On the strength of his MLB third-best 26 home runs, our Luis Robert Jr. enters tonight’s Home Run Derby as a No. 1 seed. And based on the makeup of the grid, he caught a huge break by avoiding three of the most prodigious challengers — Pete Alonso, Julio Rodríguez and Mookie Betts — until a potential final round.
Seattle’s Rodríguez will have all the hometown hype and devil-may-care flair behind him, while Alonso is a past champion and Betts is both dynamic and tied with Robert with 26 homers this season.
In fact, the rematch between Rodríguez and Alonso is arguably your must-watch of the entire grid, given Rodríguez’s 31 homers in the semis last year at Dodger Stadium to upset defending champ Alonso.
Of course, the left side of the grid can be regarded, with apologies to Pantera’s opening-round opponent Adley Rutschman, as the “Cuban Region,” given the origins of Robert, García and Arozarena. So don’t sleep on those matchups for drama and flair, either.
The one advantage Rutschman may have over the entire field is that he is a true hometown hero, born near Portland and regarding the Mariners ballpark as his home one growing up and watching games.
With the Derby seemingly changing rules every year, here’s what players are working with in 2023.
Lowest seeds hit first in every round of this single-elimination tournament, which means three total rounds. Hitters have three minutes per round in the first and second rounds, reduced to two minutes in the title match. The clock starts running as the first ball is thrown, and the hitting ends when the clock runs down to zero. (Yes, there are buzzer-beater HRs, as any pitch thrown with time on the clock counts as a potential homer.)
For time and energy considerations, if the second batter in a round surpasses the first hitter’s total, the round ends; if Rutschman hits 15 home runs in his first-round matchup against Robert, once Robert hits his 16th home run, the round ends and La Pantera advances, 16-15.
What the heck is bonus time?
I don’t really know, to be honest. Everyone gets 30 more seconds to hit after time expires, and if a hitter smashes two homers or 440 feet or farther, they get an additional 30 seconds of extra time. This is the portion of the Derby with the T-Mobile “magenta ball.”
Yup, in every round, a batter can take one 45-second timeout — only during regular Derby, not the bonus time.
What about a tie?
Ties get broken by a 60-second “swing-off” — one minute to put the most baseballs over the wall. Sudden death beyond that is best-of-three swings. In three different competitions, matchups have gone into sudden death.
The Home Run Derby prize pool is $2.5 million, and the winner will earn $1 million.
Watch the Home Run Derby tonight on ESPN at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN2 will offer a Statcast-themed broadcast as well. The event will also be broadcast on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App.