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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Eight sluggers who would make the Home Run Derby awesome 

Aaron Judge home run

We get why some MLB stars shy away from participating in the annual Home Run Derby. Some think that the event can mess up a swing. It’s actually kind of tiring. Some guys would rather just take the vacation.

Well, we don’t care about any of that. The Derby is weeks away, and a loaded field would make it one of the summer’s most exciting events. If we could entice any eight players to participate, here is our dream Home Run Derby field, ordered by how many home runs they have in 2017 — and while it isn’t required, we’ve included four players from each league to keep things even.

1) Aaron Judge, Yankees

It hardly gets any more obvious than this. It’s hard to take the city of New York by storm, but Judge has done just that, slugging 26 home runs and positioning himself not just atop the Rookie of the Year race, but in contention for AL MVP as well.

Sure, the overall numbers are great, but that’s not what we care about right now. What we care about is that Judge is capable of hitting home runs like this, even in a game situation:

Judge hits some of the most impressive home runs in baseball. Imagine what he could do in a derby environment. He needs to be there — no doubt about it. The good news is he’s at least considering it.

2) Cody Bellinger, Dodgers

The other stud rookie slugger, Bellinger didn’t even start the season in the big leagues. He came up at the end of April and, in the two months since, promptly became the fastest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 21 home runs (he’s up to 24 now). He’s second in all of baseball in homers, and he gave the rest of the league a three-week head start.

Bellinger is just 21 years old, but he has demonstrated quite clearly hat he belongs on stage with the league’s most feared power hitters. He is quite quickly becoming one of them.

And if you’re doubting the length of his bombs, watch this one he slugged out of an entire stadium:

The Home Run Derby would be a fantastic opportunity for Bellinger to really introduce himself to a national audience.

3) George Springer, Astros

Springer has always been a very good all-around player, but he’s established himself as an elite power hitter now.

The Houston outfielder has homered 23 times so far this season in 72 games — only seven shy of his tally for the entire 2016 season. Not bad for someone who has always been considered more of a high-average guy as opposed to a player with a pure power stroke and focus on home runs.

There’s just one problem — for the second year in a row, Springer has said he has no interest in doing the Derby. That’s a shame, because he’d be fun to watch — but it’s understandable.

Springer doesn’t have a stereotypical power stroke, and may not want to mess with his swing when he — and his team — are having so much success.

4) Eric Thames, Brewers

Thames is without question one of 2017’s best baseball stories. After three years playing in Korea, Thames returned stateside and promptly began smashing the cover off the ball, homering in five consecutive games in April to tie a club record. His hot streak also launched a whole bunch of unsupported PED allegations.

Thames’ pace has slowed a bit, but he’s still at 20 homers already for a Milwaukee team that could not have seen production like this coming in their wildest dreams.

An appearance in the Home Run Derby would be the perfect addition to Thames’s remarkable story. He’s certainly proven he can hit homers with the best of them, and a Home Run Derby invite would be the perfect way to recognize the work he’s put in and the accomplishments he’s put up through the first half of 2017.

5) Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

Every bit as obvious as Judge. Not only is Stanton the reigning Home Run Derby king, but this year’s event will take place in Miami, meaning one of MLB’s preeminent sluggers will have the opportunity to put on a show in his home ballpark in front of his hometown fans.

Stanton hit 61 home runs in 2016’s Home Run Derby, a record for the event. Luckily he has already agreed to try and defend his crown.

Can't have a Homerun Derby without the Home team being repped! @tmobile #hrderby I'm coming for ya #miami

A post shared by Giancarlo Stanton (@giancarlo818) on

Stanton may still be the game’s premier raw slugger. The event will always be better with him in it.

6) Joey Gallo, Rangers

In the past, the Home Run Derby has served as a pretty cool event for players who don’t have the numbers or fan support to be All-Stars, but have the pure power to wow people in the Home Run Derby. Gallo definitely fits into that category. The Texas third baseman is hitting just .195, but he matches the production of the likes of Harper and Stanton in the home run department, having cranked 20 so far this season.

Just check out the kind of power Gallo has to offer:

So Gallo can’t hit a breaking ball. It’s definitely a problem for him in a game situation, but it won’t matter in a Home Run Derby, where he absolutely belongs.

7) Bryce Harper, Nationals

Harper’s most recent Derby appearance was also his only one — he did it in 2013, falling to Yoenis Cespedes, then of the Oakland Athletics, in the finals at Citi Field. He can clearly do it and has been successful at it before. Harper also brings the sort of flair and swagger that people love to see in these events — not to mention enough power to take the crown away from Stanton, his fellow NL East slugger.

There’s just one problem — Harper has declined invites two years running, offering a pretty lukewarm assessment of the event in 2016. In the past, he has said he would consider doing it again in 2018, when the league’s All-Star festivities will be held in Washington.

Alas, it sounds like we’re out of luck for 2017, but perhaps the Washington slugger — who has already piled up 18 home runs — will reconsider.

8) Miguel Sano, Twins

Another one of the game’s finest young sluggers, Sano has been ticketed for stardom for quite some time. He has 18 home runs, though his pace has fallen off a bit of late. It hardly matters given that he still leads baseball in exit velocity, meaning nobody in the league has hit the ball harder than Sano has this season. You need only look at this home run to see what the guy is capable of.

Sano may have the numbers to be Minnesota’s All-Star in the first place, but he has the kind of raw power that plays well in these events as well. He would be a definite contender if he received an invite to the competition.



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