8 stars who would thrill in Coors HR Derby

April 11th, 2021

With the 2021 All-Star Week festivities set for Coors Field in Colorado, that means we’re in for the second Home Run Derby at the site. In 1998, Ken Griffey Jr. won his second of three career derbies, in a field that also featured Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Damion Easley, Vinny Castilla, Moises Alou, Javy Lopez, Mark McGwire and Chipper Jones. There’s no question that the venue has had its fair share of monster homers -- Coors Field has an average home run distance of 419 feet since Statcast began tracking in 2015, the farthest of any ballpark.

That got us thinking, what would our dream Home Run Derby field look like? Eight MLB.com writers got together for a draft, each selecting an active player for this ideal field. There are far more impressive sluggers than could even make this list. Here are the results.

Giancarlo Stanton -- OF, Yankees
Key number: 504-foot HR at Coors in 2016 (2nd-longest in Statcast history)

OK, call this a chalk pick all you want. But the second-longest homer ever tracked by Statcast does belong to one Giancarlo Stanton at Coors Field -- a 504-foot laser beam to the deepest part of the park that Mike Piazza memorably visited in the 1990s. That 504-footer came off a center-cut 88 mph fastball; can Stanton crush one even further off a batting practice toss? What happens if he pulls the ball instead; does he clear the left-field concourse entirely the way he left Dodger Stadium?

Dating back to the start of Statcast tracking in 2015, no right-handed hitter has averaged a greater distance on pulled homers than Stanton -- not even longtime Rockie Trevor Story. And, of course, you probably know about all the other Statcast leaderboards that Stanton tops. This is the perfect marriage of baseball’s hardest-hitting slugger and its most Statcast-friendly ballpark, so how could I pick anyone else at No. 1? Give me Big G.

-- Matt Kelly

Joey Gallo -- RF, Rangers
Key number: Top three in average HR distance and exit velocity

Stanton is a Big Baseball Man who bashes baseballs like nobody else, but at least we’ve seen him in a Derby before, a few times (and yes, it's been a glorious sight). Gallo is also a Big Baseball Man who bashes baseballs -- like almost nobody besides Stanton -- but we’ve never gotten to see him show his stuff at the Derby. He was considering it in 2019 but ultimately declined due to injury, although Gallo did win at least one home run contest while in the Minors.

Gallo in a Derby at Coors Field could be special. Of the 82 hitters with at least 100 tracked homers since Statcast debuted in 2015, Gallo is tied for second behind Stanton in average distance (416 feet) and ranks third behind Stanton and Aaron Judge in average exit velocity (108.2 mph). Gallo and Judge are the only players in that time to launch multiple big flies that both reached at least 110 mph and 490 feet. I mean, just watch this 490-foot blast to the top of the center field batter's eye at Angel Stadium in 2017, or this 495-foot moonshot into the upper reaches of the upper deck at Texas’ Globe Life Park in 2018. Those are areas not breached by mere mortals, so it would be thrilling to watch Gallo seek out some uncharted dinger territory at altitude.

-- Andrew Simon

Shohei Ohtani -- RHP/DH, Angels
Key number: First pitcher to participate in a Home Run Derby

Arguably the most-anticipated event of All-Star Week each year, the Home Run Derby should require having perhaps the most entertaining player in the sport -- an international sensation and two-way phenom whose 100 mph heaters are surpassed only by his 115 mph homers -- in the competition. Yes, folks, we’re putting (gasp!) a pitcher in the Derby. For the very first time.

There’s been chatter about the idea in the not-too-distant past, mostly centered around Madison Bumgarner at his slugging peak, but nobody really wants to watch a hurler try to homer on repeat for multiple minutes … unless it’s Ohtani. While he’s recaptured everyone’s attention this season for being one of just four starting pitchers to throw a 100 mph pitch, the 26-year-old lefty swinger also is one of only two players (along with Stanton) to hit a ball with an exit velo of 115 mph and a projected distance of 450 feet so far. That doesn’t happen by accident.

Oh, and don’t forget that Ohtani already provided something of a Derby preview when he put on a mesmerizing power display during an awe-inspiring batting practice performance at Coors Field in May 2018. C’mon, just try to pretend that you wouldn’t tune in for the real thing.

