The most exciting moment in any baseball game, a monstrous moonshot over the fence, gets put on display with a mix of young superstars and veterans in yet another new format as baseball looks to bring back what was once a spectacle everyone would wait for. It will be a bracket-style tournament this year with the first round putting AL and NL head-to-head with the loser getting eliminated. They will have five minutes in this season’s installment to get as many long balls as they can, and also have opportunities for bonus time with homers in the final minute and long-distance bombs. The most they can add is a minute and a half to their initial five.
The eight players featured this year range from the No. 1 seed, Albert Pujols, who ranks among the best power hitters in the history of the game, and will be taking on rookie phenom No.8 Kris Bryant. There is a past winner amongst the field with No. 7 Prince Fielder (2009, 2012) who is going up against hometown favorite No. 2 Todd Frazier. Also in the brackets will be No. 3 Josh Donaldson as he faces No. 6 Anthony Rizzo and No. 5 Manny Machado who goes up against No. 4 Joc Pederson in a battle of youth supremacy.
Home Run Derby Notes:
The American League continued their recent dominance last year with a second straight win by Yoenis Cespedes and the AL has now won in the Derby in each of the last five seasons. Fielder is the only NL player to have taken the trophy in the past eight years when he was a member of the Brewers and he is also one of the four lefty victors in the last seven years with Cespedes being the only righty.
The hitters will be happy to take their hacks in the hitter-friendly venue that is Great American Ballpark after going to both Citi Field and Target Field in each of the last two years. So far in 2015, this park has allowed 101 homers in just 40 games (2.52 HR per game), ranking it as the second-best hitters park in the National League. There are many Reds players who have taken advantage of this in 2015 with Todd Frazier (25), Joey Votto (15), Marlon Byrd (14) and Jay Bruce (13) looking to eclipse the 20-HR mark on the year.
ALBERT PUJOLS, Angels – Bats Right
Pujols is by far the most successful career power hitter in this bunch and he is having a nice resurgent season with his health back intact as he leads the AL with 26 HRs. His ISO is at .281 as his team looks to make their way up the AL West standings. That number is his best since 2010 and his down seasons look to be attributed more to injuries than a decline in talent. He has made it past the first round in each of his three attempts at this event, but that is as far as he’s gone and it seems like his power doesn’t quite translate to a competition such as this.
Season Home Runs: 26
Career Home Runs: 546
Career at Great American Ballpark: 20 HR in 277 AB
TODD FRAZIER, Reds – Bats Right
Last year, Frazier was a big underdog at this competition, but he surprised everyone with a great power showing and made it to the finals in a weak performance by the National League. He has continued to be the power for the Reds in the 2015 campaign with 25 homers (3rd in NL) and his numbers have risen in each of the last three years as he is sporting a phenomenal, career-best ISO of .302. He will have the crowd behind him, but will need to get past two-time champion, Prince Fielder, in order to have a chance at hometown glory.
Season Home Runs: 25
Career Home Runs: 98
Career at Great American Ballpark: 59 HR in 983 AB
PRINCE FIELDER, Rangers – Bats Left
Fielder comes into this as the seventh seed simply because of his amount of homers on the year, but he is the most experienced with his victories in both 2009 and 2012 when he hit a total of 51 bombs. He did not perform well in 2013, his last attempt at tying Ken Griffey Jr. for the most Derby wins (3), as he knocked just five balls out of the park and was eliminated after the first round. He has showed more power in 2015 with an ISO of .184 after putting up a mark of .113 over 178 plate appearances last year. His experience should allow him to do well once again in this installment.
Season Home Runs: 14
Career Home Runs: 302
Career at Great American Ballpark: 12 HR in 197 AB
KRIS BRYANT, Cubs – Bats Right
Bryant wowed scouts for years and earned his second selection during the 2013 amateur draft. He has lived up to his lofty expectations thus far and after spending just over a year in the minor league system, where he hit a total of 61 homers, he got the call to the big leagues and has pounded 12 balls over the wall with an ISO of .198. His ceiling is unbelievable and he has shown that his power is real, with a bright future ahead of him, this is the perfect venue to start his legacy.
Season Home Runs: 12
Career Home Runs: 12
Career at Great American Ballpark: 0 HR in 8 AB
JOC PEDERSON , Dodgers – Bats Right
Pederson flew up the prospect rankings over the past few years and now that he is with the big league club it is obvious why. His power has been amazing, as he has 20 homers with the Dodgers with nearly an equal amount at home (9) and on the road (11). Pederson’s bat has gone cold recently, though, and has not gone deep since June 29th (12 games) as he’s seen his average dip to a poor .230 on the season. He fits in well with the rest of the young superstars that are going to this event and it will be interesting to see if he can shine under the big lights.
Season Home Runs: 20
Career Home Runs: 20
Career at Great American Ballpark: 0 AB
JOSH DONALDSON , Blue Jays – Bats Right
Donaldson is certainly looking to make a push at the American League MVP, and he is participating in his second consecutive Derby after being unable to get out of the first round last season. He is only eight homers away from reaching his season-high number of 29 and has jacked two balls out of the park in his last six road games. Donaldson’s long stroke should provide plenty of power in this hitter’s ballpark and although he has lower odds than most, he is part of the reason that there are no real underdogs in the event.
Season Home Runs: 21
Career Home Runs: 84
Career at Great American Ballpark: 1 HR in 7 AB
ANTHONY RIZZO , Cubs – Bats Left
Rizzo sits behind his teammate, Bryant, in the odds for the Derby, but the power-hitting first baseman may just be behind the hype that comes with his opposite in the Chicago infield. After leaving the Padres and a very short stint with the MLB club, he was traded to the Cubs and has seen his numbers improve in each successive season, topping out at a season-high mark of 32 last year. His ISO is reaching new heights in 2015 with a career-best mark of .246 and he has 11 of his 16 dingers outside of Wrigley Field. Right field is the way to go at this venue and Rizzo should make easy work of the shorter distances.
Season Home Runs: 16
Career Home Runs: 87
Career at Great American Ballpark: 6 HR in 88 AB
MANNY MACHADO , Orioles – Bats Right
Machado’s star may have lost some of his luster as he dealt with injuries and didn’t come out of the gate with the type of flare that most expected. He has come back with plenty of production in his fourth MLB season, though, and as the leadoff hitter for Baltimore has been able to hit his most homers (19) in a year, doing so both home (11 HR) and away (8 HR). He is the least recognized “power hitter” in this group, but his thin frame should not fool anyone as he possesses tons of torque with his beautiful stroke.
Season Home Runs: 19
Career Home Runs: 52
Career at Great American Ballpark: 0 AB