Thanks to the format changes put in place just in time for Todd Frazier to light up Great American Ballpark back in 2015, the Home Run Derby is more exciting than ever. Bryce Harper’s win in front of his home crowd last year reminded you of that, if you didn’t already know it. 

Now MLB has announced that, among a host of other changes to the game, the winner of the Home Run Derby will receive $1 million. That’s … better than some truck. So with stakes raised, let’s roll out our dream eight-man field of competitors for the 2019 Home Run Derby in Cleveland. What follows assumes health and willingness on the part of all involved … 

The superstars

As the defending champion, Bryce Harper — one of the biggest names in the game today — has earned a berth, and this time he’ll be wearing his Phillies duds. Then we have two of the most jaw-dropping power hitters in baseball, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. They of course are Yankees teammates and themselves former Derby champions. Finally we have the best baseball player in the world, Mike Trout, making his Derby debut. In their careers, these four superstars have combined for 812 home runs, so the balls shall fly, one presumes. Whet thine appetite … 

The up-and-comer

Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the 24-year-old two-way phenom will be back as the Angels‘ DH at some point in May, barring setback. That sets him up for a trip to our dream Derby. Last season, Ohtani at the plate mashed 22 homers in just 326 at-bats and slugged .656 against right-handed pitching (20 of those 22 homers came against righties, so we’ll have a right-hander on the mound in Cleveland when it’s Ohtani’s turn). So, yes, he can crush it … 

We’ll take some of that in Cleveland. 

The prospect/rookie

Eloy Jimenez probably has the best raw power of any prospect in the game right now. Check him out back when he was just 19 and in the Cubs’ system … 

He’s not going to crack the Opening Day roster for the White Sox, largely because they’re going to manipulate his major-league service time. He’ll be up at some point in 2019, though, at which point the home runs will begin mounting. I’ve always thought it would be cool to include a prospect in the Home Run Derby, and that’s especially the case now that there’s $1 million out there for the taking. Presumably Jimenez will have been called up long before we get to the break, but wherever he’s at, be sure he’s in the Derby. 

The hometown hero

In keeping with ancient tradition, the host city gets a Home Run Derby participant. Obviously the discussion comes down to Jose Ramirez vs. Francisco Lindor. We’ll go with Ramirez, who’s coming off a 39-homer campaign in 2018 and who’s tallied 172 extra-base hits over the last two seasons. Plus, it would be game-changing stuff to a 5-foot-9 dude win a Home Run Derby that also includes the sky-scraping likes of Judge and Stanton. 

The novelty act

All right, let’s establish something at the outset: Madison Bumgarner is not a good hitter. He’s got a career slash line of .183/.228/.313. That’s good for a pitcher, yes, but it’s terrible by the standards of, you know, actual hitters. Mad Bum can, however, run into one on occasion — 17 home runs in 503 career at-bats … 

He’s also hinted at a desire to test his mettle in the Derby. So here’s your chance. The bet here is that he gets embarrassed, but it’ll be compelling to watch no matter how it plays out. 

Now let’s bracket it out for Round 1 … 

  • Trout vs. Harper
  • Judge vs. Stanton
  • Ohtani vs. Jimenez
  • Ramirez vs. Bumgarner

Our Trout-Harper matchup features to generational stars. Harper can variously enliven and outrage by jokingly putting his Phillies batting helmet on Trout’s head at one point. Judge-Stanton pits the two Yankee behemoths against each other and insures we won’t have an all-pinstriped final. Ohtani-Jimenez serves youth, and Ramirez-Bumgarner ensures — ensures, I say — that the hometown guy will make it at least to the second round. 

So … who ya got?

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