Who Should Compete in the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby?
The 2021 MLB Home Run Derby is just under a month away. The event returns this season after not being held last year. I believe this year’s event has the potential to be one of the best yet.
That’s because the event is at Coors Field in Denver, CO. The stadium is over 5,000 feet above sea level. That allows the baseballs to travel further in the air. What better place to host a Home Run Derby than that?
Eight players will participate in the Home Run Derby, but the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby field has yet to be set. Let’s look at a potential list of candidates.
Trey Mancini, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Why not start out with the sentimental favorite? Trey Mancini was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer before the 2020 season. He was deemed cancer-free after going through six months of chemotherapy.
Mancini has 12 home runs and 48 runs batted in (RBIs) this season. His RBI total is tied for seventh in the majors. Mancini has been one of the few bright spots in another down year for the Baltimore Orioles.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Mancini show off his power. He slugged 35 home runs and 97 RBIs in 2019. He hit 24 home runs in both 2017 and 2018.
I know Mancini isn’t the flashiest pick for the Home Run Derby, but why not give him a shot? It seems like every year; we see one player who maybe doesn’t belong in the event really show out.
It’s not out of the realm that Mancini gets a nod for the All-Star Game. If not, it’d be great to see him in the Home Run Derby.
Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
Pete Alonso has been crushing the baseball ever since he entered the majors. Alonso had a memorable rookie season. He made the All-Star Game, won NL rookie of the year, and led the majors with 53 home runs. Those 53 home runs broke the record for most ever by a rookie.
Alonso famously won the 2019 Home Run Derby by outdueling Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Guerrero was crushing everything in sight and appeared to cruise to an easy win. However, Alonso didn’t back down from the challenge.
He hit 23 home runs in the final round, besting Guerrero by one. The 23 home runs broke the record for most by a player in the final round of a Home Run Derby.
Alonso tied for seventh in the majors with 16 home runs in 2020, too.
His power numbers are down this season, to be fair. He has just 10 home runs in 51 games. Even with that, he still leads the majors with 79 home runs since 2019.
Alonso has already publicly stated that he wants a chance to defend his title. If the MLB extends an invitation to him, I say there’s a great chance we see him back in the Home Run Derby.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Like Pete Alonso, Aaron Judge has been absolutely raking since he joined the MLB, and he’s among the top 2021 MLB Home Run Derby candidates.
Judge hit 52 home runs in his rookie season, which was an MLB record until Alonso broke it. Judge also won the 2017 Home Run Derby. In doing so, he became the first rookie in MLB history to win the event.
It’s worth noting that he’s come out and said he may pass on the Home Run Derby this year.
Judge hit 27 home runs in 2018 and 2019, despite missing over 50 games in each season. He did finish top 10 with 14.4 at-bats per home run.
Once again, he missed over half the season in 2020. He hit just nine home runs.
Through the first half of this season, Judge is finally having an injury-free season. He leads the Yankees with 63 games played. He has 15 home runs and 35 RBIs. Both totals also lead the team.
With Judge being healthy, is it possible that he returns to the Home Run Derby? I think so. His 6’ 7”, 282-pound frame makes him one of the most dangerous hitters in the league.
Since Statcast debuted in 2015, Judge has three of the top 10 hardest hit home runs. I bet people would love to see him compete for a second Home Run Derby crown.
Ryan McMahon, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Every Home Run Derby needs a hometown hero, and if you’re wondering who will be in the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby, perhaps starting with a Rockies hitter makes sense.
We all remember when Bryce Harper won the 2018 Home Run Derby in front of his hometown crowd in Washington D.C. Maybe Ryan McMahon can do the same at Coors Field.
The problem? He’s non-commital on taking on the opportunity.
McMahon hit a career-high 24 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2019. He was on a slightly better pace with nine home runs in 52 games in 2020.
But McMahon is taking the next step in improving his game this season. He leads the Colorado Rockies with 16 home runs. That mark also ranks eighth in the majors. McMahon even had a three-home run game this season against the Arizona Diamondback.
His current pace of 15.1 at-bats per home run is far better than his 20.0 mark in 2019. I think it’s fair to say that McMahon is on his way to setting a career-high in home runs.
McMahon’s career year has him on pace to earn his first career All-Star Game appearance. Wouldn’t it be special if he also got to showcase his power in the Home Run Derby in front of his home crowd?
Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves
In just his fourth season in the MLB, Ronald Acuna Jr has become one of the best players in the majors. He’s one of those rare players that hits for contact and power. Not to mention, he’s fast on the base paths.
Acuna slugged 26 home runs in his rookie season. He backed that up by hitting a career-high 41 in 2019. That number was good enough for seventh in the majors.
