September 22, 2023

Julio Rodríguez, Pete Alonso, Mookie Betts lead the Derby field

SEATTLE – If you’re a fan of dingers, longballs, moon shots, four-baggers, blasts, bombs, big flights, no-doubters, taters, jacks or just plain home runs, oh boy, do we have an event for you.

The 2023 MLB Home Run Derby is Monday at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). Last year’s winner Juan Soto won’t be returning to defend his title, but 2022 runner-up Julio Rodríguez, who by most accounts stole the show in LA, is looking for a repeat on his own turf.

Not that he doesn’t have worthy challengers.

Let’s break down this year’s Derby field.

No. 1 Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox

2023 home runs: 26

Past Derby appearances: No

Fun fact: Robert’s last home run of the first half was number 26, a total that doubled his previous single-season record.

Robert needed a push to take his place in the league, according to, and he got it from Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia, two fellow Cubans who are also active in the field. While Robert was initially reluctant to put his slugger side over his batting side, swinging at the fences actually fits the 25-year-old’s evolution during a career year. He’s adopted a more patient approach at the plate, which leads to more strikeouts and also allows him to tap into his immense power more often. —Zach Crizer

No. 8 Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

2023 home runs: 12

Past Derby appearances: No

Fun fact: No catcher has ever won the MLB Home Run Derby.

Born and raised in Oregon, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Rutschman quickly made the decision to compete in the Derby in Seattle. Another easy phone call? Having his father, Randy, pitch for him. Unlike most sluggers, Rutschman, a switch hitter, also gets to choose which side of the plate he hits from. He told that he will “probably start out left-handed.” The numbers back that up, as 20 of his 24 career blasts came from that side, but it raises the interesting possibility of him switching sides in the middle of the game. — ZC

No. 2 Pete Alonso, New York Mets

2023 home runs: 26

Past Derby appearances: Winner in 2019 and 2021, semi-finalist in 2022

Fun fact: Since his debut in 2019, no one has hit more home runs in Major League Baseball than Pete Alonso. No one. Not even Aaron Judge.

Pete Alonso recently told Yahoo Sports that his favorite Derby performance from a fans’ perspective was Josh Hamilton in 2008, when Hamilton’s 28 first-round home runs set a record.

“Even though he didn’t win,” said Alonso, “I still think this was one of the coolest Home Run Derby rounds ever.”

Back then the format was different; each contestant was given a set number of “outs” rather than a time limit. Alonso’s Derby career – two wins, three appearances ahead of 2023 – has all entered the timed era, an evolution that has made the Derby more engaging and exhausting.

“I definitely think it’s more of an endurance issue,” Alonso said of the new format, which forces guys to swing fast. But it’s not hard to see the appeal: “I like it because you have a chance at higher home run totals. It’s obviously great for the people there at the stadium because they constantly see balls flying out of the yard and also for people on TV because it’s just high octane.

This year Alonso will compete for his third Derby title, which Ken Griffey Jr. would ever be right for most.

“I mean, it’s something I’m known for, of course,” said Alonso. “Not just Home Run Derby stuff, but for me, homers are a super big part of my game, so I think it’s pretty curious.” —Hanna Keyser

No. 7 Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners

2023 home runs: 13

Past Derby appearances: Second place in 2022

Fun fact: Rodríguez told reporters at last year’s Derby that he would “try” to knock one completely out of the ballpark. If anyone in this field is going to do it this year, it’s him. So far this season he has the longest longball among the Derby participants, having hit a ball from 130 yards to left center in May.

Last year, J-Rod emerged as the consensus protagonist of an All-Star break that ended less than 100 games in his big league career. He didn’t win the Derby – falling to Juan Soto in the final, who excelled despite swirling trade rumors – but his first-round tally of 32 was a one-round record for the night and literally twice as many as he’d beaten in the world. regular season to that point.

“What did I show the fans?” said Rodríguez at the time. “Who I am, I guess. A little bit of my style… I think they know a little bit now.

About a month later, the then rookie signed a mega extension with the Mariners that will keep him in Seattle for most if not all of his career. And this year the Derby comes to him. Even before he left LA last year, Rodríguez questioned his suspected performance at the 2023 Seattle event, saying he would “try” to clean T-Mobile Park once. — HK

No. 3 Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

2023 home runs: 26

Past Derby appearances: No

Fun fact: His stature may not scream slugger, but few batters in baseball history can boast a more prolific record of hitting home runs in bunches. Betts’ six career three-homer games already tie for the all-time record with Sammy Sosa and Johnny Mize. No other active player has more than three.

Success for Betts on repeat will probably look like the same shot – ripped just over the wall into left field. It’s a feat we know he’s capable of, with some of the game’s most elite hand-eye coordination, yet a possible limitation. Relatively few of Betts’ home runs undoubtedly reach a distance wherever it goes. Over the past three seasons, 36 of his 81 home runs (44.4%) were estimated by Statcast to reach 400 feet or more. Other competitors such as Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Luis Robert soar over 400 feet on more than 60% of their home runs. — ZC

No. 6 Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

2023 home runs: 13

Past Derby appearances: Second place in 2019

Fun fact: Guerrero crushed 40 home runs in the 2019 semifinals, which still stands as the single-round record.

Count it as a plus for Guerrero that this season’s All-Star festivities are far, far away from Toronto; of his 13 home runs in 2023, 10 have come on the road. However, after a mixed bag of a first half, Guerrero could get into shape. He didn’t score his first longball at home until June 23, but then he hit two more in the same home stands. — ZC

No. 4 Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers

2023 home runs: 23

Past Derby appearances: No

Fun fact: In 2021, García made his first All-Star team, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and leading the Rangers in home runs with 31 – just months after the team designated him for assignment. In fact, it was the second time in his career that he had been DFA’d; the first was when the St. Louis Cardinals gave him up after he crushed minor league pitching for three years but didn’t translate to the majors.

The first round between García and Arozarena will be a friendly between compatriots. The two Cuban-born players became friends while in the Cardinals organization and have remained to this day. Arozarena, who called García his daughter’s godfather, said that even when they were both minor league, he saw this coming — sort of.

“We knew we were surrounded by a lot of good players and a lot of players who turned out to be superstars
, and I know he’s competitive, I know I’m competitive,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “I knew we’d be here — not necessarily the Home Run Derby, but definitely as superstars.” — HK

No. 5 Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

2023 home runs: 16

Past Derby appearances: No

Fun fact: Although this is his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic, Arozarena has already proven how much he loves the spotlight and performs at his best on the biggest stage. In 2020 – with only 42 Major League regular games to his name and a season for he would go on to win Rookie of the Year – winning ALCS MVP honors and setting a record for home runs in a single postseason.

Here’s a little more from Arozarena on his and García’s friendship and rivalry: “We’re going to try to share the win, because we said if I lose to him, he’s going to win the Derby, and if I beat him, then I’m going to win the Derby,’ Arozarena said. “So that’s how we’re going to share it. We will know who won on Monday.” — HK

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