As we learned in an iconic 1999 Nike commercial, chicks dig the long ball. Yes, that was just an advertisement, but it’s also true. How do we know it’s true? Because everybody digs the long ball. This Monday, we have our annual shrine to hitting lots of baseballs as far as possible, the Home Run Derby, my personal favorite event in any sport’s All Star week. Given the 2023 Home Run Derby odds, let’s make some predictions and dive into some relevant analysis for the event.
2023 Home Run Derby Prediction
The Pick: Pete Alonso (+300)
All three of these contenders provide intriguing value in different ways, but only one can lift the trophy. It may seem boring, but I’m going with Alonso, the only one who has proven time and time again that he can do it. The fact that anyone is even close to his odds (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., +350) is just evidence of how undervalued he is at this number. It’s worth noting that his first-round matchup is none other than Rodríguez, which is definitely a tough draw for a 2nd seed. There’s definitely some merit to splitting your wager between these two bats; you’re guaranteed a semifinalist, and whoever comes out has a great chance to win it all. But if you must pick one, don’t overthink it- pick the Polar Bear.
2023 Home Run Derby Odds
Pete Alonso enters the Derby as the favorite at +300 odds, followed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Julio Rodriguez, and Luis Robert. Alonso is the only one of the favorites to win a Derby in the last five years, having won twice since 2019.
2023 Home Run Derby Bracket
|Higher Seed||Lower Seed|
|(1) Luis Robert Jr.||(8) Adley Rutschman|
|(2) Pete Alonso||(7) Julio Rodriguez|
|(3) Mookie Betts||(6) Vladimir Guerrero Jr.|
|(4) Adolis Garcia||(5) Randy Arozarena|
The Champ: Pete Alonso (+300)
Let’s start at the top, with the odds-on favorite and two-time champ. This contest may not have the league’s current home run leader, Shohei Ohtani, or the most imposing home run threat in the sport, Aaron Judge, but it certainly has the man with the best derby resume in recent memory. That would be the heavy-hitting Mets first baseman, Pete Alonso. Checking in at 6’3 and 245 pounds, Alonso is an imposing guy- he isn’t called the Polar Bear for no reason.
He’s also absolutely built for this event, starting of course with the frame you need for an endurance-based contest. He also always has homers on his mind; over 40% of his hits this season are home runs (26 of 64). He’s well on the way to his third season of 40+ home runs, including a rookie-record 53 in 2019. Alonso pairs a 55th percentile expected batting average with a 96th percentile expected slugging percentage. He’s around the median in average exit velocity, but one of the best in terms of maximum in that category. Simply put, his mind is focused on one thing; crushing the ball
Perhaps most importantly, he really wants to win. He doesn’t have to tick the box of participating in the derby, or even winning it, those are both behind him. He’s here because he wants to be, specifically because he wants an unprecedented third crown as a righty. He might have secured it last time out if not for an electrifying performance from…
The Hometown Hero: Julio Rodríguez (+500)
…Mariners rookie phenom Julio Rodríguez, who did not win that derby, but surely won the hearts of anyone watching as he snuffed out Alonso’s three-peat bid in the semifinals. He crushed the ball in the first two rounds with over 30 bombs in each, but it seemed that he may have run out of steam in the final stage as he lost 19-18 to Juan Soto. Now, with a bit more experience and the knowledge to pace himself, he wants to win in front of his Seattle home crowd.
He’s not quite as bulky as Alonso, but at 6’3 and 228 pounds, Rodríguez is certainly strong and fit enough to get through three rounds if he has a better approach this time out. He isn’t hitting tons of home runs this year, but he’s certainly hitting the ball hard- his average and max exit velocity are 93rd and 97th percentile, and his hard hit rate is 92nd. We’ve seen players who aren’t pure power hitters in everyday baseball, but are built for this competition- Rodríguez could unquestionably be one of them, and there’s no better time and place to continue his breakout than in a familiar ballpark in front of a friendly crowd.
The MVP: Mookie Betts (+1600)
Betts, the 2018 AL MVP in Boston, is one of the most fascinating derby candidates I can remember- and Vegas seems equally puzzled, as he’s only behind the young Adley Rutschman for the longest odds. Betts definitely is not a traditional power hitter- he hit 32 homers when he won that MVP, a career high at the time, and until last year. He hit 35 in his 2022 campaign, and already has 26 this year, well on the way to cracking 40 for the first time. He also won the AL batting title with a .346 mark in 2018, and has been in the .260s and .270s in each of his non-COVID seasons in LA.
Essentially, he has reimagined his game, and despite his slight build (5’9”/180lbs) is a better fit than ever for this competition. I’ve said over and over that all-around athletes succeed in this endurance contest, and Betts is a true multitalent- have you seen the man bowl ? I am concerned that some of what makes Betts great at the plate won’t translate to the derby. For instance, he has the best chase rate in the league, which has basically no bearing in this context. Still, he’s an unbelievable ballplayer in the biggest power surge of his career. After capping off his first half with 3 bombs in his last two games, it’s hard to ignore the value at 20 to 1 odds.