2024 MLB Home Run Derby: Building a dream field, including Aaron Judge, Adolis Garcia, a surprising Met

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We are just one week away from the Home Run Derby, the biggest spectacle Major League Baseball has in terms of showcasing individual talent in exhibition form. As I do every year, I’ll now put together a field of eight that would be my ideal Home Run Derby. Now, this isn’t “anything goes” because I’m trying to operate at least somewhat within the realm of reality. 

That is to say, injured players will not be picked. Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, Royce Lewis, Fernando Tatis Jr. and, yes, Mike Trout would’ve been considered, but injuries have taken them off the table.

If a player has declined an invitation, that does NOT take him off the table here. I’m operating under the assumption that — while I cannot heal injuries — I could convince any healthy player I wanted to take part.

A major consideration for me is the location of the event. Having a “home” player always makes the event so much more fun — picture Todd Frazier winning in Cincinnati or Bryce Harper winning in D.C. as just two great examples. Regular-season performance certainly factors in to the decision-making process, but putting on a show can overcome this consideration. As an example, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. only had eight home runs when he was chosen for the 2019 Derby and he stole the show, even though he didn’t win it. 

As things stand, only Gunnar Henderson of the Orioles, Pete Alonso of the Mets and Alec Bohm of the Phillies are in the Derby field, but I’m not required to pick them in my ideal field. One of them does make it, but the other two do not. 

Onto the eight choices! 

Please. He’s the most famous baseball player on the planet and this is an international event. Plus, he has as much raw power as anyone and plays for a marquee team in the Dodgers. He’s unlikely to participate this year while he rehabs his elbow, but, as noted, I’m picking as if I can have any healthy body to take part. 

Marquee team? Check. No one draws like the Yankees. The potential for monster shots? CHECK! Judge is the MLB leader in bombs and stands a menacing 6-foot-7. He’s an easy pick, even though he’s said he won’t do it again until the Midsummer Classic is in New York.

Elly is a sensation and one of the most fun players in all of baseball to watch. We don’t get to watch him steal bases here, but he still has plenty of power. This would be an opportunity to showcase De La Cruz to a national audience, something that doesn’t happen often with the Reds these days. He deserves it.

The single hardest hit ball this season came off the bat of the 6-foot-7 Cruz. He trails only Judge and Ohtani in average exit velocity. He swings harder than anyone. He strikes out too often to be considered one of the best hitters in baseball and only has 13 home runs this season, but when he runs into a pitch, it’s a thing of beauty. We won’t have to worry about the whiffs in the Derby, so bring on the show!

Adolis García

One of the biggest heroes of the 2023 postseason, García gets the nod here due to the All-Star Game being played at the home of the Rangers. The defending champs absolutely have to have an entrant here. My hunch is García would put on the best show, so he’s the pick. 

If we have a hometown hero, we’ve gotta have a villain, right? There was plenty of beef last postseason between the Astros and Rangers, the two MLB Texas teams, and though it took some time after the Astros switched to the AL, I think we finally have an established rivalry here. Alvarez is the Astros’ selection, so he’ll serve as our villain. This isn’t a forced pick, either. Alvarez is a punisher of opposing pitchers and few hitters are as feared when they are on. He’s capable of absolutely majestic shots on any given pitch. He’ll top 30 homers this season for the fourth consecutive year. 

As a bonus, he’s never been in the Derby. 

Gunnar Henderson

Adley Rutschman of the Orioles put on a show last year and now it’s Gunnar’s turn. He’s among the league leaders with 27 round-trippers this season, but it isn’t just that. He’d be in the top three of AL MVP voting right now and the Orioles are arguably the best team in baseball. The best player with great power from one of the best teams is an easy choice. Bring it on, Gunnar! 

I thought about Pete Alonso, the two-time champion who has now joined this year’s field, but he’s run his course in the event at this point for me. Vientos, though, excites me. He was in the Futures Game in 2022 and is flashing some serious power this season at age 24. In just 156 at-bats, he has 11 homers (that is a full-season pace of around 46 home runs).

Plus, it never hurts to have both a Mets and Yankees player in the event, both in terms of eyeballs and for the NYC haters out there to root against. 

Also considered

José Ramírez or Josh Naylor would be fine choices from the first-place Guardians. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is always a consideration. I already took one Oriole, but Anthony Santander would be fine selection. Ditto for the Yankees/Judge and Juan Soto. Bobby Witt Jr. from the Royals would be a very fun choice, as would William Contreras of the Brewers. Luis Robert was awesome last year and it wouldn’t hurt to give him another shot. Christian Walker from the defending NL champion Diamondbacks would work as well. James Wood is a giant with huge power, so he was also considered, but I felt like Vientos would be a better pick among young “wild card” types.

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