One might be surprised to learn that the Dodgers have had one player in Dodger blue participate in each of the last 5 Home Run Derbies.
With the Dodgers (and Cody Bellinger) hitting homeruns at a record setting pace, you can’t help but look ahead to the mid-summer classic and wonder who could be next.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 8, 2019
In this article, I’m going to break down the Dodgers in the last 5 home run derbies, and offer thoughts as to whether there’s a Dodger in 2019 that could compete in this year’s HRD.
2014- Yasiel Puig
What? Didn’t Yasiel Puig end 2014 with 16 home runs? Yes, he did. If you’re wondering if he had 16 home runs at the all-star break and 0 afterwards, well that’s not exactly the case. He had 12 home runs in the first half of the season. Keep in mind, the ‘first half’ results are at the all star break, and aren’t the 82 game mark. So first half stats tend be inflated. Yasiel Puig was selected for the home run derby during the height of his ‘hype,’ and probably because the Derby rules that year were a bit different. 2014 was the year two captains from each league could select their rosters, and then both leagues went head to head. Troy Tulowitzki picked Yasiel Puig as a contestant. Each round the hitters only had 7 outs to work with, as opposed to the 10 from the years passed.
How’d He Do?
The Wild Horse did uh, not fair so well. His home run total was a goose egg. Zero. This was a shame, as Yasiel has obviously always had incredible natural power. My left hand can tell you from first hand (sorry) batting practice experience–he hits the ball hard. He wasn’t able to find his stroke in less than 7 swings, and that was that for Yasi.
2015- Joc Pederson
Dodger rookie Joc Pederson! He took us all by surprise with his tremendous amount of power right he showed right from game 1 that year. In the first half of his rookie campaign, our large adult son had 20 dingers. We all know his 2nd half did not yield the same results. In fact, poor Joc hit .178 with 6 home runs in the 2nd half of 2015. Still–Joc Pederson can mash with the best of them. The kid just has a natural power swing, even after having tinkered it about 100 times since his rookie year. In 2015, MLB eschewed the horrible rules from the year before, and changed it to 5 minute rounds to hit as many dingers as possible. After weather threatened the event they lowered it to 4 minute rounds, with an extra 30 seconds if the player hit 2 home runs over 425 feet.
How’d He Do?
Joc almost won the whole thing. In the first round, he beat Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, 13-12. That was a sentence I never thought I’d type again. In the 2nd round, he bested Albert Pujols 12-11. In the last round, he ended up facing hometown all-star Todd Frazier. Joc came so close, but he lost to Frazier 14-15. Frazier had home field advantage, and I think many Dodger fans were pleasantly surprised how well Joc did in that competition.
2016- Corey Seager
As if winning Rookie of the Year, and coming up 3rd in MVP voting wasn’t enough, Corey participated in the Home Run Derby in 2016. Corey had a blistering 1st half in 2016. In 90 games, he had 17 home runs. He hit less home runs in the 2nd half, but it’s still worth noting that his batting average, OBP, and OPS+ were all higher in the 2nd half. Corey Seager is honestly not the first person I’d pick as someone with “raw, natural, power” in terms of a home run hitting contest. He’s got power to be sure, but he’s probably the best ‘all-around’ hitter on this list.
How’d He Do?
Same rules as 2015, except for extra time the players needed to hit 2 home runs over 440 feet. This one feels unfair. To move on to the finals, Corey Seager would have had to have bested two guys that were genuinely built to hit home runs. He lost in the first round to Mark Trumbo, but only by ONE home run. Mark Trumbo hit 47 home runs in 2016. Corey Seager did incredibly well considering. By the way, he would have to face off agains Giancarlo Stanton in the 2nd round, who hit a an absurd 24 dingers in round 1. Strong showing from Mr. Steal Your Girl.
2017- Cody Bellinger
I love looking back at Cody’s 2017 rookie season. I have to admit I go back and watch his 2017 highlights a few times a month. Keep in mind he didn’t get called up until April 25th, and didn’t hit his first home run of the season until April 29th. He took MLB by storm as a rookie with this upright stance and his big, beautiful swing. By the all-star break in 2017 Cody had played in 70 games and had 25 home runs. In that time span he hit a home run every 10.28 at bats, and hit a colossal 13 home runs in June. He was invited easily to the Home Run Derby.
How’d He Do?
They used the same rules as 2016, except the seeding was done “NBA” style. 8th seed faced off against the 1st seed, and so forth. Cody Bellinger managed to out-slug Charlie Blackmon and his post-hipster, ironic beard. Cody hit 15 to Charlie’s 14 in the first round. In the 2nd round, Cody had to go against a man also built by the baseball Gods to hit home runs: Aaron Judge. He only lost to Judge by one home run, 13-12. Judge would go on to win the event.
2018- Max Muncy
Max Muncy burst onto the scene last year. Absolutely nobody saw this coming. It came as a complete blessing for the Dodgers, because Max got the playing time due to the clown car of injuries the Dodgers dealt with early in 2018. The 2018 story of Max Muncy could take an entire article, maybe even a book, so I won’t elaborate on his shocking rise to stardom. In the first half, Max hit 20 home runs. He hit 22 home runs in 74 games, 279 plate appearances, 225 at bats. That’s a home run every 10.22 at bats! Max Muncy was crushing home runs in the first half last year at a furious pace.
How’d He Do?
Another Dodger in the Home Run Derby fell victim to the home field advantage/home town hero. In the first round, Max Muncy beat Javier Baez of the Cubs 17-16. In the 2nd round he had to face Bryce Harper competing in Nationals Park. He lost to Bryce Harper 13-12. Harper ended up winning under some dubious circumstances, defeating Kyle Schwarber 19-18. Still, Max Muncy surprised with his performance in the Derby, just as he surprised everyone in 2018 overall.
What Dodger Could Compete in 2019?
Based on the way 2019 has started, you could arguably put more than half of the Dodgers starting lineup in the Home Run Derby. A lot of the Dodgers have a ton of potential to hit 20+ home runs, but a few of them have more natural power than others. Based on exit velocity and experience, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger would be my first choices. Cody Bellinger would be the first one I’d pick. His natural power comes from his size and swing. Even when he’s half-swinging, the kid can hit the ball 400 feet no problem.
With the added $1 million in prize money on the table, contestants for the derby should be coming out of the wood works.
Which of the Dodgers would you pick for a Home Run Derby?