One of my deep dark baseball secrets is that I don’t really care about the All-Star Game. I don’t know why, but it’s never captivated me or anything. I love when Mariners are chosen to be All-Stars, don’t get me wrong, but the game itself is kinda eh.
However, I love the Home Run Derby. Maybe it’s just my monkey brain that likes to see man hit ball hard with stick, but I look forward to the HRD every year. This year, of course, especially so. Although T-Mobile has sponsored the Home Run Derby for a decade, tonight’s affair is the first time that it’s actually happened at T-Mobile Park. It’s also the first time that Seattle has hosted the All-Star festivities since the 2001 All-Star game, back when the stadium had a different name and the Mariners hero played in right field instead of center. In that year, Luis Gonzalez won the derby, hitting 16 homers in total. With the new format and the players taking part this year, I’d be surprised if anyone hits less than 16 in a round.
The big news, for us at least, is that Julio will once again participate in the derby this year. He will, of course, be looking to improve on his performance last year in Dodger Stadium when he was just barely beat in the finals by Juan Soto. But first, he’ll have to get past one of the only 4 multi-derby champs in Pete Alonso. Julio beat the Polar Bear last year, and with how much Alonso loves the derby, expect him to come out with a vengeance. Trying to use regular season metrics to predict the derby is a fool’s errand, but I would like to note that Julio’s HardHit% is currently 10% higher that Alonso’s.
Meanwhile, Julio’s fellow 2022 breakout star Adley Rutschman with have a tall task in taking on Luis Robert Jr. The White Sox center fielder is currently having the season of his career, and is tied with Alonso for most homers this year with 26, and leading all derby participants with 14 no-doubt homers. Adley, with 11 round-trips on the year, will have his work cut out for him.
The only other returning derby, participant besides Julio and Alonso, is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who, despite his derby experience, will have to get off to a hot start as he takes on a red hot Mookie Betts in the first round. By xBA, xSLG, and wOBA, Betts has been one of the best hitters in baseball this year, with a monster wRC+ of 156, good for 2nd best in the National League.
And finally, this year we get to see one of the most fun young players in baseball, Randy Arozarena, make his derby debut. Arozarena is one of my favorite non-Mariners, and I’m so excited to see him bring his passion and energy to a stage that rewards vibes like the derby. He’ll face Adolis Garcia in the first round. While the Ranger still hasn’t fully vanquished his strikeout problem, he’s absolutely crushing the ball this year, sending one poor unsuspecting baseball 115.1 mph the other way. Exit velo like that is going to be necessary to get the ball out of hitter-unfriendly T-Mobile park.
With all this excitement in store, you’ll definitely want to tune in to this one. Just like the last few years, the derby will be broadcast simultaneously on ESPN and ESPN2. The former will be just the standard broadcast, while ESPN2 will be the Statcast broadcast, which is the one I recommend. You’ll also want to skip out of work early since the derby will start at 5:00pm PT.
Sound off in the comments as to what your dream finals matchup is. Mine would be Adley vs. Julio, in the duel of 2022 rookies who are known by their first names.