We head to Nationals Park Monday night for the 2018 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. While this is off time for players and teams, us handicappers never get a day off and always have a chance to pad that bankroll. All eight participants have individual odds to win this event, and you’ll produce a nice little payday if you can correctly pick the winner.
Nationals Park has been one of the more friendlier home run stadiums in the majors this season, producing 1.101 bombs per game, which is just behind Yankee Stadium for 12th place. We’re going to see some fireworks this year.
Let’s break this thing down.
Bryce Harper, +300 - Bryce Harper hasn’t played well overall this season, but he does have 23 homers and is on pace for his biggest season total since hitting 42 back in 2015. Harper has hit 86 home runs in Nationals Park for his career and should be motivated to be one of the rare players to win a home run derby at his home park.
Jesus Aguilar, +350 - Jesus Aguilar currently leads the majors with 24 homers and has hit 40 combined homers in his last 544 at bats, the first two seasons he’s consistently gotten playing time. Aguilar is a bigger body guy, so he doesn’t need to swing hard to leave the yard. The issue with the Brewers slugger is fatigue, as we have seen huskier guys get fatigued fast in these events.
Max Muncy, +500 - Max Muncy hit 20 homers in 183 at bats, making him the fastest player in Dodgers history to reach that total. Muncy now has 22 homers on the season, meaning he’s going deep once every 9.8 at bats. Muncy has consistent opposite field power and has one homer in 13 career at bats at Nationals Park.
Freddie Freeman, +600 - Freddie Freeman has 16 homers on the season, which means he’ll easily reach the 20 mark for the sixth time in his last eight years. Freeman may not be known as an elite power hitter, but he’s a terrific overall hitter who has a high IQ and should be able to pace himself here. Freeman is also very familiar with Nationals Park playing in the NL East, and he has seven homers in 63 games here.
Rhys Hoskins, +600 - Last year, Rhys Hoskins set an MLB record with 18 homers in his first 34 career games. This year, Hoskins has 14 homers, which means he’s cooled off drastically from last years pace, but this is one of those guys you know leaves the yard when he makes contact. Hoskins also has a thing for Nationals Park, as he’s hit four bombs in 10 career games in Washington.
Javier Baez, +600 - Javier Baez has 18 home runs on the season, so he’s likely going to finish with a career high that previously sits at 23. Baez is one of those hitters who usually swings out of his shoes often, so this is the perfect event for him to shine. The Chicago Cubs have also produced three home run derby winners, so he has that on his side as well. Only the New York Yankees (four) have taken home more HR derby hardware.
Alex Bregman, +900 - Alex Bregman is already sitting on a career high of 20 home runs, and he’s left the yard in some tough AL parks. Bregman also put on a show a few years ago in Florida during the Perfect Game National Showcase, hitting 14 homers in less than five minutes, and he’s put on a lot more muscle since. Bregman is a confident sleeper in this event.
Kyle Schwarber, +700 - Kyle Schwarber is the muscle of the Cubs lineup, as he’s a big dude who has combined for 47 homers in his last 682 at bats. Schwarber has a bit of an uppercut swing and will consistently put them in the upper deck when he connects. Schwarber reminds me a lot of Justin Bour last year, a bigger hitter who can put on a show.
Picks: I’m siding with Harper and Schwarber as my selections for this event. Harper will want to defend his turf and put on for the home team, and he’s overall the best hitter in this tournament. Having a chance to make three times your money with Harper is a decent bet. The dark horse is Schwarber, as he has a favorable first round opponent in the smaller Bregman and could very well run into a worn down Aguilar in the second round. Schwarber is purely a home run hitter and doesn’t have to over swing to leave the yard. Schwarber should be the Bour of this tournament and could carry that momentum to the final.