The All-Star Game festivities started on Sunday with the MLB Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball Game. On Monday night, some of the league’s top power hitters are going to take some cuts in the glorified batting practice session known as the Home Run Derby. Reigning champion Yoenis Cespedes is not included and top power threats like Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera are on the disabled list. Bryce Harper has declined to participate because his father recently underwent rotator cuff surgery and is unable to throw.
Despite the big names that are missing the contest, it is one of the most exciting nights for baseball fans because of the prolific power from the game’s best sluggers. It also presents some interesting betting value because prop bets and head-to-head matchups are available at BetOnline for Monday night’s baseball demolition derby.
Let’s take a look at the field and their odds to win:
Todd Frazier (+400) - The Toddfather is the hometown favorite for this year’s event. Frazier is having the best offensive season of his career so far with 25 home runs. Fifteen of those home runs have been hit at Great American Ball Park. Frazier’s 23.8 percent HR/FB% at home ranks 16th in all of baseball, so he has definitely been a productive stick in Cincinnati. He now has a 19 percent HR/FB at home in his career. In looking at the batted ball data for this season, Frazier is one of the most pull-happy of the Derby contestants, which should help him in this format.
Prince Fielder (+450) - The big man is enjoying a fantastic 2015 season after missing most of 2014 with neck injuries. Fielder has 14 dongs so far this season, with six at home and eight on the road. His uppercut swing certainly plays well in a contest like this, but one has to be concerned about his ability to avoid fatigue. He has a very long, sweeping swing, and this contest becomes more about endurance than anything else. Great American Ball Park is an above average power yard for hitters from both sides, so there’s no value to being a left-handed hitter vs. a right-handed hitter.
Kris Bryant (+450) - The rookie phenom will be participating in his first All-Star Game this season and we have seen kids making their first Home Run Derby appearance really struggle. They swing too hard and drop the back shoulder too far and start hitting pop ups instead of home runs. Bryant has 12 home runs in his 77 games and had some of the best raw power in the minors leagues over the last few seasons, with 43 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season. It may help him that he is familiar with Cincinnati, but rookie participants do tend to struggle.
Albert Pujols (+500) - The sweet-swinging future Hall of Famer has mashed 26 home runs this season as his plantar fasciitis issues seem to be under control. Pujols has hit 13 home runs at home and 13 home runs on the road, so the ballpark doesn’t seem to matter to him. The concern for Pujols would be his age, given the contest format, but he also has one of the most effortless swings in the field. He should also have some success in this capacity because he has been through these before and the nerves aren’t going to be an issue. There is good value in taking Pujols, even with his age.
Joc Pederson (+600) - My pick to win this year’s event is Joc Pederson. Young Joc has a beautiful left-handed swing with easily repeatable swing mechanics. Pederson is sixth in average batted ball distance at over 311 feet per swing. Pederson has hit 20 home runs so far this season and has hit them in just about every kind of ballpark. His HR/FB% is 25.6 percent, which ranks sixth, which is impressive because he has a largest sample size of fly balls than some of the guys around him. He has youth, raw power, and the swing plane it takes to really succeed in this event.
Anthony Rizzo (+700) - Anthony Rizzo is a sneaky pick to win this because he has the line drive stroke that hitters often have success with. Rizzo has 16 home runs on the season, even though he ranks 69th in average batted ball distance. That’s a sign of how much power he can generate with that left-handed stroke. He has Bobby Abreu-like upside in this type of format. If you remember Abreu’s huge showing in Detroit in 2005, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Rizzo won’t hit the tape measure shots into the Ohio River that other guys might hit, but he’ll be consistent. The only concern is whether he will generate enough lift.
Josh Donaldson (+700) - Josh Donaldson has been incredible at the plate and in the field for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. He was dealing with some flu-like symptoms on Sunday, so that may affect his performance in the Derby. Donaldson’s power has greatly increased by being away from O.co Coliseum and in a much better park for hitters in Toronto. The fact that Donaldson has hit two-thirds of his 21 home runs at Rogers Centre is a little bit of a concern for me. Also, he ranks 36th in average batted ball distance. He will be a popular pick, but he’s one to avoid in this field.
Manny Machado (+800) - Manny Machado seems like an unknown in this field. Machado has hit 19 home runs this season as the offense has caught up to the defense. Scouts never put a high grade on Machado’s raw power, likely projecting him as more of a doubles guy. He is more of a gap-to-gap power guy, which could be a concern because he really earns his home runs by hitting them to deeper parts of the ballpark. Machado seems like the type that would be able to handle the pressure of his first Home Run Derby, but he also doesn’t seem like the type to go out and win it.
BetOnline has a few head-to-head matchups and other props will likely be coming from other sportsbooks later on. One that I really like is Albert Pujols (+110) over Kris Bryant. As I mentioned, Pujols won’t be overcome by the moment in this scenario. He will be in better control of his emotions and should be able to pepper the left field seats. I also like Anthony Rizzo (-110) over Josh Donaldson. Like I said above, Rizzo’s line drive swing is conducive to these types of things, especially in a rather small ballpark.
Coverage of the Home Run Derby begins on Monday night on ESPN.