Shohei Ohtani has redefined baseball this season as the first player who regularly pitches, to hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break. Can the MLB's leading home run hitter keep it going for the 2021 Home Run Derby?
It’s a little disappointing we won’t get to see Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showcased at Coors Field in Denver on Monday night for the 2021 Home Run Derby after he opted out despite being a projected favourite to win. This is still slated to be a special event, however, with the modern era’s Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani, set to be the first pitcher to ever compete and he’s a clear favourite to win on the MLB odds.
As the legendary (or infamous) Mark McGwier once said, who wants to sock a few dingers?
Shohei Ohtani – LA Angels (DH/RHP)
A +315 favourite to win the Derby, Ohtani does it all and it seems like he could win the NHL All-Star game shootout at this point if he wanted to. Ohtani is the first player ever selected to the All-Star game as both a hitter and a pitcher, setting him up to actually take the mound on Tuesday after the Derby on Monday. The 27-year-old leads the majors with 33 home runs as of Saturday and he’s hitting 2.79 with 70 RBIs. Not that it matters to the Derby, but he’s also 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 pitching starts. And I thought it was impressive I could write this preview AND go for a run all the same day…no, seriously, I did.
Pete Alonso – NY Mets (1B)
You’ve got to give some respect to the reigning champion and at +447, Alonso is not a bad value bet. He went head-to-head with Guerrero at the 2019 event and despite not hitting as many total homers as the Blue Jays’ favourite, Alonso won 23-22 in the final round. He hasn’t been the monster hitter he was two years ago, but Alonso is no slouch, hitting 16 home runs with 48 RBIs and 37 runs scored in 75 games. Alonso’s max exit velocity of 119 has him tied with Aaron Judge for the hardest hit baseball this year, but it’s quantity, not quality that matters on Monday.
Joey Gallo – Texas Rangers (OF)
After a slow start to the season, Gallo has been hot as of late and comes in at +397 to win the Derby. A swing-for-the-fences hitter, Gallo has 24 homers and is hitting .239 with 52 RBIs in 84 games. He has hit 10 home runs since June 26 and his average home run distance of 416 feet is the second-farthest of the Derby participants. Gallo is all about raw power and with the hot streak he’s on, he might be a great dark horse pick.
Matt Olson – Oakland A’s (1B)
Over he last couple of seasons, Olson has established himself as Oakland’s true hitting star and at +549 to win the Derby, he’s paying well. Olson has hit at least 20 home runs in every season outside of the COVID-shortened 2020 season and his 21 homers this year has him well on his way to breaking his career-high of 36, set in 2019. His 2.79 batting average is nearly 100 points higher than last year and he has a solid shot in the Derby.
Juan Soto – Washington Nationals (OF)
To be honest, Soto, who’s statistically having the worst season of his career, is certainly a surprise entry, but at +702 to win, he might be worth taking a flier on. Soto is batting .281, but he only has 11 home runs and is actually fourth on his team in homers. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, he hit 34 home runs in 2019 and the Derby could be a chance to showcase why the 22-year-old is such a highly valued player.
Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies (SS)
Story will clearly be the fan-favourite, but at +1000 to win, you need to be a big fan to have faith in him. Another Derby hitter who isn’t leading his team in homers, only Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, J.D. Martinez and Nelson Cruz have hit more home runs in their own ballparks than Story’s 88 at Coors Field. Who doesn’t love seeing the hometown hitter win?
Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles (OF)
There’s no one in baseball that people are rooting for more than Mancini. After missing the entire 2020 season because of cancer treatment, a healthy Mancini has had a solid season and comes into the Derby at +1200 to win. He’s a power hitter and earlier this season he became the faster player in Orioles history to reach 100 career home runs. It could be tough for him to hang with the big names, but you can bet who the crowd will be cheering for if he’s in the final round.
Salvador Perez – KC Royals (C)
Perez is only the third catcher since 2009 in the competition. After missing the entire 2019 season with Tommy John surgery, his hitting started to come together late last season and has continued this year. Perez is +705 to win the Derby and has a chance to be the first catcher to ever take the title.