I have always found the MLB all-star weekend to be superior to the Pro Bowl and to NBA all star weekend (although the dunk contests Zach LaVine won were must-watch television). The game impacted the season, and even though that rule is gone, the game remains competitive and exciting. But the all-star game itself has been overshadowed entirely by the new Home Run Derby format. Introduced a couple years ago, its impact was immediate, as every Home Run Derby since has been electric. I estimate this year to be no different, as rookie home-run-machine Aaron Judge will get the opportunity to display his baseball-crushing abilities in front of what should be a high-energy Miami crowd. The only downside is that we will be without Chris Berman and his emphatic “BACK BACK BACK” call. Pour one out for the big fella.
And without any further ado, a match-up by match-up guide to this year’s Home Run derby victor:
Giancarlo Stanton vs. Gary Sanchez
The defending champ absolutely steamrolls the Yankees sophomore. Gary Sanchez showed last year he can hit the deep ball, but I don’t trust streaks as a barometer of power, and the sample size this year is to small for me. And for what its worth, I think Logan Morrison was dead-on that Sanchez shouldn’t even be in the Derby, simply because he has played so little this year and last.
Aaron Judge vs. Justin Bour
Unlike is his teammate, I have no doubts about Aaron Judge’s ability to hit home runs. He is the league leader in long balls, has the longest home run of 2017, and leads the league in average exit velocity. On top of that, he boasts the highest exit velocity of 2017 with a 121 mph homer off of a pitch that clocked only 84.5 mph. The amount of power necessary to generate a exit velocity that high on a pitch that slow is staggering. Judge will sentence Bour to a first round exit this year.
Cody Bellinger vs. Charlie Blackmon
I think this will be the most exciting first round match-up. It has the potential to be the most contentious, and feature the most combined long balls of all the first round match-ups. Bellinger has demonstrated premier dinger-hitting ability. His stats remind of the hot start Joc Pedersen experienced in 2015. Lots of power generated from a ferocious swing in an otherwise average-professional-athlete body. While I like Bellinger, I am also a big Charlie Blackmon fan. Boasting one of the best beards in baseball, Blackmon has always struck me as the epitome of modern-day grit and grind. He’s got the beard, the attitude, he plays in Colorado. I could be way off, but I think Blackmon could walk into the Derby with a chip on his shoulder that can do some damage. At the end of the day, I think Bellinger narrowly avoids the upset, but it’ll take a really good performance to get it done.
Mike Moustakas vs. Miguel Sano
The last matchup might be the most exciting, and this one might be the least so. I can get excited about either of these two players. Sano is second to Aaron Judge in average exit velocity, which is something I guess, but I chalk this one up to Major League Baseball making sure that the Home Run Derby has fresh faces. My pick is Sano gets the upset.
Giancarlo Stanton vs. Miguel Sano
Before this year, Giancarlo Stanton was the King of moonshots. The Emperor of exit velo. The Head-of-State of home runs. Now that a certain 6’7″ Yankee is floating around, those titles may be in jeopardy. But Stanton will not go easily into the night. Sorry, Miguel, but Giancarlo is a bull and he’s starting to see red.
Aaron Judge vs. Cody Bellinger
The battle of the rookies will be decidedly one-sided. Round 1 will have taken too much of the juice out Bellinger’s bat to edge out his fellow frosh. The Judge presides.
Giancarlo Stanton vs. Aaron Judge
Not only is this the match-up people expect, but I think its the match-up people want. These guys are both physical titans in the world of baseball, whose epic statures provide fireworks with every swing. I expect this to be one of the better Home Run Derby match-ups in recent memory. As for who will win, I am confident in one man’s ability to blast big fly’s of epic proportions. Riding the energy of the hometown Miami crowd, I predict Giancarlo Stanton to repeat as Home Run Derby Champion. I trust longevity, and Giancarlo is a seasoned home run vet. It was no more than 10 months ago that Aaron Judge had a sub-par introduction to the bigs, and that is not lost on me. I have no doubts that Judge could grow to be a superstar, if he’s not already, but he needs and little more salt and pepper to reach Stanton’s level. Judge’s don’t make good matadors, and the bull, Giancarlo Stanton, will reign triumphant.