The 2015 MLB Home Run Derby will be held tonight at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Just as we have seen nearly every year in recent memory, the rules have once again been changed significantly. This year, we will see a single elimination bracket for the eight entrants. Each player will be given just five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. However, we will see time being added on. For every two home runs that a player hits over 420 feet, they will be awarded an additional minute. If a single ball travels more than 475 feet, 30 seconds will be added. The final minute of each round should be rather interesting, as the running clock will temporarily halted after home runs. Time will then be restarted after an out is made. Surprisingly, none of the hitters selected John Danks as their preferred pitcher.
1 Albert Pujols (26 HRs) vs 8 Kris Bryant (12 HRs)
4 Joc Pederson (20 HRs) vs 5 Manny Machado (19 HRs)
3 Josh Donaldson (21 HRs) vs 6 Anthony Rizzo (16 HRs)
2 Todd Frazier (25 HRs) vs 7 Prince Fielder (14 HRs)
First Round Picks:
1 Albert Pujols vs 8 Kris Bryant
Just like his first half of the season, I fully expect Pujols to explode in the first round. While Kris Bryant is undoubtedly one of baseball’s most exciting hitters, the veteran Pujols has an edge as a result of the new Derby format. I can totally picture a calm, cool, and collected Pujols putting up an absurd number of first round bombs. Could we see a record number of home runs here? Pujols advances.
4 Joc Pederson vs 5 Manny Machado
Both of these men are Derby rookies. With that being said, Machado lacks any kind of an advantage over Pederson. The explosive Pederson simply destroys the ball. This year, on April 23, Machado hit a home run that traveled 422 feet. This was good enough to be Machado’s third longest home run of his career. On the other side, Pederson’s AVERAGE home run distance this year has been 431 feet. Game, set, match. Pederson advances.
3 Josh Donaldson vs 6 Anthony Rizzo
This has been the year of Josh Donaldson. Simply put, he has been on fire. Donaldson deservingly broke the record for most All Star Game votes. With 9 home runs of more than 420 feet this season, he is a trendy pick to win this Derby. However, I’m leaning in the other direction. Yesterday, Donaldson was benched due to flu-like symptoms. If unhealthy, Donaldson will be severely slowed. Great American Ballpark is also very friendly to left-handed hitters, which will benefit Rizzo and not Donaldson. In an upset, Rizzo advances.
2 Todd Frazier vs 7 Prince Fielder
A very tough draw for hometown favorite Todd Frazier. If I’m Frazier, I would be extremely nervous. This is easily the most intriguing matchup in the first round. With only 14 dingers compared to Frazier’s 25, can you really go with Prince here? Well, Frazier’s average home run distance is only 398 feet, the lowest in the field. On the other hand, Fielder’s average is 411 feet. Again, lefties have an advantage in Cincinnati, as the right field walls are much closer than the ones in left. Prince Fielder has been very successful in his five Home Run Derby trips, winning the entire thing twice. In addition, probably as a result of the immense pressure, only one player has won the Derby in his own city (Ryne Sandberg in 1990). I think the pressure of the Derby being in Cincinnati will be too much for Frazier, and he will have a hard time defeating the multiple Derby winner, Fielder. Again, I’m going against the grain and going with a massive upset. Hold on tight, folks…Fielder advances.
Second Round Picks:
1 Albert Pujols vs 4 Joc Pederson
After a record-setting first round, Pujols will tire here, just as he has in his three other Derby appearances. I think people are too quick to pick Pujols as their 2015 Home Run Derby Champion. Yes, he is one of the greatest hitters of all time. Yes, he is having a fantastic year. In my opinion, this has overshadowed the fact that he has never performed in accordance his expectations in his other trips to the Derby. Personally, I’m going to go with the underdog warrior that hits moonshots. Pederson’s average home run distance is 31 feet longer than that of Pujols. With the new format, this will buy Yung Joc extra time to accumulate a higher score. Pederson advances.
6 Anthony Rizzo vs 7 Prince Fielder
Both of these men bomb the baseball. Both of these men will benefit from being lefties. While Rizzo has the youthful excitement, Fielder has the Derby experience. My instinct tells me to take Fielder. After all, I cannot imagine a world where the Cubs actually win anything. After his neck troubles a year ago, Prince Fielder performing like the 2012 Prince Fielder would be an amazing storyline. I envision a fierce battle here, with the advancing player only edging the other by just a home run or two. Still, I feel like the new time limit will really hurt Fielder. Plus, his overall power has been severely down as of late. Fielder has only hit a single home run over 400 feet since May. Truthfully, this is a total coin toss. Another shocker…Rizzo advances.
Final Round Pick:
4 Joc Pederson vs 6 Antony Rizzo
Frankly, for this matchup, this is all that needs to be said.
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Joc Pederson is the MLB’s new face of pure power. On the other end, Rizzo would need to really battle both Fielder and Donaldson to get into the final round. In the end, I’m taking Joc Pederson, who was just upgraded to being named the NL’s starting CF for Tuesday’s game. It will being a surreal weekend for this 23 year old rookie. Joc Pederson wins the 2015 MLB Home Run Derby.