The first-ever Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium — well, since Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, anyway — doesn’t officially yet have a full field, but the players who have already confirmed their participation and who will reportedly join them makes for an entertaining ride.
Major League Baseball officially announced Monday that Pete Alonso, the back-to-back Derby champion in 2020 and 2021, will be back to defend his crown. Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. will also be swinging for the fences in Los Angeles.
The return of Alonso also means the return of former Mets bench coach Dave Jauss, now a Nationals advisor, to pitch to him, after Jauss’ dazzling display of pinpoint accuracy from the mound during last year’s proceedings. The return of the Mets duo also produced this wonderful exchange on Monday:
Pete Alonso says he’ll be in the Home Run Derby again (obviously) and his pitcher will be Dave Jauss.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) July 11, 2022
Jauss asked for “two pots of coffee for before and a case of Bud Light for after and he said he’s good to go,” Alonso said.
Also on Monday, Katie Woo at The Athletic reported that Albert Pujols will participate in the Home Run Derby, which would be his fifth time in the event and first since 2015. The 42-year-old Pujols has 684 career home runs, which would be the most by any player to participate in a Home Run Derby, three more than Barry Bonds in 2004, per the great Sarah Langs of MLB.com.
Twelve of those 684 home runs for Pujols were hit as a member of the Dodgers last season.
Juan Soto of the Nationals will also take part in the Derby, per Héctor Gómez of Z101 Digital on Monday. It would be the second Home Run Derby for Soto, who lost to Alonso in the semifinal round in 2021.
MLB on Tuesday confirmed both Pujols and Soto, and the Phillies announced that NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber will take part as well. So we have five known contestants.
The Home Run Derby will take place on Monday, July 18, televised live by ESPN. The bracket will be revealed on Thursday from 4-5 p.m. PT on ESPN, though it’s more of an academic exercise if we already know the full field by then, so don’t expect too many more leaks before the televised reveal.
The eight participants are seeded based on total home runs hit this season through a certain date with any ties broken by the number of home runs hit in the previous season. Since the three-round bracketed format was introduced in 2015, the cutoff date for home run totals was the Tuesday before the All-Star Game in every year except 2016, which used homer totals through the Wednesday before the game.
Through Monday, Schwarber has 28 home runs, Alonso has 23, Soto has 17, Acuña has eight homers, and Pujols has five so far this season.