MLB Home Run Derby participants: 7 players we want to see join Shohei Ohtani in 2021 field

By | June 22, 2021

MLB’s Home Run Derby always makes for an exciting show. 

Watching the game’s best power hitters slug it out, launching baseballs as far as possible in a short time span. This year will be particularly thrilling as the event will be held in the launching pad of Coors Field. 

One participant is already confirmed for the event with Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani announcing he’ll be participating. Young Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has reportedly opted out of showing off his power swing, as has Cubs shortstop Javier Baez

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So now the question left is who will join Ohtani? We’re doing our best to figure out some of the players that would add to the thrill of the show. With only eight total spots, and one filled, we’re looking at seven other players that could help fill out the field. 

Ronald Acuna Jr.

One of the juniors has already opted out of the Home Run Derby, but fans are going to want to see as many of them as possible in the event, and Acuna Jr. would be a must-watch performer. Acuna trails only Fernando Tatis Jr. in the NL in home runs as he sits at 20 and 10 of them have been no-doubters, according to Baseball Savant. One of those traveled 481 feet, the second-longest shot this season. 

It’s more than just the home runs he’s hit this season. His profile just sounds like someone that would put on a show at the derby. His max exit velocity of 117.2 mph puts him at fifth best this season, the average exit velo of 93.8 is seventh best and his 11.9 percent barrel per plate appearance is fifth in the big leagues. Acuna is hitting the ball as hard as anyone in the majors and with the level of excitement he brings to the game, he would be a great fit for the Home Run Derby. 

Pete Alonso

Alonso has not been swinging with the same power stroke he had in his dynamic rookie season where he launched 53 homers, but he’s the defending Home Run Derby champion, having beaten Guerrero in the final round back in 2019. As the reigning champ, he should have the chance to reclaim his title with another spot in the 2021 field. 

The Mets first baseman might only be at 11 home runs, but he is stinging the ball every time he hits it. His average exit velocity is 92.6 — tied for 19th best in the majors — and his max exit velo of 117.1 is sixth, according to Baseball Savant. Of his 11 homers, nine have been no-doubters. The Polar Bear has as much power as anyone in the big leagues, and even with the lower numbers, he should have a chance to be a back-to-back champion. 

Rafael Devers

Devers often slides under the radar with the young wave of talent that has risen up, but the 24-year-old Red Sox third baseman is enjoying yet another big campaign in Boston. Devers had a breakout season in 2019, struggled in the beginning of the shortened 2020 season, and now in 2021, he’s back to mashing baseballs. He’s already launched 18 bombs and, according to Baseball Savant, has an expected home run total of 20.6, trailing only Ohtani and Royals catcher Salvador Perez. 

And his statcast profile this season has been absurd. He’s in the 92nd percentile or above in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG and barrel rate. He’s tied with Ohtani and Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez at 13th in the average home run distance at 417 feet, with his longest homer of the year traveling 452 feet. 

Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes has been one of the biggest stories of the year as a player who never had much acclaim as a prospect to a potent run producer in the middle of a playoff contender. And though his seven home runs are the fewest of anyone on this list, they’ve been the biggest bombs. He’s launching home runs at an average of 439 feet and his 485 foot shot earlier in the year is the farthest hit ball this season, according to Baseball Savant. His shortest home run of the year went 421 feet

Yes, Mercedes has cooled off significantly since the start of May (two homers, .184/.248/.259 slash line) and yes, there are many players in the majors that have more home runs this season than Mercedes. But he’s been fun to watch, and the Home Run Derby is all about the excitement of the event, so why not include him? 

Ryan McMahon

There’s always got to be one hometown hero for the fans to root for, and this year the obvious Rockie would be McMahon. The infield utility man is up to 16 home runs on the year with a career-high slugging percentage of .508 so far this season and he’s tied with Kyle Schwarber for seventh with 17.6 expected home runs, indicating he should have about two more homers this year than he already has. 

McMahon has always shown that he has plenty of power in the big leagues. In 2019, he launched a career-high 24 home runs and followed that up with nine in 52 games last season. This season, he’s just making more consistent hard contact, with career-highs in hard-hit rate (48.6), average exit velocity (92) and his second highest barrel rate at 9.7 percent, per Baseball Savant

Giancarlo Stanton

No one hits the ball harder than Stanton. So far this season, he owns the league’s hardest hit ball at 120.2 mph and among batters with at least 100 batted balls, his average of 97.4 mph paces the league, according to Baseball Savant

He also has plenty of experience in the event. Stanton won the Home Run Derby back in 2016 in Petco Park, a ballpark considered to be one of the least hitter-friendly, so a trip to Coors could give him the chance to really put on a show. In 51 games this season, he’s already launched 13 home runs — five of which, Statcast has called no-doubters. And at 471 feet, he already has one of the longest home runs hit this season. 

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Of course the dynamic Padres shortstop would make for an exciting bat in the Home Run Derby. Tatis might be day-to-day with a shoulder injury at the moment, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the game’s best power hitters. According to Baseball Savant, he is tied for the MLB lead with 14 no-doubter home runs, and he trails only Guerrero and Ohtani for the home run lead with 22 bombs so far. 

And just take a look at his batted ball profile. He’s in the 90th percentile or above in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, barrel rate and expected slugging percentage. Tatis punishes baseballs. And in the atmosphere of Coors Field — a park he is very familiar with as an NL West foe — he could do some serious damage to baseballs.