Home Run Derby Field: Bryce Harper Headlines Slugging Showcase

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper hits a solo home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Monday, July 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The 2018 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby field looks much different than it has in past years. 

Instead of splitting the participants into four from the American League and National League, the NL is represented by seven of the eight players involved in the event.

Three of the seven NL participants are used to hitting in Nationals Park, as they hail from the NL East, while a pair of teammates and two slugging phenoms round out the senior circuit's representatives. 

Houston's Alex Bregman, who is the lone AL player in the field, wasn't expected to be part of the home-run hitting showcase, as he ranks 13th on the junior circuit in home runs. 

With no past champions of the event in the eight-man field, a new Home Run Derby champion will be crowned for the fourth straight season at Nationals Park July 16.


Participants and Bracket


The bracket for the 2018 MLB Home Run Derby! https://t.co/tai9MAU4yG


Rules Breakdown

If you haven't indulged in the Home Run Derby in the last few years, you may have missed a collection of rule changes. 

In the bracket-style format, each player receives four minutes in each round to hit as many dingers as possible. 

A round can be shorter than four minutes if the second player in the head-to-head matchup eclipses the total of his opponent. 

Timeouts are also awarded in the rounds, with one 45-second break allowed in the first two rounds. In the final, each participant receives a 45-second timeout and a 30-second timeout if they choose to use them. 

Players can earn 30 more seconds in their respective rounds by bashing the ball over 440 feet, a measurement that will be judged by Statcast, per MLB.com. 

Ties are broken by a 60-second swing-off, and if two hitters are tied after that, three-swing swing-offs take place until the tie is broken. 


Do NL East Players Enter With An Edge? 

If you're trying to handicap the field and predict a winner of Monday's event, you have to consider the three players from the NL East. 

Washington's Bryce Harper will have the most attention paid to him, as he tries to win the event in his home ballpark. 

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and Philadelphia's Rhys Hoskins also boast familiarity with the confines in Washington, D.C.

In 438 games at Nationals Park, Harper's hit 86 home runs, and if he finds a level of comfort early in the event, he should win the competition. 

Although he's hit seven home runs in 63 games at Nationals Park, Freeman's total in the nation's capital is fewer than the number of round-trippers he's bashed in the other four NL East stadiums.

Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

Hoskins, who is in his second season with the Phillies, played the most games outside of his home stadium at Nationals Park, and he has four home runs in 38 at-bats. 

Although they have familiarity with the stadium, the other two NL East sluggers entered in the event don't have a distinct advantage compared to Harper. 

The only advantage Freeman and Hoskins might have is their knowledge of how the ball travels in Nationals Park, as well as the favorable parts of the stadium to hit the ball.


Aguilar Looking To Become 1st Top Seed To Reach Final In New Format

Just because you enter the Home Run Derby as the No. 1 seed, it doesn't mean you'll book a trip to the final, or even the semifinal round.

In each of the first three years of the new bracketed format, the top seed has been eliminated before the final, with Giancarlo Stanton going out in the first round to Gary Sanchez a year ago at Marlins Park. 

Milwaukee's slugging phenom Jesus Aguilar has the opportunity to reverse the curse of the top seeds Monday, as he faces Hoskins in the first round and the winner of the Kyle Schwarber-Alex Bregman matchup in the second round.

Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Aguilar is sixth in the majors with 24 home runs, and he has the most of any NL slugger with two days left before the All-Star break. 

However, the Home Run Derby is a different animal than the regular season, especially with the clock putting pressure on each batter. 

In addition to never reaching the final, the top seed in the last three showcases hasn't recorded the highest number of home runs in any round. 

The most homers a No. 1 seed hit in a single round since 2015 is 16, which was produced by Mark Trumbo in 2016 and Stanton a year ago. 

Although history is stacked against him, Aguilar enters the competition with a welcomed enthusiasm of a rookie slugger, and it helps that he's joined by a handful of teammates on All-Star weekend, which could help ease his nerves Monday.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference and MLB.com

Source : https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2785994-home-run-derby-2018-participants-breakdown-of-new-rules-for-all-star-showcase

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