2022 MLB Home Run Derby: Picking ideal eight-slugger field for Dodger Stadium showcase

The 2022 MLB season continues to hum and the All-Star break is only a few weeks away. The most fun event of the break itself, for me, isn’t the All-Star Game, but instead the Home Run Derby. It used to not be the case. The event was on life support from an entertainment point of view, by 2014, but the format was changed before the 2015 event in Cincinnati to add a clock element and it’s now amazingly fun. 

We’ll again see a field of eight hitters, four from each league, in three weeks from Monday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

So let’s pick a field of eight that we’d like to see. It’s not necessarily the 100 percent, pie-in-a-sky best field, because some players just won’t do it. Aaron Judge doesn’t want to. Many others who have already been in it, earlier in their careers, don’t seem to want to do it again (Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., José Ramírez, Giancarlo Stanton, etc.). I’m guessing after doing it last season that Shohei Ohtani will cherish the rest instead of taking part again. Also, if possible, they’ll generally try to get a home player into the event.

Let’s pick our eight realistic participants. 

National League

Pete Alonso, Mets
He’s the two-time defending champion and will surely again compete. He seems to want to make this one of the things he’s known for and that’s pretty great. An absolute no-brainer pick. 

Austin Riley, Braves
Especially since it was the Braves who knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs last year and these two teams have faced off in the last two NLCS, we’ve got to have a Braves rep. I’d be good with Ronald Acuña, Jr., but he has already done it and had the torn ACL last season. Riley makes more sense. He had 33 homers last year in the regular season and some big hits in the playoffs — including a home run and walk-off single against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS. As such, he’s already well known to casual fans. He’s on a 40-homer pace this season, too. 

Jazz Chisholm, Marlins
The captain of my 2022 All-Fun Team, the world needs more Jazz. The 24-year-old Bahamian has 14 homers and a .538 slugging percentage. He’s a bit spindly, so the power seems sneaky. He took part in a Derby in the Bahamas last winter where they were hitting balls into the sea. He’ll bring all kinds of entertainment to this event. 

Will Smith, Dodgers
As noted, we want a hometown option. I don’t think Freddie Freeman would do it again. Mookie Betts is hurt. Cody Bellinger has already done it and is not having a great season. Smith hit 25 homers in 414 at-bats last season and more than half would considered “no-doubters” by Statcast. He has plenty of power and it would be fun to see Dodgers fans rally around him. And if anyone wants to cry, “how many people other than Dodgers fans know him?” — first off, pay better attention — I’d like to submit 2017 participant Justin Bour. The Miami crowd was electric for him. 

Others to consider: Kyle Schwarber has already done it (he was a finalist against Bryce Harper when they were both on different teams), but he would certainly work. Jorge Soler seems like he’d be all kinds of fun. Rowdy Tellez would work. I assume, from the Cardinals, that Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt would be out, but youngsters Juan Yepez or Nolan Gorman would be interesting choices. Manny Machado has done it before, but I feel like him being the villain in Dodger Stadium has major possibilities. Of course, he’s nursing an injury right now and he’s likely out. Any Dodger, really, would also be OK. It’s probably too early for Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz, right? Or is it? 

American League

Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Last year, Alvarez said being in a Derby would interest him. The feeling is mutual, as far as I’m concerned. I’m greatly interested in seeing Yordan in it. He is perhaps the most feared hitter in baseball at this point and there would be a slew of tape-measure shots. 

Rafael Devers, Red Sox
This doesn’t seem like it should be possible, but we’ve got a 25-year-old Red Sox superstar who has already won a World Series, played in two ALCS, led his league in doubles and is leading the league in hits, yet he’s also underrated. A stocky lefty with an incredibly violent swing, more than 50 percent of his home runs in each of the last four seasons have been classified as “no-doubters.” Let’s give him a showcase here. 

Mike Trout, Angels
Trout has never been in the Derby. By this point in their career, most superstars are done thinking about it, but Trout in 2019 said that “maybe one year, I’ll say to myself, ‘hey, let’s do it.” He said it’s “probably” something he would “eventually” do. Trout is 30, will have a ton of fans there in favor of him — with the Dodgers fans possibly cheering against him — and L.A. is awfully close to where the Angels actually play, even if they don’t play in L.A. It seems like a good time to do it, so “let’s do it.” Trout leads the majors in slugging. 

Byron Buxton, Twins
I doubt the Twins would approve of this and the smartest thing for Buxton and his club would be for him to skip it. He’s just had so much trouble staying on the field, it feels like a run in the Derby would be too fate-tempting. He did recently say it was “something to think about,” so he’s not ruling it out. It still sounds like a terrible idea for him and his team. I, however, don’t really need to concern myself with these matters. I’m looking for a fun Derby team and it would be amazing to see Buxton unleashing on baseballs. 

Others of note: If Ohtani does want to do it, by all means, it would be great fun and draw so many more eyeballs just with his presence alone. Obviously if Judge changes his mind, we’d have to have him. If Alvarez doesn’t do it, Kyle Tucker from the Astros would be a fine option. Corey Seager has done it before and probably won’t, but doing so in a Rangers uniform in Dodger Stadium would be fun. Let’s save Julio Rodríguez for the 2023 Derby in Seattle. 


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