CLEVELAND — There was very good reason that Blue Jays‘ youngster Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was put into the Home Run Derby despite only having hit eight home runs in the first half: The kid can put on a show. That’s what we want at this event and that’s exactly what he provided at the 2019 contest at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Monday night.
No, Guerrero did not win the trophy and the $1 million prize. Those went to fellow rookie and Mets slugger Pete Alonso, who bested Guerrero in the final round. But Guerrero put together an unforgettable, 91-homer performance at the event and had two of the best Derby rounds of all time.
In the first round of his first Home Run Derby, Vlad Jr. hit 29 homers, a single-round record at the event. Many of the 29 homers were jaw-dropping moonshots, and Guerrero’s longest blast went 476 feet.
The previous record for home runs in the first round in this format was 23, which was done by Aaron Judge in 2017 in Marlins Park. In fact, if we loop in the old format, this was an all-time Derby record. The previous first-round record was 28 and most of us remember that one: Josh Hamilton in 2008 in Yankee Stadium.
Guerrero’s night got even crazier in his next matchup.
In the second round, Guerrero picked up where he left off and almost topped himself. Instead, he tied his first-round mark with another 29-homer barrage. The two biggest numbers in Home Run Derby history, for a brief time, were the only two rounds that included Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Then Joc Pederson happened. He hit 29 to tie to tie Guerrero. In the one-minute tiebreaker, Vlad Jr. hit eight home runs. Joc tied him again. Then they each got three swings in the second tiebreaker. Both hit one home run to tie for a third time. In the third tiebreaker, Guerrero hit two while Pederson hit just one. Yes, he had tiebreakers to get there, but Guerrero shares the one-round record with Pederson (twice) and set the record for the most home runs ever in a Derby before the finals even started.
In the finals, Guerrero hit 22 home runs, meaning he completely obliterated the previous record for homers in a single Derby.
He looked a little gassed during the finals so it was pretty remarkable that he was able to power through with such a big number. Alas, Alonso took him down and Guerrero had to settle for the runner up.
Guerrero was also the youngest player ever in the Derby at 20 years and 114 days. Regardless of not winning the event, the Blue Jays rookie stole the show and shined incredibly bright in a breakout performance.