It’s almost time for the 2023 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby!
Spots for the most anticipated baseball event of the summer are filling up fast, and some of the biggest names in MLB will be taking aim at the T-Mobile Park bleachers on July 10 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).
One participant is sure to be especially popular with the crowd in Seattle this year: Mariners star Julio Rodriguez. While Rodriguez fell short in the finals against Juan Soto last summer, he became the first slugger to record multiple 30-homer rounds in a single derby — and a little home cooking might be just what he needs to win this year’s event.
Now that the field has been announced, we break down each player chosen — and his case for getting in the way of J-Rod’s hometown coronation in the Emerald City.
2023 home runs: 13 | Longest: 454 feet
Why he could win: Soto outlasted him for the title last year in Los Angeles, but Rodriguez was clearly the star of the show as he belted long ball after long ball into the Hollywood air in front of a star-studded crowd. Rodriguez hit 32 home runs in the first round and 31 in the second round before running out of gas in the finals, so maybe he has learned to pace himself a little better this time around.
Why he might not: Rodriguez’s sophomore season hasn’t been quite on the level of his huge rookie year, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The Mariners outfielder has gone deep once every 25.7 at-bats this season, a pretty steep decline from his rate of a home run every 19.1 ABs last season.
2023 home runs: 12 | Longest: 450 feet
Why he could take down J-Rod: Much like Rodriguez did last year, Guerrero put on an absolute show in the 2019 Home Run Debry, but fell short of wearing the crown. In fact, his 91 home runs that night in Cleveland are the most ever in a single event. This season, Guerrero has posted the highest hard-hit percentage of his career — 56.6, the best of any competitor committed to this year’s Derby. It’s easy to picture him getting in one of those zones when he barrels ball after ball.
Why he might not: That career-high hard-hit rate hasn’t translated to a whole lot of in-game power production this year, as Guerrero’s 12 home runs through 81 games is far behind his usual pace.
2023 home runs: 22 | Longest: 426 feet
Why he could take down J-Rod: If there’s one thing we’ve learned over Betts’ career, it’s that he’s very good at just about everything he does. Betts is on pace for his first 40-home run season, and his 92.4 average exit velocity is a career high — at age 30 — so there’s reason to believe he’s getting stronger with age.
Why he might not: The Home Run Derby is as much an endurance contest as it is as a test of power. As a result, it is often ruled by hulking sluggers (think Pete Alonso, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton). The 5-foot-9 Betts will have to prove he can keep hitting long balls for three grueling rounds.
2023 home runs: 16 | Longest: 436 feet
Why he could take down J-Rod: Has any player in baseball shown more flair for the dramatic than Arozarena? First it was the 2020 playoffs, then most recently this year’s World Baseball Classic. No matter the event, the Tampa Bay star has made it clear: the brighter the lights, the better he performs. In addition to his ability to step up in big moments, Arozarena’s 16 home runs already has him just four long balls away from matching his career high.
Why he might not: For all of his personality, there’s still the question of how Arozarena will handle the Derby as a first-time participant. The best Derby competitors pace themselves for three rounds, and it’s easy to envision Arozarena, like J-Rod last year, dazzling early on before running out of gas.
2023 home runs: 25 | Longest: 448 feet
Why he could take down J-Rod: There might not be anyone on the planet who enjoys participating in the Home Run Derby more than Alonso. The Mets first baseman has a chance to become the second player to win the event three times, and would join someone Mariners fans know well if he can do it in Seattle: Ken Griffey Jr. Alonso’s 25 home runs this season are easily the most of anyone committed to this year’s Derby, and he has hit at least 37 home runs in every full season of his career.
Why he might not: History could repeat itself. It was Rodriguez who knocked Alonso out of last year’s Derby and that was without a crowd chanting “J-Rod” with every swing. Despite that, Alonso is the likely favorite to win again — and if we get a rematch of their 2022 Round 2 showdown, it could very well be the highlight of the night.
2023 home runs: 11 | Longest: 424 feet
Why he could take down J-Rod: Rutschman’s power numbers alone — just 24 home runs in nearly 700 career at-bats — make him a likely underdog for this year’s event, but there’s one thing the Orioles catcher has proven he is really good at: winning. Rutschman will need to transform himself into a true slugger in the same way he has transformed the Orioles into a contender since arriving in Baltimore. As a Portland native who played his college baseball at Oregon State, he should have plenty of fans in the ballpark hoping he can pull off a surprising victory in his return to the Pacific Northwest.
Why he might not: Besides the fact that no catcher has ever won the Home Run Derby, Rutschman is known more for his all-around ability than his power. His 11 home runs are the fewest of the competitors in this year’s field, as is his 88 mph average exit velocity. While Rutschman is clearly one of the game’s brightest young stars, his Statcast page doesn’t scream Home Run Derby champion.
2023 home runs: 25 | Longest: 450
Why he could take down J-Rod: Robert is in the midst of a breakout year as he has turned his massive tools into big-time production, highlighted by his 25 home runs in just half of a season. Standing 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with light-tower power, Robert seems like an ideal Home Run Derby competitor — and that 450-foot longest home run of 2023 doesn’t tell the full story as his career long is a 487-foot long ball hit in 2020.
Why he might not: Considering his size and ability to hit mammoth blasts, Robert’s average exit velocity of 89.1 this season is a little underwhelming. And while his 2023 numbers are much improved, he still has the tendency to chase pitches — a lot of swing and miss in his game, so he’ll need to be patient and wait for the right pitches under the bright lights in Seattle.
2023 home runs: 21 | Longest: 432
Why he could take down J-Rod: Perhaps a little unheralded, Garcia has been one of the game’s best power hitters over his first three major league seasons by belting 79 home runs with plenty of time to add to that total in 2023. The Texas Rangers slugger ranks among the elite in both average exit velocity (92.4 mph) and max exit velocity (115.1), and his 50.6% hard-hit rate is in the top 10% of the majors this season. He also spreads his power evenly across fields. Add it all up and this is a player who could be hitting the ball very far, very frequently on Derby night.
Why he might not: Like Robert, swinging and missing is also a part of Garcia’s game. If he gets locked in and barrels baseball after baseball, he’s among the favorites in this year’s field — but making the consistent contact will be key.