Getty Images

2019 Home Run Derby Preview and Predictions

4 Comments

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.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports