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2019 Home Run Derby Preview and Predictions

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The Home Run Derby goes off tonight at 8PM. As usual, it’ll be on ESPN and streaming at MLB.com. The Derby will have different, higher stakes this year. The winner gets more than just a cool trophy. He gets $1 million.

This year’s Derby also has a younger, fresher look. The field is the youngest ever, averaging 25.26 years-old. Youth in baseball generally means low salary, so these guys may have an added incentive to get that $1 million. Here’s what this year’s participants make right now:

Bregman signed a contract extension and, while $640K is his base this year, he did get a $10 million signing bonus, so his number is a tad misleading. Acuña also signed a $100 million deal that is back-end loaded. Half of the field, though, is one bad injury away from an insecure future. In light of this, MLB and ESPN will probably talk at least a little bit about how GREAT it’ll be for the winner to get that $1 million. They’ll likely dance a tad gently around that, though, as they surely don’t want to emphasize the fact that the league and Derby sponsor T-Mobile are spending more dough as a throwaway promotional expense for their off-day programming than most of the Derby participants make as the game’s elite young players.

That little bit of unseemliness aside, let’s break this baby down, shall we?

Chapman and Guerrero are both HARD hitters, with some pretty hefty exit velocities when they connect. Guerrero has only connected eight times so far this year which is low for a Derby participant even with his late start to the season. His power is impossible to question, though, and this is batting practice, basically, so it’s not like someone is gonna challenge him with hard sliders on the hands or whatever. Guerrero, who just turned 20 in March, is the youngest Home Run Derby participant ever, by the way. Chapman uses all fields when he goes deep more than anyone in this pool, though, so I feel like that may give him an advantage, even if he was a late fill-in for Christian Yelich.

Bregman is probably the least quintessential power hitter in this field, but he did participate in last year’s Derby, exiting in the first round. I feel like familiarity with the event is pretty useful given how unnatural this probably is for most of these guys. He’ll know how to pace himself, what kind of pitches he wants, etc. He pulls his homers more than most in this field and tends to hit line drive homers as opposed to big flies. The wall in left field in Cleveland is high, so maybe that hurts him. Pederson was last in the Derby in 2015 and made the final, losing to Todd Frazier. He’s not thought of as a Homer Run Derby-type guy much anymore given that he’s almost strictly a platoon player, but they won’t be brining in any lefties to face him in this event. Could be a good sleeper pick.

Alonso, with 30, has more homers than anyone in the Derby. He is also tied for the hardest-hit homer in baseball this year, exit-velocity-wise, at 118.3. Alonso and Guerrero are the rookie stories. Santana is the obligatory hometown guy and, at 33, is the graybeard of the bunch. He’s having a fine power year — and is on pace to put together his best season at the plate in his career — but I doubt he’s in this event if it’s not taking place in Cleveland.

The Bell/Acuña matchup is the deep-fly bracket. Bell has hit seven homers over 440 feet this year and five farther than 450 feet. That’s Stanton/Judge stuff. Acuña is third in all of baseball in average home run distance. Both have easy power. This is the matchup I’m most looking forward to.

As we did the past couple of years, Bill, Ashley, and I decided to try to pick winners this year. We will not, however, be getting $1 million if we are correct, I don’t :

BILL’S PICKS

Round 1: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. defeats Matt Chapman
Round 1: Alex Bregman defeats Joc Pederson
Round 1: Pete Alonso defeats Carlos Santana
Round 1: Josh Bell  defeats Ronald Acuña Jr.

Round 2: Alex Bregman defeats Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Round 2: Pete Alonso defeats Josh Bell

Champion: Pete Alonso defeats Alex Bregman

  • Longest Homer in the Derby: Pete Alonso;
  • Distance of the longest home run: 492 feet;
  • Total number of home runs hit in the entire Derby by all eight players (221 were hit in 2018): 233;
  • Total number of home runs hit by the winer in the entire 2019 HR Derby (Bryce Harper hit 45 in 2018): 51

 

ASHLEY’S PICKS

Round 1: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. defeats Matt Chapman
Round 1: Pete Alonso defeats Carlos Santana
Round 1: Joc Pederson defeats Alex Bregman
Round 1: Ronald Acuña Jr. defeats Josh Bell

Round 2: Joc Pederson defeats Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Round 2: Ronald Acuña Jr. defeats Pete Alonso

Champion: Joc Pederson defeats Ronald Acuña Jr

 

CRAIG’S PICKS

Round 1: Matt Chapman defeats Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Round 1: Joc Pederson defeats Alex Bregman
Round 1: Pete Alonso defeats Carlos Santana
Round 1: Josh Bell  defeats Ronald Acuña Jr.

Round 2: Matt Chapman defeats Joc Pederson
Round 2: Josh Bell defeats Pete Alonso

Champion: Josh Bell defeats Matt Chapman

  • Longest Homer in the Derby: Josh Bell;
  • Distance of the longest home run: 487 feet;
  • Total number of home runs hit in the entire Derby by all eight players (221 were hit in 2018): 229;
  • Total number of home runs hit by the winer in the entire 2019 HR Derby (Bryce Harper hit 45 in 2018): 50

Gentlemen, start your dingers.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.