Eight sluggers, three rounds and $1 million on the line.
Those are just a few of the many numbers to know ahead of the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, which will be played tonight at Cleveland’s Progressive Field (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), ahead of Tuesday’s All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. The bracket is loaded with competitors who should put on quite a show in pursuit of the newly robust prize money.
The bracket-style competition, which once again will feature timed rounds and bonuses for long home runs, boasts A's third baseman Matt Chapman, who is replacing the reigning National League MVP (the Brewers’ Christian Yelich); one of the most hyped prospects in years in the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr.; a pair of returning competitors looking to avenge previous defeats in the Astros’ Alex Bregman and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson; the front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year Award in the Mets’ Pete Alonso; the hometown favorite in the Indians’ Carlos Santana; one of the breakout stars of 2019 in the Pirates’ Josh Bell; and a young phenom who has lit up the league in the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr.
Before they take their cuts in Cleveland, and with some help from Statcast, here is a look at some notable facts and figures for each of the competitors, who are listed by first-round matchup, and with their seed.
Players are listed in groups with their first-round opponent. Seeding is based on HR total through Tuesday’s games, except in the case of Chapman, who is replacing Yelich as the No. 1 seed. Yelich was originally in the Derby and had earned the top seed by virtue of his league-leading home run total at the time the field was announced, but had to remove himself from the competition on Sunday due to a back injury.
Chapman, OAK (1) vs. Guerrero, TOR (8)
1) Chapman (21 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 441 feet, April 17 vs. Astros
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 113.3 mph, May 27 vs. Angels
• Chapman is already three homers shy of equaling his 2018 dinger count of 24 after a half season. Entering Sunday, his slugging percentage was also up by nearly 30 points from last year, and his ISO was up nearly 30 points
• Chapman has hit two of the five hardest homers of his career in the first half of this season. His hardest-hit dinger as a big leaguer came last July 23, when he connected on a 115.2 mph, three-run shot off Rangers pitcher Matt Moore. That makes Chapman one of only 33 hitters across MLB to record a 115-plus mph homer since Statcast began tracking exit velocities in 2015 -- and Pete Alonso and Josh Bell are the only other Derby contestants to hit a homer that hard.
• Chapman's all-fields approach should help him steer somewhat clear of the 19-foot wall in left at Progressive Field. He's hit 28 of his 59 career homers (47.5%) to either straightaway center or the opposite field, including 10 of his 21 taters (47.6%) in 2019.
8) Guerrero (8 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 451 feet, May 14 at Giants
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 113.7 mph, May 14 at Giants
• Vlad Jr. will be the youngest participant in Derby history, at 20 years and 114 days. That breaks a record set by Ken Griffey Jr. (20 years, 230 days in 1990), with Bryce Harper (2013) the only other player to take part before turning 21. Guerrero already is the youngest Blue Jays player to homer, having broken Danny Ainge’s 40-year-old record.
• On May 14 at San Francisco’s notoriously pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, Guerrero hit the first two home runs of his career, and did so in style. With exit velocities of 111.3 mph and 113.7 mph, and distances of 438 feet and 451 feet, Guerrero became one of seven players in Statcast history (since 2015) to hit multiple homers of at least 110 mph and 430 feet in the same game. He joined Bell (who did it on the same day), Nelson Cruz, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Trevor Story and Mark Trumbo.
• Guerrero seems to like the ball down. He has launched seven of his eight big flies against pitches thrown to the lower third of the zone or below.
Bregman, HOU (4) vs. Pederson, LA (5)
4) Bregman (22 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 440 feet, April 21 at Texas
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 105.0 mph, May 7 vs. Royals
• He doesn’t have the imposing stature of some of the other competitors, but Bregman has become a highly effective home run hitter. His 53 big flies since the start of 2018 tie him for 13th in the Majors with the two more traditional sluggers, Nelson Cruz and Rhys Hoskins.
• Because he generally is not hitting the ball as hard or as far as some others, Bregman racks up lots of homers by ranking well above average in contact rate and line drive/fly ball rate, and by pulling the ball. He has pulled 40 homers in the past two seasons -- about three-quarters of his total and the second-most in the Majors behind only Edwin Encarnacion.
• Bregman might have an edge in that he is the only competitor in the field who participated last year. And while Bregman’s 2018 Derby at Nationals Park ended in the first round, he acquitted himself well by launching 15 homers before falling one short of opponent Kyle Schwarber.