-- Jason Catania

Aaron Judge -- RF, Yankees
Key number: Two. He’s the only player with more than one home run of 495+ feet. He’s got two.

I thought about getting cute here, with a few of the more obvious picks off the board already. I thought about trying to make a case that Juan Soto could hit 40 blasts per round if he felt like it (he could), or trying to argue that Trevor Story or Charlie Blackmon would be more used to the thin air at Coors Field, and then I remembered that Aaron Judge is a monstrous baseball-smashing man, and who would not want to see him destroy baseballs on a beautiful mountain evening?

Because really, you can take anything that applies to Stanton and say that 98% of it applies to Judge, too. He’s second in balls hit 115 mph on record, only to his teammate. He’s the only player on record to slam a ball at least 495 feet twice, and they both came at relative sea level in the Bronx. (Seriously. Just look at this one.) Does he need the help that altitude would bring? Of course not. Does it make any sense at all for me to pick anyone else here? Also of course not.

-- Mike Petriello

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- 1B, Blue Jays
Key number: Set record with 91 homers in 2019 Home Run Derby

Why Vlad Jr.? Did you watch this man’s performance in Cleveland at the 2019 Derby, just a couple months after he made his big league debut? OK, so he didn’t win. But he certainly stole the show, blasting 91 home runs altogether, which broke Stanton’s previous record by a whopping 30 homers. That included a single-round-record 29 homers (twice). The baseball world deserves an encore.

While Guerrero’s production hasn’t matched the sizable expectations that were placed on him when he was a much-ballyhooed prospect, he seems determined to change that in 2021. There aren’t many hitters on Earth who can demolish a baseball like this 22-year-old behemoth. Let’s put him 5,200 feet above sea level and see what happens.

-- Thomas Harrigan

Pete Alonso -- 1B, Mets
Key number: 70 HR since 2019 (most in MLB)

He’s the defending Home Run Derby champ, winning the contest in the same year he smashed an MLB rookie-record 53 homers for the season. He hit 16 in last year’s pandemic-shortened campaign, and he can launch homers with the best of them in terms of both quantity and quality -- no one has hit more homers of 450-plus feet than Alonso’s nine since 2019, with the longest of his young career checking in at 489 feet on July 19, 2019 against the Twins’ Matt Magill at Target Field. That was an upper-deck shot to left field that came off Alonso’s bat at 110.9 mph, according to Statcast.

Guerrero gave Alonso quite a run for his money in the 2019 Home Run Derby in Cleveland. The two put on a thrilling show, but in the end it was the slugging Mets first baseman that took home the trophy. The defending champ most certainly has what it takes to make it two straight, and with this year’s edition of the derby being held a mile above sea level, we could see some truly jaw-dropping blasts off of his bat at Coors Field.

-- Manny Randhawa

Mike Trout -- CF, Angels
Key number: Zero Home Run Derby appearances

He's the best player in the world. He has the most dangerous swing in baseball. And he's never been in a Home Run Derby. Time to change that. Get Mike Trout to Coors Field.

And Trout can hang with the big boys, too. He's hit four home runs 470 feet or farther since Statcast started tracking, second only to Stanton, with a long of 486 feet. One of those 470-footers was even at Coors. Baseball fans need to see Trout in a Home Run Derby, and Coors Field is the perfect place to make it happen.

-- David Adler

Juan Soto -- RF, Nationals
Key number: 21.8% hard-hit rate per swing in 2020 (4th among qualified hitters)

The quantity of great options available to me with the last pick here is such a great commentary on the game right now. I went with Soto because he’s the best hitter in baseball right now, and the idea of him hitting baseballs for four straight minutes at Coors Field is very exciting. Soto made hard contact on 21.8% of his swings in 2020, which ranked fourth in the Majors, and that seems like a particularly useful ability in the current Derby format. We’ve already seen that power on display in 2021, with Soto crushing a 115.3 mph single for a walk-off hit in the Nationals’ first game of the year. Yes, that was a single, not a homer, but it’s yet another example of his raw power, which would be even more on display at Coors and in the Home Run Derby setup.

Soto is one of the brightest young stars in baseball, and crushing majestic homers into the Colorado night seems like a perfect way to add to that ever-growing stardom. And admit it, you’re curious if we’d get a Home Run Derby version of the Soto Shuffle at some point.

-- Sarah Langs