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Finest candidates for 2024 Dwelling Run Derby

Voting is well underway for the 2024 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, with the Phase 1 ballot closing on Thursday at noon ET. But of course, All-Star Week is about more than just the Midsummer Classic itself.

One day before the American League and National League All-Stars square off at the Rangers’ Globe Life Field, it will be time for some of the game’s elite sluggers to take their hacks in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on July 15. But who exactly will be bringing the lumber to this hard-hitting, high-flying event?

There is no shortage of qualified candidates, but in the end, only eight will test themselves in the ultimate battle for dinger supremacy. Here is a look at 30 potential Derby competitors, broken down into seven categories and giving some consideration to 2024 season performance (although making an All-Star roster is not a prerequisite).

Stats below are through Tuesday’s games.

The defending champion
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays)

Back in 2019, Guerrero put on an absolute show in the Derby, setting a still-standing record of 91 total big flies. But what he did not do was win the whole thing, instead falling to Pete Alonso in the final round.

Then, in 2023 at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, Guerrero returned to the event and finished the job. In doing so, he joined his Hall of Fame dad as the only father-son duo to both boast a Derby title, with the elder Guerrero having won in San Francisco back in 2007.

Vlad Jr. was struggling to find his power stroke in 2024, but that may be changing in time for the Derby. On Monday night, he launched a 471-foot blast over the Green Monster for his third homer in four games, giving him 10 for the season. He could become the fifth player to win the Derby multiple times and the third to do so in back-to-back seasons.

The other past champs
Pete Alonso (Mets), Bryce Harper (Phillies), Aaron Judge (Yankees), Juan Soto (Yankees)

Guerrero is hardly the only active player who has taken the Derby crown in the past. Most notably, Alonso seems to relish competing in it more than perhaps anyone else, having done so four straight times since 2019. (There were no All-Star festivities in 2020.) The Polar Bear is already on that short list of multi-time winners (2019, ‘21), and he surely has been stewing about his first-round exit last year at the hands of a Julio Rodríguez-shaped “buzzsaw.”

Harper has not taken part in the Derby since winning in grand fashion on his then-home field in Washington in 2018. Will he make a long-awaited return in order to represent the Phillies for the first time? Few are better at rising to the moment on the big stage.

We would have put Giancarlo Stanton on this list alongside his two teammates, but a recent left hamstring strain that sent him to the injured list would seem to put his potential participation in serious doubt. (He also hasn’t taken part in the event since 2017.) Not surprisingly, all three Yankees sluggers factor into the list of the longest Derby homers of the Statcast Era.

The hometown heroes
Adolis García, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien (Rangers)

Harper is one of three players to have won a Derby in front of his home fans, along with Todd Frazier (2015 in Cincinnati) and Ryne Sandberg (1990 in Chicago). Will anyone join the list this year? The 2024 Rangers don’t have many obvious candidates, but these three stand out as the only Texas players with double-digit homers (though rookie Wyatt Langford has been heating up and has the power to put on a show).

García and Seager were both eliminated in the first round last year, and Seager suffered the same fate as a Dodger in 2016. Semien has not competed before, and while he isn’t necessarily considered a big power bat, he actually ranks 10th in the Majors in home runs since 2019.

The past competitors looking for more
Shohei Ohtani (Dodgers), Salvador Perez (Royals), José Ramírez (Guardians), Adley Rutschman (Orioles), Kyle Schwarber (Phillies)

There is a much longer list of active players who have participated in the Derby before without winning, including some prominent stars — such as Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts and Rodríguez — who are injured and/or having underwhelming seasons.

The focus with the five sluggers above, then, was on those making a strong case to get another opportunity. Naturally, any event would be better with Ohtani involved, and the same goes for the Derby, which saw him fall to Soto in an epic duel in 2021.

Perez, Ramírez and Schwarber have all been bashing big flies in the Majors for years now, but none has ever hoisted a Derby trophy, although Schwarber was the 2018 runner-up to Harper. Rutschman didn’t make it out of the first round in 2023 but made his mark nonetheless, smacking 27 homers while swinging from both sides of the plate.

The “They haven’t done it yet?” guys
Yordan Alvarez (Astros), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Teoscar Hernández (Dodgers), J.D. Martinez (Mets), Marcell Ozuna (Braves)

While Stanton is the active leader in career home runs, four of the next five players on the list have never competed in the Derby: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. However, none is both healthy and enjoying a truly Derby-caliber season.

Not far behind that group is Martinez, who has well over 300 big league big flies but has never taken a shot at the Derby. That time may have passed, given that Martinez will turn 37 in August, although he has continued to hit well for the Mets in 2024. It’s similarly surprising that Ozuna, with more than 250 career dingers, has not participated previously. But in the midst of a huge 2024 campaign, this may be the time.

Alvarez and Devers will both be 27 when the Derby rolls around, and both have established themselves as stars who would be welcome additions to the Derby field. In particular, Alvarez of the AL West rival Astros taking his cuts at Globe Life would be entertaining. (Fernando Tatis Jr. and Alvarez’s teammate Kyle Tucker would also be in this group, if they were healthy.)

The dynamic young shortstops
Oneil Cruz (Pirates), Elly De La Cruz (Reds), Gunnar Henderson (Orioles), Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals)

This group could be part of the next wave of Derby stars. None is older than 25. All bring huge power to the table — especially at a position not traditionally associated with that tool. These would be absolute must-watch competitors, with the ability to challenge the likes of Judge and Stanton in terms of impressive home runs. (De La Cruz, Cruz and Witt account for 10 of the 13 homers hit at least 440 feet by shortstops this year.)

As a bonus, Henderson and Witt are currently locked in a battle to be the AL’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game. So it would be fun to see them go head to head in the Derby as well.

The stealth candidates
Ryan Jeffers (Twins), Ketel Marte (D-backs), Josh Naylor (Guardians), Tyler O’Neill (Red Sox), Brent Rooker (A’s), Anthony Santander (Orioles), Will Smith (Dodgers), Christian Walker (D-backs)

Let’s round out this list with this handful of sluggers, none of whom has participated in the past. While they might not be the first names you think of when it comes to Derby worthiness, each can boast a solid combination of power and 2024 production, with an argument to make the All-Star team as well.

Santander (21) and Naylor (20) both entered Wednesday in the top 10 in the Majors in homers, a qualification that speaks for itself. The muscular O’Neill is as strong as just about anybody in the sport and is enjoying a rebound season in Boston. Rooker flies under the radar in Oakland but is in line for his second straight All-Star selection and 30-homer season. While Smith might get fourth billing in his own lineup, he is firmly established as one of MLB’s top catchers. Jeffers also brings big-time power from behind the dish. And Marte and Walker, two big parts of Arizona’s pennant-winning lineup a year ago, are producing worthy follow-ups, with Marte perhaps putting himself in the NL MVP conversation.

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