A two-time Home Run Derby champ, the son of a Derby champ, a hometown hero, an MVP, a native Northwesterner and a trio of Cuban countrymen are about to upend T-Mobile Park’s pitcher-friendly reputation and make a mockery of the marine layer.
The 2023 T-Mobile Home Run Derby features a loaded field, a fun format and no shortage of stimulating storylines. It all takes place Monday night at the home of the Mariners.
Seattle center fielder Julio Rodríguez is your host and, arguably, headliner. As a rookie last year, he put up a dazzling Derby performance at Dodger Stadium by taking down two-time defending champion Pete Alonso of the Mets with 31 homers in the semifinals before falling to champion Juan Soto in the finals.
Now, Alonso is back for an opening-round rematch against Julio, and that’s only the beginning of the intrigue in a field that also includes Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s return to the Derby after a thrilling showing in 2019, and Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts making his Derby debut along with Oregon native and Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and powerful Cuban outfielders Randy Arozarena of the Rays, Adolis García of the Rangers and Luis Robert Jr. of the White Sox.
History and advanced data tell us T-Mobile Park can be a pretty tough place to hit, but that won’t be the case on Derby night. And once again, the ticking clock counting down each round gives us the possibility of buzzer beaters and swing-offs.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Home Run Derby.
Where can I tune in?
ESPN will exclusively televise the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. Additionally, ESPN2 will offer a Statcast-driven alternate viewing experience for the Derby alongside the traditional telecast. The event is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App.
What are the key storylines?
Start with that Rodríguez-Alonso rematch -- the hometown star against a guy in Alonso who, aside from that loss to Julio last year, seems to have mastered the art of the Derby and relishes in the experience.
“I think this is going to be a Derby that a lot of people are going to remember for a long time,” Alonso said.
Alonso is trying to become just the second person to win the Derby three times. The first? Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr., of course. To join Junior, the Polar Bear will have to dispatch another Seattle center fielder in the first round.
“L.A. was cool, I enjoyed it,” Rodríguez said. “But being able to be at home and put on a show for the Mariners fans, I know it’ll be really exciting.”
The excitement doesn’t end there. Betts was a quick commit to this year’s Derby after his wife, Brianna, urged him to do it for the first time.
“It’s the last thing I haven’t done,” Betts said. “My wife kind of compared it to [NBA superstar LeBron James] not doing the dunk contest. And that’s not a knock or anything, but she just feels like for what I’m trying to do in baseball, bring awareness to Black culture, I should probably be more involved.”
Betts has a tough opening assignment in facing Guerrero, whose Hall of Fame father won the Derby in 2007. The younger Guerrero had an epic performance in the 2019 Derby, when he fended off Joc Pederson in a sizzling semifinal that required three swing-offs and then fell to Alonso in the finals by a 23-22 count.
On the other side of the bracket, you’ve got Rutschman, who was born outside of Portland and grew up going to Mariners games at this ballpark. He’ll face the No. 1-seeded Robert, and the other first-round matchup pits former Cardinals farmhands and good friends García and Arozarena (whose flair for the dramatic is by this point well-established from his postseason and World Baseball Classic performances) against each other.
How are the seeds decided?
The seeds were determined by the participants’ 2023 home run totals through play on July 4. Tiebreakers were determined by most homers hit from June 15 through July 4.
So, the matchups (with applicable homer totals in parentheses) are as follows:
No. 1 Robert (25) vs. No. 8 Rutschman (11)
No. 2 Alonso (25) vs. No. 7 Rodríguez (13)
No. 3 Betts (23) vs. No. 6 Guerrero (13)
No. 4 García (21) vs. No. 5 Arozarena (16)
What is the format?
It's a single-elimination bracket system with three rounds total. In each bracket, the higher seed hits second.
Batters will have three minutes per round in the first and second rounds and two minutes in the final round. The clock starts with the release of the first pitch, and the round ends when the timer strikes zero. A homer will count so long as the pitch was released prior to the timer hitting zero.
It should be noted that once the second player in a given round exceeds the home run total of his opponent, the round ends. There is no need for a player to add to his tally.
After the first round, the winner of the Robert-Rutschman matchup will meet the winner of García-Arozarena. On the other side of the bracket, the Alonso-Rodríguez winner faces the Betts-Guerrero winner. The two players left standing will meet in the final round.
Are participants re-seeded after each round?
No. The bracket determines the matchups.
Will participants receive or earn bonus time?
Yes, 30 seconds of extra time will be granted to each batter at the conclusion of each regulation period. A hitter can earn an additional 30 seconds of bonus time -- giving him 60 seconds total -- if he hits at least two homers that equal or exceed 440 feet (tracked by MLB’s Statcast) in the regulation period.
The bonus period, be it 30 seconds or 60 seconds, is a single time segment, with no timeouts. The player is given a short break between his regulation period and bonus period. During the bonus period, a special T-Mobile magenta ball will be used.
Can players stop the clock?
Yes, each batter is entitled to one 45-second timeout in each of the three regulation periods. Timeouts cannot be called during the bonus periods.
En route to his 2019 triumph, Alonso used the timeout to great effect in the semifinals against Ronald Acuña Jr.. More than halfway through the round, he had just seven homers to Acuña’s 19, but he regrouped after the brief break to blast his way past his Braves opponent and advance.
Ties in any round will be broken by a 60-second swing-off with no stoppage of time or additional time added. If a tie remains after the swing-off, batters will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner.
The Derby had its first swing-off in 2019, in that aforementioned duel between Guerrero and Pederson. They hit eight homers apiece in the 60-second swing-off, then one apiece in the first three-swing swing-off. Finally, in the third tiebreaker, Guerrero hit two long balls, and a gassed Pederson came up just short at one. In 2021, Soto and Shohei Ohtani went to a swing-off in the first round, with Soto prevailing. And in 2022, Albert Pujols and Kyle Schwarber required a swing-off in their first-round matchup, with Pujols prevailing.
How quickly can the pitches be delivered?
The lead official, positioned near home plate, will determine and notify the pitcher when he or she can throw the next pitch to the batter. The official will base the determination on, among other things, the location of where the batted ball is hit and whether, in his or her judgment, it is clear that the batted ball will or will not result in a home run.
Is money on the line in the Derby?
As part of an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association prior to the 2019 season, the Home Run Derby prize pool was increased from $725,000 to $2.5 million. The winner takes home a cool $1 million of that total.
How can fans get involved?
The T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge gives fans a chance to predict the results of the Derby. Fans can enter at mlb.com/bracket. One perfect bracket will win $100,000, with additional prizes including a new T-Mobile device and one year of T-Mobile service. Fans can submit their picks through 7:59 p.m. ET on Monday.