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Ranking the Top 8 Home Run Derby’s in MLB History

| June 9, 2022 8:46 am PDT
MLB Home Run Derby logo, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bryce Harper

The MLB All-Star Game is one of the season’s marquee events, but many people prefer the event that happens the night before. That would be the Home Run Derby.

The Home Run Derby features the best power hitters in the game, going all-out to hit as many home runs as possible. The event often brings fireworks, 500+ foot bombs, and intense battles.

Thankfully, we’ve seen many great battles in this event. Here is my ranking of the best Home Run Derby’s.

8. 2017 – Rookie Seals the Show

Aaron Judge

In 2017, Aaron Judge was amidst one of the best MLB rookie seasons in MLB history. Judge entered the Home Run Derby with a league-leading 30 home runs. That was only a preview of what was to come.

The bracket-style format matched Judge with No. 7 seed Justin Bour. Bour put on a show in front of his home crowd, hitting 22 home runs.

He was one of two players to clear 20 home runs in the first round. Unfortunately, Judge was the other player.

Judge kept it going in the final two rounds. He narrowly defeated Cody Bellinger to set up a final round with Miguel Sano.

  • Miguel Sano: 10 home runs
  • Aaron Judge: 11 home runs

Judge became the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby. Judges’ performance makes this one of the top Home Run Derby’s. He had four home runs over 500 feet, including a 513-foot blast.

His defeats of Bellinger and Sano could’ve been much bigger. Judge cleared their score with over a minute remaining in each round. If so, he might have a higher spot on the greatest Home Run Derby’s list.

7. 2005 – Bobby Abreu Destroys the Competition

The 2005 Home Runs Derby allowed players to honor their home country. The eight participants featured players from different countries. However, the competition didn’t have anything on Venezuela’s Bobby Abreu.

Abreu wasn’t a big power hitter in his career, as he won his only Silver Slugger award in 2004 after hitting 30 home runs. He wasn’t a top contender ahead of the Home Run Derby, but he may have had the best MLB Home Run Derby.

He set a then-record with 24 home runs in the first round. This came under the old format, where players had ten outs, as opposed to four minutes. Abreu took his time, taking 17 minutes for the round.

David Ortiz was the only other player to clear 12 home runs. In the second round, Abreu’s six home runs sent him to the final round against Ivan Rodriguez. Abreu’s five home runs gave him 41 for the event. That also gave him the record for most in an event.

The 2005 event wasn’t the most exciting Home Run Derby, but we can’t discount Abreu’s power surge. There’s no denying it was the best Home Run Derby ever for Abreu.

6. 2015 – Todd Frazier Delivers in Cincinnati

Todd Frazier

Following a lackluster 2014 Home Run Derby, the MLB changed the rules for 2015.

It changed from the traditional ten outs to a bracket-style format. That led to one of the best Home Run Derby’s.

Every first-round featured a one-run advantage, including Todd Frazier beating Prince Fielder with a first-round-high 14 home runs.

Frazier was hitting in front of his home crowd in Cincinnati. It looked like his run would end in the Semifinals, but he hit two home runs in the final 11 seconds to claim a 10-9 victory over Josh Donaldson.

Check out the final round score.

  • Joc Pederson: 14 home runs
  • Todd Frazier: 15 home runs

Frazier earned bonus time in the final round. That gave him enough time to surpass Joc Pederson and win the 2015 Home Run Derby in front of the Cincinnati crowd.

The new format led to one of the most entertaining Home Run Derby’s. There were seven matchups between the three rounds, and they all featured a one-run advantage. Frazier had a thrilling victory in the final two rounds.

That ties into the 2015 event being one of the best HR Derby’s.

5. 2018 – Bryce Harper Wins in DC

Todd Frazier had an exciting win in front of his home crowd, but it wasn’t as thrilling as Bryce Harper claiming the Home Run Derby in his final season with the Washington Nationals.

Harper didn’t have a great first round, hitting 13 home runs to defeat Freddie Freeman. Five players hit more home runs, including Rhys Hoskins and Max Muncy with 17. Harper defeated Muncy in the second round, but the real battle was between Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber.

Harper hit a combined 26 home runs in the first two rounds. Schwarber belted 21 in the second round to advance to the final round. The ensuing duel made this one of the greatest MLB Home Run Derby’s.

Schwarber went first, putting 18 home runs on the board. It wasn’t looking good for Harper, as he trailed 18-9 with 50 seconds remaining. Somehow, he went on a tear to tie Schwarber’s 18. Harper won with 16 seconds remaining in bonus time.

A thrilling battle with a hometown winner. What more can you ask for from one of the best Home Run Derby’s of all time.