Acuna’s strong season earned him a spot in the 2019 Home Run Derby. Acuna hit 25 home runs in the first round. It was the second-highest total of any player in that year’s first round. Acuna lost in the second round to eventual winner Pete Alonso.
Acuna hit 14 home runs in 160 plate appearances in 2020. His 11.4 at-bats per home run were far better than his 15.3 mark in 2019.
Acuna’s 18 home runs this season are tied for fourth in the majors. He’s also on pace to set a career-high in slugging percentage.
Shohei Ohtani, OF, Los Angeles Angels
How interesting would this be? Well, we don’t have to wonder, as Ohtani recently announced that he’s the first official participant in the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby.
Shohei Ohtani will officially compete in this year's Home Run Derby.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 18, 2021
Can't. Wait. ? pic.twitter.com/KdLWVFpwa9
Shohei Ohtani becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to participate in the Home Run Derby. Now of course, Ohtani isn’t like other pitchers. He plays DH on days where he doesn’t pitch. But we haven’t seen a two-way player like this since Babe Ruth.
Ohtani hit 22 home runs in 2018 while also making 10 starts on the mound.
He underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2018 season. Ohtani was able to continue hitting, but he only made two pitching starts across 2019 and 2020. He hit 18 home runs in 2019, before taking a big step back in 2020.
Ohtani’s numbers are up across the board in 2021. He’s third in the majors with 19 home runs. His .618 slugging percentage would set a career-high by over 0.50 points. He’s doing all this while pitching a 2.85 ERA across nine starts.
When Ohtani hits the ball, he hits it hard. His average exit velocity of 93.6 MPH ranks fifth in the majors. Ohtani hit a 119 MPH double against the Kansas City Royals earlier this season. That hit was the hardest of the season for any player.
Ohtani’s smooth left-handed swing is a thing of beauty, and it’s awesome to see it’ll be in the Home Run Derby this year.
Fernando Tatis Jr, SS, San Diego Padres
Do you remember earlier when I said Trey Mancini wasn’t one of the flashiest players? Well, we have the complete opposite here in Fernando Tatis Jr.
Arguably the best overall hitter in baseball, Tatis stands out as one of the best options for the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby.
Tatis was a top prospect before he debuted in 2019. He lived up to that hype with a great rookie season. Tatis hit 22 home runs in 84 games before a back injury ended his season.
Tatis finished the 2020 season tied for fourth with 17 home runs. He improved his at-bats per home run pace from 15.2 to 13.2.
Before the 2021 season, Tatis signed a 14-year, $340 million extension with the San Diego Padres. With that contract comes lofty expectations. So far, I’d say Tatis has lived up to the hype.
Tatis is such a free spirit who just loves to play the game of baseball. Sometimes, that can get him into trouble, but there’s no denying his passion.
His attitude is perfect for an event like the Home Run Derby.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had some lofty expectations before he ever stepped foot in the majors. He is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero Jr was also the top prospect in baseball when the Blue Jays called him up.
Guerrero hit just 15 home runs in his rookie season. Despite the low total, he earned an invitation to the 2019 Home Run Derby.
Guerrero put on an absolute show. He broke the record for home runs hit in the first round with 29. He then broke the second-round record with 40 home runs. Guerrero hit 22 home runs in the final round, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Pete Alonso.
Despite losing the event, Guerrero hit a Home Run Derby record 91 home runs. That’s 30 more than any other player.
Guerrero is having an MVP season in 2021. He leads the majors with 22 home runs, 56 RBIs, and a .682 slugging percentage. Needless to say, he’s without a doubt one of the top AL candidates for the 2021 MLB All-Star Game.
His power numbers are far and away better than they were in 2019. Imagine what he can do at Coors Field.
The good news is Guerrero has already stated that he wants to compete in the event if the MLB invites him. I don’t think he’ll have to worry about not getting an invitation.
Tips for Betting on the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby
I really like the dynamic of this field. We’ve got past champions, young stars, a hometown hero, a sentimental favorite, and a two-way star. The thin air in Denver makes the baseballs travel farther.
With the power that some of these guys have, is it possible that we see a 500-foot home run? I certainly think so.
I’m not here to make any 2021 MLB Home Run Derby predictions, but all of the hitters discussed above would be deserving of a nod, and they’d all be capable of winning.
At first glance, Ohtani, Vlad, or Alonso all stand out as the biggest threats. However, hometown heroes can never be ruled out, and you’ll absolutely want to scout the final 2021 MLB Home Run Derby field further when it’s officially announced.
One more thing you can do? Once you know who will be participating in the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby, head over to the best baseball betting apps to see how the odds shake out.
Whatever you do, make sure you get the most bang for your buck, regardless of who you bet on.