The defending champion, representing the home team, and two rookie sensations are the prime attractions heading into the Home Run Derby, which will be held Monday night at Marlins Park in Miami.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who moved into a tie for the National League homer lead by going deep twice Sunday at San Francisco, will defend his 2016 crown in an eight-player field that includes New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge and Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger.
Judge leads the majors with 30 home runs. Stanton has 26, and Bellinger has 25.
The only rookie ever to hit more homers than Judge before the All-Star break was Mark McGwire, who had 33 for the 1987 Oakland A’s. McGwire also holds the full-season rookie home run record with 49.
Stanton belted a record 61 homers in the Derby last year. He is attempting to join Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) and Yoenis Cespedes (2013-14) as the only back-to-back champs of the event. Griffey is the lone three-time winner, also taking the crown in 1994. The only other two-time winner was Prince Fielder (2009, 2012).
“You got to have a formula and everything just like hitting in a game, but it more reminds me of when my dad was throwing to me back in the day,” Stanton told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s the only time you can just kind of be free like you’re a kid again.”
The only winners in their home park were the Chicago Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg in 1990 and the Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier in 2014.
Stanton, the top seed in the bracketed quarterfinals, will oppose eighth-seeded New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (13 homers this year) in the first round. The winner of that match will face either fourth-seeded Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (25 homers) or fifth-seeded Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano (21 homers).
Judge, the second seed, faces another Marlin in the first round, first baseman Justin Bour (20 homers). Bellinger, the third seed, opposes sixth-seeded Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon (20 homers).
“You don’t do these events just to compete,” Bour told the Sun-Sentinel. “You do them to win.”
The format allows each player four minutes per round to hit as many homers as possible. Homers of at least 440 feet earn a 30-second bonus. Each player may call a 45-second timeout in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and the finalists may each call a 45-second timeout and a 30-second timeout.
Should a round be tied, a 60-second tiebreaker is held with no added time available.
“I’m pretty sure the excitement will be through the roof,” Judge said.
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