Between this and Frazier’s victory, using the best MLB sportsbooks might not be a bad idea to wager on a hometown winner.

4. 2008 – Josh Hamilton’s Record-Setting Night

If this was a list of the best Home Run Derby performances, it’s hard to imagine anything other than Josh Hamilton’s 2008 performance being No. 1. Hamilton was amidst a strong first season with the Texas Rangers in 2008.

Old Yankee Stadium hosted the All-Star festivities in its final season. Hamilton wanted to give them a proper send-off, and his first-round performance was one for the ages.

Hamilton belted a then-record 28 home runs in the first round. He hit 13 straight at one point and had seven over 500 feet.

It wasn’t a battle as Hamilton’s 28 home runs were 20 more than any other player. His performance alone made this one of the best Home Run Derby in history.

A poor second round couldn’t keep Hamilton from the final round. Justin Morneau had the second-highest score through the first two rounds at 17. No one expected him to challenge Hamilton in the final round.

We had a shocking finish to the 2008 Home Run Derby, as Morneau defeated Hamilton with five home runs in the final round. Hamilton’s great first round didn’t lead to the title, but it made this one of the best Home Run Derby.

3. 1999 – Star-Studded Field

The 1999 Home Run Derby may have been the most competitive field in the event’s history. Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, and others took center stage at Fenway Park.

Before it started, we should’ve known this would be one of the top MLB Home Run Derby’s. I’d love to know how the odds looked on the baseball betting sites back in the day.

We didn’t see many fireworks in the first round, but McGwire did enough for everyone. He slugged 13 home runs, setting a then-record for most in a round.

Griffey stepped up in the second round with ten home runs. That moved him into the final round, but McGwire didn’t qualify. Jeromy Burnitz hit six home runs to challenge Griffey in the final round.

It wasn’t a big number, but Griffey’s three home runs earned him his second straight Home Run Derby title and third overall. He led the AL in home runs for the third consecutive season.

This may not have been the best Home Run Derby ever, but the star-studded field makes it memorable. It doesn’t get much better than Griffey and McGwire hitting home runs in Fenway Park.

2. 1996 – Barry Bonds vs. Mark McGwire

Barry Bonds

In 1992, the San Francisco Giants made one of the greatest MLB free-agent signings of all-time. They signed Barry Bonds to a six-year deal.

Bonds made his first appearance in the Home Run Derby a few years later.

The 1996 Home Run Derby had a few heavy hitters, but the main attraction was Bonds and Mark McGwire. It may not have been the height of their careers, but both players were among the best sluggers in the majors.

Neither player had a great performance in the first round, but they exhibited their power in the second round.

  • Mark McGwire: 9 home runs
  • Barry Bonds: 10 home runs

It wouldn’t be one of the best MLB All-Star Home Run Derby without a final-round duel between Bonds and McGwire.

McGwire only hit two home runs in the final round, but it looked like that would hold up after Bonds failed to hit one through nine outs. That’s when Bonds exhibited his power. He hit three straight home runs to win the 1996 Home Run Derby.

It wasn’t a high score, but a battle between two of the greatest power hitters is a top-tier Home Run Derby.

1. 2019 – Vlad Jr. vs. Pederson vs. Alonso

We’ve talked about Home Run Derby’s with one or two great performances. However, the 2019 event is the best Home Run Derby because three players had a performance for the ages.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the No. 8 seed, but he belted a Home Run Derby record 29 home runs in the first round. Joc Pederson and Ronald Acuna Jr. also cleared the 20 home run mark in the first round.

The second round featured an all-time duel between Guerrero and Pederson. Check out their second-round total compared to the highest rounds in Home Run Derby history.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  • Guerrero: 29 (2nd Round)
  • Pederson: 29 (2nd Round)
  • Guerrero: 28 (1st Round)

That’s not exclusive to the 2019 Home Run Derby. Guerrero and Pederson have three of the best rounds in Home Run Derby history. It took three tiebreakers, but Guerrero defeated Pederson to make the final round.

Then, we saw a thrilling battle between Guerrero and Alonso. Guerrero belted 22 home runs, but Alonso’s 23 earned him the Home Run Derby victory. It also helped make this the best HR Derby.

It was an intense battle between three great power hitters.

Advice for Betting on the Home Run Derby

The Home Run Derby brings plenty of excitement every year. We can add to the excitement by placing bets on the winner.

A few things go into betting on the MLB Home Run Derby. I’m always a fan of backing players with past success in the Home Run Derby. Joc Pederson has only hit 30+ home runs once in his career, but he tees off in this event.

We also can’t forget about players hitting in front of their home crowd. That extra motivation leads to more success. Feel free to bet on the Home Run Derby today.

MLB All-Star Game and HR Derby Betting Guide
Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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