There probably isn’t a better place to relaunch the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Home Run Derby than Denver’s Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies.
The popular competition – like far too many in the sports world – was forced to take a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s back, baby, everyone digs the long ball.
Monday night (8 p.m. ET), the 2021 Home Run Derby will lure fans of the competitors and fans of sports betting, too, with myriad opportunities to make a little money on the backs of the sluggers.
The competition is set up with brackets: The top seed faces the No. 8 seed, with the winner taking on the survivor of the Nos. 4-5 matchup, and so on.
Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani leads the world with his historic first half this season – a 3.60 pitching ERA coupled with an absurd 32 home runs – and is rightfully the competition’s No. 1 seed.
So, is there value in Ohtani? Here are a few key points for each of the big boys, using traditional HR/RBI/average stats along with OPS+ (on-base and slugging while factoring in the ballparks), if you want to boost or fade a player based on park factors.
Odds are via FanDuel Sportsbook and are listed from best to worst, and stats are as of Wednesday’s MLB action.
Ohtani, Gallo Top Home Run Derby Odds
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, No. 1 seed
Stats: 32 home runs, 69 RBIs, a .279 batting average and an OPS+ of 178.
Ohtani’s swing statistics – and the results – provide ample evidence that he’s a worthy 1 seed.
He shares the MLB lead with Aaron Judge for highest exit velocity, 119 miles per hour, as well as landing seventh in the majors in average exit velocity this season. He’s also first in barrel rate – he swings hard and doesn’t miss very often – in all of baseball.
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers, No. 2 seed
Stats: 23 home runs, 52 RBIs, a .239 batting average and an OPS+ of 148.
Gallo has been on fire recently, hitting 10 home runs in 10 games from June 26-July 7 and raising his batting average from .218 to .239.
His average home run distance, 416 feet, is best in this field (Ohtani is at 415 feet), so any majestic fly ball hit in the mile-high air may give Gallo the long-ball advantage.
Gallo’s launch angle of 21 degrees is first in this field, perfect for a home run contest and No. 5 in baseball. Ohtani is 18th, good for second in this group.
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, No. 3 seed
Stats: 21 home runs, 56 RBIs, a .284 batting average and an OPS+ 161.
The slugger is enjoying a serious power surge, with his OPS+ ranking a full 28 points higher than his career average OPS+ number.
He is a masher, ranking behind only Salvador Perez among the derby competitors in hits with a 95 mph+ exit velocity.
His launch angle stat ranks just behind Ohtani, and is third among all HR derby entrants.
Pete Alonso, New York Mets, No. 5 seed
Stats: 15 home runs, 45 RBIs, a .257 batting average and an OPS+ of 126.
Alonso won the most recent edition of the home run derby in 2019, his stunning rookie season that included a major league-high 53 home runs.
He defeating a fatigued (we assume) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the championship showdown. Guerrero hit an astounding 91 home runs during the course of that night’s competition.
Alonso trails only Ohtani in highest exit velocity, and ranks third among the 2021 home run derby field in average exit velocity.
He’s also No. 3 among the contestants in barrel rate, trailing Ohtani and Gallo.
Could Perez add to his career-best campaign with a Home Run Derby title?
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, No. 4 seed
Stats: 20 home runs, 51 RBIs, a .281 batting average and an OPS+ of 116.
Perez has found his home run groove and he’s likely to crush his career high of 27 sometime in August.
Perhaps the most unlikely of this year’s derby combatants, Perez has a few key numbers that strongly announce his legitimacy.
Perez holds the top position among all major leaguers in both hits with an exit velocity of 95 mpg+ and in average exit velocity. A big question is whether his launch angle (he’s sixth among derby competitors) will cost him some long balls on Monday night.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals, No. 8 seed
Stats: 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, a .282 batting average and an OPS+ of 142.
Soto is probably among the least likely to win this specialized event. He’s a great hitter, but he has not made the home run stroke a priority.
His launch angle of 5.1 degrees is by far the lowest in the derby, ranking 120th in the majors. Not good for a contest such as this.
Soto is 40th in barrel rate, and that’s great for today’s baseball player — but it’s good for only seventh of the eight in this competition.
Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies, No. 7 seed
Stats: 11 home runs, 41 RBIs, a .252 batting average and an OPS+ of 101.
Maybe it’s his current employment situation – the Rockies very well could trade him away before the deadline this summer – but Story is not having a very good season by his standards.
The home field could provide an emotional lift, but investors should be wary to attach too much significance to that element.
Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles, No. 6 seed
Stats: 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, a .255 batting average and an OPS+ of 114.
His cancer recovery comeback story is the best in baseball, but his home run prowess hasn’t returned to elite levels (he hit 35 long balls in 2019)
Mancini has only four homers since June 1, so, even though his 15 home runs this season are remarkable in context, there are better value options in this field.
A little slice of All-Star break Home Run Derby history
Per a fanduel.com story, only one of the 2021 contestants figures into the all-time records (well, over the past four editions, anyway) for HR Derby excellence.
Per the Statcast numbers since 2016, when that outlet began tracking home run distance.
The most mammoth of HR Derby HRs
- Aaron Judge – 2017: 513 feet
- Judge – 2017: 507 feet
- Judge – 2017: 504 feet
- Judge – 2017: 501 feet
- Giancarlo Stanton – 2016: 497 feet
Most Home Runs in a Single Home Run Derby
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 2019: 91
- Stanton – 2016: 61
- Joc Pederson – 2019: 60
- Pete Alonso – 2019: 57
- Kyle Schwarber – 2018: 55
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