Last year’s Major League Baseball Home Run Derby featured one of the most exciting performances baseball fans have seen in a while. New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge destroyed the competition, mashing his way to the title and solidifying his status as one of the best sluggers in the game.
Harper hasn’t committed yet
The league would like Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper to participate in the event, but he has yet to respond, according to Heyman. The Home Run Derby will be held in Washington, D.C., and MLB often tries to put a hometown player in the event. As Heyman points out, the 2018 Derby is sponsored by T-Mobile, and Harper does commercials for them. That could impact his decision.
But maybe not. Harper had hinted at taking part in the Derby in D.C., but there’s a chance he’ll go back on that. While he’s displayed power and patience this season, Harper’s average has lagged behind. If his struggles continue, he could pull out of the event to give himself a few days to get right before the second half during his walk year.
Others may back out too
The reigning champ may not participate in 2018, and there’s a concern that Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez may also skip this season, according to Heyman. Those aren’t definitive. Heyman says he’s heard suggestions about those players.
Those whispers make sense. Stanton participated last year because the event was in Miami. He has no connection to D.C., so could opt out. Both Betts and Martinez have already said they don’t want to be in it. Betts told the Boston Globe, “Hell no.” While Martinez still is upset about being passed over in 2015.
Mike Trout has never participated in the Home Run Derby, and probably won’t start doing so now.
Who does that leave?
If all those players back out, MLB has other options. If MLB is looking for popular players, Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Freddie Freeman all have solid home run totals. The league could also opt for José Ramírez, who has more home runs than any of those players, but may not be as nationally known yet.
Other players declining could also mean fans finally get to see Joey Gallo get a shot in the event. That would be a scout’s dream. Gallo’s power routinely received an 80 — the highest scouting grade possible — in the minors. You could also see breakout candidates like Mitch Haniger or Eddie Rosario give it a try. Or maybe youngster Ozzie Albies will test his luck. And if Stanton and Judge are out and the league really wants a Yankee, Didi Gregorius could jump in.
That list doesn’t include names like Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Jose Altuvé, George Springer or Carlos Correa, among others.
Not all of those players will say yes, meaning the league will likely have to dig deeper. There’s still a chance to build a solid group of eight for the event, but MLB will be hurt by so many stars bowing out.
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