After all the stress of the past few months, it’s time to enjoy the All-Star break and the few days of care-free competition that they bring. As usual, the Home Run Derby sits front and center just before the All-Star Game itself, and we were treated to some monumental bombs throughout the event. At the end of a tough bracket filled with elite hitters, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walks away as the new Home Run Derby champion — let’s go through how they got to the top.
(5) Randy Arozarena vs. (4) Adolis Garcia
The berby kicked off with a bout of two electric Cuban bats, and Arozarena set the pace right away. He posted the fewest amount of home run balls of any of the eventual round one winners, but he was consistent and hardly flagged any of his energy — a crucial feat for any contestant early in the showing. Meanwhile, Garcia and his pitcher couldn’t get on pace whatsoever, and it doomed him to falling well short with just 17 homers. After opening the derby, Arozarena strolled his way into the semifinals.
(1) Luis Robert Jr. vs. (8) Adley Rutschman
Rutschman led off this matchup and delivered a show for the crowd, putting up in his own terms a “humble” 27 home runs, but it was the way that he did it that won the fans (myself included) over. After running through his standard time, Rutschman decided on the fly to swap to the other batter’s box for the bonus time and proceeded to crush seven homers in just eight swings.
However, he may have swapped too late, because he left a manageable target for the top-ranked bat in this derby, Robert. Robert took aim at the deepest parts of the park and slammed some massive shots, easily setting himself up to match Rutschman’s mark before entering the bonus. One swing later, and Robert was moving on.
(3) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. (6) Mookie Betts
Don’t let the seeding fool you — this was the most one-sided matchup entering the derby, and it played out that way. Betts didn’t have much of a derby swing for the event, opting instead not to change much from his mechanics and simply take in the atmosphere. He only entered the derby because his wife recommended that he get the experience in, and he obliged with a modest 11 dingers. That wouldn’t come close to the mark that Vladdy set before him, when the Blue Jays slugger socked 26 balls out.
2023 Home Run Derby Quarterfinals results: (3) Mookie Betts vs. (6) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pic.twitter.com/ZNKxmkxD7O— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) July 11, 2023
(2) Julio Rodriguez vs. (7) Pete Alonso
This was the opening matchup that everyone had their eyes on, and for good reason. Alonso is a two-time derby champion, but he was upset last year by the rookie Rodriguez, and now the rematch would take place in Rodriguez’s park. He didn’t need to do much to ignite the crowd, but boy did he show out — he smashed 41 balls out of the park, breaking Guerrero Jr.’s record from 2019 for the most homers in a single round.
JULIO RODRIGUEZ PUT ON A SHOW— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2023
41 home runs in the first round pic.twitter.com/JrI4Ajag0p
Alonso had a monumental hill to climb, but he fared a similar fate to Garcia. His pitcher was recently changed after his original choice felt his elbow go awry during practice, and it was clear that there was no rhythm between the two. Alonso got plenty of balls on the outer half of the plate and several that he had to outright lay off of, which is the last thing you want to see in a derby. Alonso managed to put up 21 homers, but it wasn’t nearly enough to threaten for his third title.
(5) Randy Arozarena vs. (1) Luis Robert Jr.
Arozarena may not have had the most explosive opening round, but he made up for it in the semifinals. He rocketed to a massive total of 35, keeping it calm and steady throughout. Robert continued to launch missiles with his bat, hitting the farthest ball of the round again, but he wouldn’t come close to matching Arozarena in this one, falling short with 22 hit out.
(3) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. (2) Julio Rodriguez
Rodriguez got to go first in this matchup after demolishing the field in round one, but he was noticeably more exhausted from the onset. After mashing 41 balls out he only managed to hit out 20 in his second go, opening the door for Guerrero Jr. to eclipse him. Vladdy did just that, matching Rodriguez before even entering the bonus time and smashing the first ball he saw for the walk-off and a ticket to the finals.
(3) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. (5) Randy Arozarena
Vladdy went right back out to lead off the finals, and with a minute less time on the clock he put up a solid performance. Guerrero Jr. got to 20 home runs by the time the standard clock ran out, leaving him with a minute to rack up plenty of extras, but fatigue had set it by that point and he only managed to add five extra bombs for a total of 25. Arozarena had the stage set for him, and after a slow start he managed to make it to 21 by the time that he entered the bonus.
However, because he didn’t hit out two 440-foot bombs, he only had 30 seconds as opposed to the full minute, and that wound up being a difference maker — Arozarena fell two short at 23, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was crowned the 2023 Home Run Derby champion. With Guerrero Jr.’s win and Guerrero Sr.’s victory in 2007, they are the first father-son duo in MLB history to both be derby kings. Congrats to Vladdy, and enjoy the rest of the festivities this week everyone.