5) Pederson (20 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 445 feet, May 31 vs. Phillies
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 113.7 mph, May 10 vs. Nationals
• Pederson joins Bregman as the only competitors with prior Derby experience, but Pederson is the lone hitter to have gone beyond the event’s first round. In fact, in the 2015 Derby at Great American Ball Park, the then-rookie defeated Manny Machado (13-12) and Albert Pujols (12-11). That put him in the finals against the Reds’ Todd Frazier, who had the home-field advantage. Pederson smacked 14 more dingers, but Frazier was able to tie him in the waning seconds before winning in bonus time.
• Pederson isn’t necessarily the typical lefty who prefers the ball down. He is one of 10 hitters who has gone deep seven times against pitches in the upper third of the zone this year.
• One would assume Pederson will not have a left-handed pitcher for the Derby. All 20 of his homers this year have come against righties, as have 78 of his 81 since the start of 2016, with the Dodgers limiting his exposure to southpaws. No hitter with at least 50 homers in that span has hit a higher share against righties than Pederson (96.3%).
Alonso, NYM (2) vs. Santana, CLE (7)
2) Alonso (28 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 458 feet, June 15 vs. Cardinals
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 118.3 mph, April 11 at Braves
• Alonso is on a historic pace, having already set an NL record for home runs by a rookie before the All-Star break. He currently has the fourth-highest first-half total for any MLB rookie, behind Mark McGwire (33 in 1987), Aaron Judge (30 in 2017) and Jose Abreu (29 in 2014).
• Alonso has quickly become an exit velocity legend. His 118.3 mph drive to center field at Atlanta on April 11 remains tied (with Sanchez) for the hardest-hit homer of the season, and the 10th-hardest since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Only Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have posted a higher exit velo on any home run during that time. Alonso’s total of 11 homers with at least a 110 mph exit velo this season trails only Sanchez.
7) Santana (18 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 426 feet, May 18 vs. Orioles and June 12 vs. Reds
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 109.5 mph, June 1 at White Sox
• If there is a home-field advantage to be had, it will belong to Santana, who has spent nine of his 10 big league seasons with the Indians. Santana’s 97 career home runs at Progressive Field puts him fourth on the all-time list at the ballpark, which opened as Jacobs Field in 1994. Santana trails only Jim Thome (190), Manny Ramirez (132) and Travis Hafner (100), and has 39 more homers at the stadium than any other active MLB player.
• A switch-hitter, Santana has smacked 75 percent of his career homers from the left side of the plate, including 15 of 18 this season.
• Santana has powered up in a big way in 2019. His average exit velocity (92.5 mph), hard-hit rate (45.9%) and barrel rate (9.8%) all are single-season highs since Statcast began tracking in ‘15. Last season with the Phillies, Santana had an 88.8 mph average exit velocity, 39.0% hard-hit rate and 7.2% barrel rate.
Bell, PIT (3) vs. Acuna ATL (6)
3) Bell (25 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 474 feet, April 7 vs. Reds
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 116.2 mph, May 22 vs. Rockies
• Bell already has more than doubled his 2018 total of 12 home runs in 148 games, and he is fast approaching his career high of 26, set in 2017. He is only the second Pirates hitter to reach 25 homers by the break, joining Bucs great Willie Stargell (30 in both 1971 and ‘73).
• While it’s not surprising that the switch-hitting Bell has homered more from the left side -- he has more than three times as many plate appearances as a lefty -- he actually has gone deep more efficiently from the right side. Bell has homered seven times in just 78 at-bats as a righty.
• Bell may have no problem racking up bonus time in the Derby by hitting multiple homers of 440-plus feet in a round. His seven homers of at least 440 lead the Majors, as do his five of at least 450. From 2015-18, the only players to have more than five such homers in a full season were Judge, Stanton, Joey Gallo, and Rockies sluggers Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story, who got to benefit from Coors Field.
6) Acuna (20 HR)
Longest HR of 2019: 466 feet, May 10 at D-backs
Hardest-hit HR of 2019: 114.3 mph, April 16 vs. D-backs
• After he hit 26 homers as a rookie in 2018, Acuna’s 20 before this year’s break are tied for the sixth-most by a player age 21 or younger. He soon will become just the 16th player in MLB history to go deep at least 50 times through his age-21 season. Of the 11 players who have reached that plateau and are eligible for the Hall of Fame, eight are enshrined in Cooperstown.
• When Acuna hits them, he really hits them. His average exit velocity of 108.2 mph on home runs ranks fifth highest among players with at least 10 big flies this season. His average home run distance of 421 feet is tied for third in that same group, and is first among those with at least 15 homers.
• Acuna won’t have to worry about facing nasty sliders in the Derby, but in games, he’s not just a fastball hitter. In fact, his 12 homers this season off breaking or offspeed pitches ties him for second in the Majors.