Phenoms, Prince, Pujols highlight HR Derby field
A newly formatted Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders will feature a couple of legendary sluggers and a pair of the best power-hitting rookies to come along in quite some time.
The field was set Wednesday for the 2015 Derby, which will be held today at 8 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. It features two National League Rookie of the Year Award candidates (Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant), a past Derby winner (two-time victor Prince Fielder), a hometown slugger (Todd Frazier), a future Hall of Famer (Albert Pujols), power-hitting third basemen (Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson) and a first-timer with plenty of clout (Anthony Rizzo).
The Derby, which will be televised live by ESPN and streamed on MLB.com, will follow an exciting new format featuring brackets, timed rounds and bonuses based on HR distances, with players seeded from the start according to their season home run totals prior to July 7. They are seeded and matched up in the following order:
The first round is highlighted by Pujols (the No. 1 seed) taking on Bryant (8) in a battle of the legend vs. the kid, and Frazier (2), the hometown hero, trying to fend off Fielder (7), the savvy two-time champ. Donaldson (3) vs. Rizzo (6) and Pederson (4) vs. Machado (5) round out the opening round, with a possible showdown of two Chicago Cubs looming if both Bryant and Rizzo can advance to the finals.
The top four players in the field are among the Major Leagues' 10 leading home run hitters this year. Pujols, who ranks eighth all-time with a total of 50 Derby home runs, joins Frazier, Donaldson and Fielder -- one of just three players (Ken Griffey Jr. and Yoenis Cespedes are the others) to win multiple Derbys -- as returning participants.
MLB's groundbreaking Statcast™ technology will provide the official measurement of all Derby homers, and this year's field features players who've hit some of the season's longest blasts. Donaldson crushed the season's second-longest homer of the year back on April 23 against Chris Tillman, which was projected by Statcast™ to travel 481 feet. Bryant's 477 foot blast on May 26 off Aaron Barrett comes in at seventh longest, while Pederson's 477 foot rocket on June 2 off Jorge De La Rosa ranks eighth.
Beginning in the first and continuing through the third and final round, the loser of each head-to-head matchup will be eliminated, while the winner advances to the next round. Each batter will have five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, with a timer starting with the release of the first pitch. Any home run hit within one minute remaining will stop the timer immediately when the ball lands in home run territory. The timer will then not start again until the batter hits a ball that does not land in home run territory or swings and misses at a pitch.
Additionally, batters can be awarded bonus time based on home run length: If a batter hits two homers during a turn that equal or exceed 420 feet, one minute of bonus time will be added. For every home run of at least 475 feet, 30 seconds will be added. Players can earn a total of one minute and 30 seconds of bonus time.
Ties in any round will be broken by a 90-second swing-off. If the batters remain tied, they will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner. At any time the second batter eclipses the first batter's total, that round's matchup will end and the second batter will advance.
Each batter also gets one "time out" per round.
Fielder, who won the Derby in 2009 and '12, will be looking to tie Griffey for the all-time lead in Derby titles with three. Bryant (12 homers), Pederson (20), Rizzo (16) and Machado (19) are the first-timers, while Donaldson (21) and Frazier (25) are both back after participating last season in Minneapolis.
Pujols -- No. 2 in the Majors this season with 26 homers -- participated in his first Derby in 2003, and he will be hitting in his fourth tonight.
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