There are some current sluggers we always want to see at the T-Mobile Home Run Festival, which this year takes place on July 18 at Dodger Stadium. Mets slugger Pete Alonso — who has won the last two editions of the event — has made it clear that he is cut out for this kind of competition.
However, it is always good to have new faces as well. For example, last year we saw Dominican Juan José Soto and Shohei Ohtani join the party. And while neither of them could bring down the Polar Bear, they both generated big excitement at Coors Field.
So, like we did last year, MLB.com put together a group of writers to pick who we’d like to see for the first time at the 2022 Home Run Fest. Here’s a look at the eight picks. (Each stat is after Sunday’s action):RELATED
Luis Robert, White Sox
Key stat: Average 416 feet of home run distance since 2020
When it comes to the Derby, fans want to see two things: Hits that go good, long, and hits that are good, hard. Since his debut in 2020, there have not been as many players who have hit the ball as hard as the Cuban. His average home run distance of 416 feet was the fifth-most in MLB over that stretch, with 17 of his 32 career homers traveling at least 415 feet and 15 of those 32 home runs hit at 110 mph or more.
Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
Key stat: 103 hard hit balls this season
It’s hard to believe the first baseman from St. Louis has never participated in a Home Run Festival. Goldschmidt has been one of the best hitters in the majors for more than a decade now – his next home run will be the 300th of his 12-year career. And this campaign could be his best yet. The first baseman has an average of .341 and is fifth in the National League with 19 home runs.
Key stat: HR per 11.6 at-bats since 2017 (highest rate in MLB among qualifying hitters)
If Trout had been able to stay healthy over the past few years, he would have been close to the 400-homer feat already, in his 30-year-old season. But the obstacle has been the injuries. Still, it would be great if the best position player of our time participated in the Home Run Festival.
Although he has always turned down the invitation to be a part of the Derby, reports have surfaced that Trout hasn’t ruled out the possibility this year, giving everyone hope that the highest-profile hitter of our generation will finally step onto the stage of one of the most exciting events in the Major Leagues.
Key stat: 12 obvious home runs in 2022 (tied for 2nd in MLB)
His average homer distance in 2022 is 419 feet, third-farthest in the majors (minimum 10 HRs) behind Jesus Sanchez of the Marlins and CJ Cron of the Rockies — the two longest homer owners so far this year. And of his 20 homers, 12 would have gone over the fence in each of the 30 furlongs. In that category, he finds himself in great company – he shares second place with quisqueyano Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Giancarlo Stanton, below Aaron Judge (16).
Key stat: 84 homers in his first 300 career games (4th all-time)
Although the Cuban is an all-or-nothing slugger, he has thunder like the best. Before a gruesome injury in last Wednesday’s game, he had gone over the fence 48 times in his 162 games since June of last year, including 18 hits over 110 mph and 19 over 420 feet. Plain and simple, Álvarez shows power with ease, on all wings. Seeing him on stage at the Derby would be a real sight.
Julio Rodriguez, Mariners
Key stat: 13 home runs in last 47 games (after Sunday action)
The Quisqueyan’s comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. had already surfaced, with Rodriguez patrolling center field for the Seattle club and his superstar status rising at a young age, nearly 35 years after Griffey did the same. It would be great to continue all of that and have Rodriguez in the competition that Griffey has won three times.
Key stat: 20.4% of swings produce hard contact
The Mexican has managed to sneak into lists with elite hitters this season and continues to show that he belongs at this level. He’s gone from fan favorite to possible All-Star starter, and power plus plate discipline have gotten him there. More than 20% of his swings have produced hard contact this season, putting him in the top 10 in MLB — a list headed by Alvarez.
Key stat: Hit 118.2 MPH in Major League debut
It is clear that the Dominican is still not up to Stanton, Ohtani and Judge. After the month of June, Cruz had only played 13 games in the Major Leagues, with an OPS between the league average. But a Home Run Festival isn’t about working the count or overcoming the shift. It is about completely annihilating the ball.
Since Statcast was implemented in 2015, more than 860,000 batted balls have been analyzed. Just 0.01% of that number have connected at 118 mph or more. Cruz did it in his first game in the Majors.
Here’s something else that might convince them: Who wants to see a 6-7 shortstop hit the ball as hard as possible?