MLB’s Home Run Derby seems to have lost its luster in recent years. With some of baseball’s biggest stars opting out of the All-Star festivities altogether in favor of a little R&R, the derby is lacking the big time star power it once had.
If we had it our way, we’d bring the game’s top talent back to the Home Run Derby, and these nine players would help make it must-see TV.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
Of course the reigning champ should get the chance to defend his title. Stanton hit a total of 61 homers in last year’s Home Run Derby, knocking off the defending champ Todd Frazier. Stanton’s 17 home runs puts him within the Top 8 of the NL and Top 15 in all of MLB.
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Harper hasn’t participated in the Home Run Derby since 2013, when he lost in the final round to Yoenis Cespedes. He declined the invite last year, saying he would return to the event in 2018, when All-Star weekend is hosted at Nationals Park. But we’re hoping that Harper, who has 17 homers on the season, will opt-in a year early as a warmup for his home crowd in ’18.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Sano came right out of the gate red-hot to start the season, giving the Twins and their fans the better-late-than-never breakthrough performance they had been hoping for. He’s cooled off a bit in recent weeks, but he’s still among the Top 10 in the AL with 16 dingers.
The 30-year-old slugger is in the midst of one of the most incredible MLB comebacks, making him easy to root for in the derby. Thames hadn’t seen a big league pitch since 2012 when the Brewers signed him this past offseason, but his success in Korea earned him another shot at the majors. Thames currently leads the NL in homers, with 20, which is the third-most in all of MLB. His unexpected home run tear has prompted an excessive number of drug tests from the league, but he’s always tested clean and he continues to put up big power numbers for the Brewers.
Thames could easily be a fan-favorite in this year’s Home Run Derby and a win would just add to his amazing story.
Jake RothJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
This one is a no-brainer. The 6-foot-7 rookie phenom wasted no time making a name for himself this season, showing off his ridiculous record-breaking power. Judge, who leads all of MLB with 23 homers, is responsible for the hardest hit home run of the Statcast era — which had an exit velocity of 121.1 MPH.
The young Yankees slugger is at the top of the list in the AL MVP discussion and if he keeps up his current pace (.335 BA, 23 HR, 53 RBI), has a legit shot at winning the triple crown.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
As a player who made the team out of spring training as an injury replacement, Gallo wouldn’t be your typical derby candidate. But the 23-year-old rookie, who was intended to be a stop-gap for the injured Adrian Beltre, proved himself worthy of a roster spot and has been the most productive offensive player for the Rangers this season. Gallo leads the Rangers in runs (41), has the second-most RBI with 38 and his team-leading 18 dingers put him in the Top 5 in the AL. His plate discipline needs improvement — his batting average is a measly .194 with 93 strikeouts — but of course none of that matters in the derby.
Gallo has hit batting practice homers practically out of Globe Life Park and smashed a 466-footer over center field at Minute Maid park, so the intrigue is definitely there.
USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
The two-time MVP has never participated in a Home Run Derby and considering his current injury, seeing him in this year’s derby is probably just a pipe dream. Before he was was placed on the DL with a thumb injury back on May 30th, Trout was tied with Aaron Judge for league lead in homers. He’ll have some catching up to do when he returns, which could be right around the All-Star break, according to the Angels slugger himself.
Cody Bellinger, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 21-year old Dodgers rookie basically came out of nowhere this season and he’s keeping pace with some of the best home run hitters in the game. His 19 homers are the second-most in the NL (tied with Joey Votto and Ryan Zimmerman) and tied for fourth in all of MLB. Bellinger, who made his debut in April, is also tied with Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez for the most homers in his first 50 major-league games.
We’d love to see how Bellinger stacks up against the other up-and-coming power-hitting rookies in this year’s derby.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets
As Cespedes continues to battle through an injury-plagued season, it’s probably a long shot that he’ll make an appearance in this year’s derby. But it sure would be great to see the former back-to-back champ return for a shot at a third Home Run Derby title, something only one player, Ken Griffey Jr., has done before.
Yo is coming off a 31-homer, All-Star season and despite playing in only 26 games, he’s hit eight homers so far this year. Still considered one of the best sluggers — and bat-flippers — in the league, Cespedes is the kind of player that every derby needs.