs. Carlos Santana
(Carlos Santana @ 2.25/+125)
This matchup features the rookie and the veteran. Pete Alonso, the rookie, leads major league baseball in home runs, seemingly a perfect fit for this contest, right? Not necessarily as I see Alonso potentially having a let down here. While he does tend to hit the ball to right field, he also faces a veteran hitter in Carlos Santana who is in his home ballpark and will have the home crowd behind him and Santana’s played nine seasons in Cleveland and has taken batting practice here more times than almost anyone in the league. That familiarity could give him an edge, and it is worth noting that under the new derby format introduced in 2015, two out of four years, the hometown player went on to win the competition, Todd Frazier in 2015 (Cincinnati) and Bryce Harper last year (Washington).