SEATTLE – Baseball’s annual showcase of light-tower power is here. The first round of the 2023 MLB Home Run Derby is underway at T-Mobile Park.
Tampa Bay Rays slugger Randy Arozarena kicked things off with 24 homers to win his matchup with Adolis Garcia. Then Adley Rutschman moved to 27 dingers before Luis Robert Jr. After this, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. casually threw 26 outs. to beat Mookie Betts.
Julio Rodríguez is the hometown hero, and Pete Alonso is the betting favorite, but other contenders are also looking to make their marks.
We’re following along, so stay tuned for updates, reactions and highlights from Seattle.
ZC: The result of the Robert-Rutschman round is that Guerrero’s 26 homers somehow feel bad.
If nothing else, Mookie won big points in Seattle for going with Ken Griffey Jr.’s looks.
HK: The difference in swing violence between Guerrero and Betts is stark. Guerrero took his shoes off every time – and I was going to say something about Betts, but I noticed shortly after his round that Guerrero was wearing some kind of back brace, and that made a lot of sense. Betts’ five-tool approach to baseball was no match for Guerrero’s willingness to sacrifice his back to launch bombs.
When. 1 Louis Robert Jr. 28, No. 8 Adley Rutschman 27
ZC: The only thing that worries me about Rutschman is whether he will literally nail me with a home run ball in the auxiliary press box. He was quite close. OK, then he switched to hitting the right hand and crushed the bonus round. That’s pretty impressive for a kid in the Pacific Northwest.
HK: I was worried about Rutschman going with the sentimental choice – his father dumped him – but that was a good strategy.
Um. wow ← I watched the bonus 30 seconds he took from the right side. Swarms of kids on the field didn’t even turn to look at home plate. They all just faced each other, watching the balls fly over their heads. Also, I think if I were to be new to baseball as an adult, switch-hitting would be the skill that would blow my mind the most. Well, maybe completion what did Shohei Ohtani do.
I wonder if switch-hitting is a secret to excelling in the Derby because a lot of it is about fighting fatigue, and switching to fresh muscles (?) at some point might give you an advantage. Great Inigo Montoya who said, “I am not left-handed” while dueling vibes. Is this a reference people can get?
ZC: Luis Robert … not impressed. He matched Rutschman’s total before the bonus round began, including a homer hit into the top row of the left field stands here. He left it on a few swings in his bonus time.
HK: Well. Showing you what I know. Robert shows that another tactic to avoid fatigue is simply BE no fatigue. Also, there is so much talk about how young Adley is, but Robert is the same age! And he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2020.
5 Randy Arozarena 24, No. 4 Adolis Garcia 16
ZC: OK, but how many homers can Randy hit in his special cowboy boots? Arozarena seemed to get even stronger as she got closer to the finals. The man lives for the heroes of national television.
HK: That’s what I’m going to say! Randy thrives as the pressure mounts – unless he gets carried away and starts posing after every single home run. He was probably the player who hurt the most in the set format – as opposed to the “outs” version of the Derby from years ago – because his power was reduced due to him not having time to freeze his arms who crossed after each homer.