With all due respect to everyone involved, this isn’t the most impressive Home Run Derby field we’ve seen — far from it.
Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced the eight-player field for next Monday’s contest at Nationals Park in Washington, and there is one superstar name even casual fans will recognize.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is far and away the most recognizable name in the field. After that, though, let’s just say we’re not dealing with household names.
Here’s the full field.
Bryce Harper (Nationals) vs. Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Max Muncy (Dodgers) vs. Javier Baez (Cubs)
Jesus Aguilar (Brewers) vs. Rhys Hoskins (Phillies)
Alex Bregman (Astros) vs. Kyle Schwarber (Cubs)
Obviously, those are all very good players capable of hitting baseballs very far distances. Freeman is an MVP candidate for an upstart Braves team, while Bregman and Baez are two of the most exciting young infielders the game has to offer. Saying these players won’t generate buzz is different than saying they’re not good baseball players.
But it’s telling who’s not in the field this season. There are eight players in baseball with at least 23 home runs this season. One — just one! — will participate in the Home Run Derby, and that’s Aguilar. In fact, just two of the top 20 home run hitters in MLB this season (Aguilar, Harper) are in the derby. What’s even the point?
To put that in perspective: Of last year’s eight participants, all but one was in the top 20 in home runs at the All-Star break. The only player not in the top 20 was Gary Sanchez, who had missed part of the first half. Four of the top six home run hitters in the first half participated.
There will be little to no excitement entering this season’s Home Run Derby and for good reason.