For all its tradition, rich history and dignified reputation, baseball can be a little lawless at times. As we’ve unfortunately seen on numerous occasions, you never know when you’ll go to a Little League game and a battle royal will break out.
And a few shortcuts were also on display as MLB prepared to commemorate its lauded Midsummer Classic last July. To be precise, they unfolded during one of the complementary events to the All-Star Game: The always competitive Home Run Derby.
Bettors were less than thrilled during the 2018 edition of the contest when eventual winner Bryce Harper was repeatedly served up the next pitch by his dad (that’s another “quirky” side to the whole story) prior to the previous ball he’d hit completing its descent.
That represented a violation of the official Derby rules, but no matter. Harper was ultimately crowned. And some bettors who plunked cash down on runner-up Kyle Schwarber (+800 odds) subsequently crowed. Ironically, a league that’s spoken up to no end about integrity concerns as they relate to widespread legalized sports betting experienced a bit of controversy itself, and on a national stage no less.
Record prize and biggest sports betting market yet highlight this year’s Derby
Sports betting enjoys an even more expansive reach this year. HR Derby odds are consequently in greater abundance, so it will be interesting to see if a closer eye is kept on the rules. In New Jersey, DraftKings Sportsbook and 888 Sportsbook both have a full menu of odds for the contest up on their boards.
This year’s edition could be one of the most highly anticipated in the 35-year history of the Derby. Contestants will be competing for a cool $1 million for the first time. The participants are an intriguing mix of established stars and dynamic young players already making a mark.
The Brewers’ Christian Yelich, he of the majors-leading 31 homers as of July 3, headlines the field. (Editor’s note: Christian Yelich has been replaced in the field by Matt Chapman). An equally meteoric riser this season, the Pirates’ Josh Bell, will also be a part of the festivities. He recently “warmed up” for the contest by slugging three homers against the Astros. The Braves’ Ronald Acuna, Jr. is on pace for an even better season than his stellar rookie campaign, and like Bell, will be participating in his first Derby.
And then there’s the stud rookie duo. The Mets’ Pete Alonso and the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. constitute that select group. Alonso has essentially been raking since Opening Day and just tied Mark McGuire’s record for most homers by a rookie before July 1 when he slugged his 28th round tripper against the Braves on June 28. Then, Guerrero has overcome a slow start after an April 26 debut to hit eight homers between May 14 and June 29. He’ll be the youngest player in Derby history at 20 years old.
Final participant list, brackets now complete
The final two names for this year’s contest were revealed late Wednesday night. The Astros’ Alex Bregman (23 home runs) and the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson (20) made the cut. Each will be participating in their second Derby overall.
Along with that announcement came the highly anticipated breakdown of the bracketology that will apply for the first round:
- (1) Christian Yelich vs. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (8)
- (2) Pete Alonso vs. Carlos Santana (7)
- (3) Josh Bell vs. Ronald Acuna, Jr. (6)
- (4) Alex Bregman vs. Joc Pederson (5)
The most intriguing of the initial head-to-head battles may well be the Yelich-Guerrero and Bell-Acuna showdowns. All four players are considered among the most prolific sluggers in baseball, irrespective of experience level.
The HR Derby is a single-elimination tournament that consists of three rounds overall.
HR Derby betting odds
|Player||DraftKings Odds||2019 Homers (As of July 7)|
|Josh Bell (PIT)||+300||27|
|Pete Alonso (NYM)||+400||29|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)||+400||8|
|Matt Chapman (OAK)||+800||21|
|Joc Pederson (LAD)||+800||20|
|Alex Bregman (HOU)||+900||23|
|Carlos Santana (CLE)||+1000||19|
|Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL)||+1100||21|