Derby seeds: Stanton, Joltin' Judge are 1-2
Top seeds to put power on display at 8 p.m. ET Monday at Marlins Park
We intend absolutely no disrespect to the other participants when we make the fairly obvious observation that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are the foremost figures of the upcoming T-Mobile Home Run Derby, and they've got the seeds to show for it.
As defending Derby champ, Stanton is the No. 1 seed for the event, which takes place at 8 p.m. ET Monday at Miami's Marlins Park and will be broadcast on ESPN and MLB.com. Judge, as the midweek Major League home run leader (he hit his 30th of the season Friday), is the No. 2.
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In the first round of the Derby, which serves as an appetizer to Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, Stanton will oppose No. 8 seed Gary Sanchez, and Judge will face No. 7 seed Justin Bour. So that's two installments of Yankees vs. Marlins. The other first-round pairings, as determined by 2017 home run totals entering Wednesday, include No. 3 Cody Bellinger vs. No. 6 Charlie Blackmon (an NL West-ern standoff) and No. 4 Mike Moustakas vs. No. 5 Miguel Sano (an AL Central showdown).
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The winner of the Stanton-Sanchez matchup will meet the winner of the Moustakas-Sano matchup. On the other side of the bracket, the Judge-Bour winner faces the Bellinger-Blackmon winner. The two players left standing will meet in the final round.
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Moustakas and Bellinger, who faced off at Dodger Stadium over the weekend, are tied for third in the Majors with 25 homers -- Bellinger's latest was a tying blast on Saturday -- while Bour belted his 20th on Saturday and Blackmon has 19. Bellinger and Blackmon got the higher seeds by having more home runs since June 15, which is the tiebreaker according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Bellinger hit seven and Moustakas two since June 15, while Blackmon had three and Bour two.
Now in its third year with a bracketed format and timed rounds, the Derby will serve as a showcase of both the impressive youth and the unbelievable raw power of the modern game.
Not long ago, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Stanton seemed to be the slugger designed for this particular platform, and he proved as much with last year's stunning performance in San Diego's Petco Park, where he hit 5.15 miles of home runs and the 20 hardest-hit homers of the night, as measured by Statcast™. His 504-foot shot on Aug. 6, 2016, established the Statcast™ record for longest home run.
Stanton's home run swing is in fine form right now. He went deep twice for the Marlins in a 9-6 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday night and homered again in a win on Friday night.
Suddenly, though, another player with the body of a superhero and a booming bat has emerged in the 6-foot-7, 282-pound rookie Judge, the early American League MVP favorite who has put himself at the top not only of the home run leaderboard but also the Statcast-calculated average exit velocity board, too. Judge's 495-foot homer on June 12 was the longest of the season, and his 121.1-mph laser from the previous day was the hardest-hit homer ever recorded by Statcast™.
Judge is seemingly making history with every home run. His 30th long ball on Friday eclipsed Joe DiMaggio's franchise record by a rookie.
It should come as no surprise that when we conducted a recent poll of players to find out who they most want to see in the Derby, Stanton and Judge were the resounding winners.
The danger, however, in getting so easily and understandably distracted by the presences of Stanton and Judge is that any of the others involved in this Derby are capable of a March Madness-style upset in the single-elimination brackets.
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Bellinger's been in the league just 10 weeks and already has six multi-homer games. Sano's 97.7 mph average exit velocity on fastballs tops everybody, even Judge. The left-handed-hitting Moustakas' pull power could play perfectly with Marlins Park's 335-foot distance to the wall in the right-field corner. And he is on a roll of his own with homers in three consecutive games.
Blackmon hit a home run this season on a pitch that was just 0.84 feet off the ground, so imagine what he can do with a batting-practice meatball down the middle. Bour entered Wednesday with a higher homer-to-fly-ball ratio than that of his more heralded teammate Stanton, and he drilled his 19th homer of the season to follow Stanton's two-HR display.
And remember when Sanchez was the Yankees' rookie sensation, belting 20 homers in just 201 at-bats? It shouldn't be that hard to remember, for it was just last season.
All of these guys will have their talents tested by a format that rewards not just raw strength but also speed -- because the clock definitely becomes a factor.
Batters will have four minutes per round. The clock starts with the release of the first pitch. In the first round and semifinals, each batter is entitled to one 45-second timeout. In the finals, each batter gets two timeouts (one for 45 seconds and another for 30).
Here's where brute strength really comes into play: Batters can earn 30 seconds of bonus time for up to two home runs that equal or exceed 440 feet. Last year, Stanton took full advantage of this wrinkle, because his home runs averaged 446 feet.
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.
Stanton vs. Judge would be an epic final, but it's impossible to know how players will handle this unorthodox and entertaining round of BP and that ticking clock until the moment of truth arrives. Thankfully, we're mere days away from finding out.