The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place on Tuesday night July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. That night, most of the very best players from the National and American Leagues will square off in an exhibition to celebrate our National Pastime.
As has been the case for more than three decades now, the night prior to the All-Star Game will feature a Home Run Derby, pitting some of today’s top hitters in what is always a fun and spirited contest.
The 2018 Home Run Derby will air on Monday night, July 16, beginning at 8pm EDT on ESPN.
Earlier this week, MLB announced the eight participants in this year’s event. For the first time in this decade, that contest will include a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
25-year old left fielder Rhys Hoskins was selected, becoming the first Phillies player to take part since Ryan Howard back in 2009. He also becomes just the fifth Phillies player to participate in this 34th year that the showcase has taken place.
Hoskins has been matched up in the first round with slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers. Currently tied for the National League lead with 23 home runs, the 28-year old Aguilar was installed as the top seed in the event.
The winner of the Hoskins-Aguilar duel will take on the winner of a battle between Alex Bregman of the world champion Houston Astros and Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs. That winner would then advance to the Finals, where they would take on the survivor from a second bracket.
Hoskins’ 14 homers place him just 25th in the National League to this point in the season. However, he also missed about 10 days back in early June after breaking his jaw on a fluke swing back on May 29.
He came off the DL hot, blasting eight home runs from June 9 to the end of the month. But Hoskins is right now in the midst of a dry spell. After being held in the yard last night at Citi Field, he has not homered now over his last 11 games.
So, what are the odds that Hoskins can get past the slugging Aguilar, the Bregman-Schwarber winner, and then defeat the winner of the other bracket to become this year’s Home Run Derby champion?
While MLB has him slotted in as the eighth seed, the folks who set the odds for Bovada in Las Vegas are a bit more bullish on his chances. Hoskins is currently rated as the fourth-best choice, tied with Baez, right in the middle of the field.
Harper is the favorite at +300 , which is not at all a surprise. Unfortunately, Hoskins opens with the current second-choice of the oddsmakers, with Aguilar at +375. Schwarber is at +500, followed closely by Hoskins and Baez each at +550. Muncy is at +600, Freeman +650, and Bregman pulls up the rear at +950.
That was despite the fact that Schmidt was an NL All-Star in both 1986 and 1987. He led the NL in long balls in ’86 and was both the NL MVP and Silver Slugger winner at third base that year.
The following year, Bobby Abreu fared much better. The Phillies outfielder set a record with 24 first round bombs en route to 41 total homers. He defeated Miguel Tejada by 11-5 in the 2005 finals at Comerica Park in Detroit.
It was just one year later that the Phillies got their second Home Run Derby winner. Howard barely survived the first round that year. But ‘The Big Piece’ then exploded for 28 homers over the next two rounds. In the finals, the Phillies rookie edged out David Wright by 5-4 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Howard and Chase Utley took turns getting knocked out in the first round at the 2007 and 2008 events in succession. In the 2009 appearance at Busch Stadium in his hometown of Saint Louis, Howard fell just one homer short of reaching the finals.
Matt Bowker at NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted Hoskins after his involvement was announced:
“I think it’s a cool honor, just the fact that I would even be considered…it should be fun. I get to be around a pretty cool group of guys. I grew up watching the Home Run Derby as a kid, so I think that full circle kind of moment is pretty cool.”
Hoskins also revealed that it would be the Phillies minor league infield coordinator, Chris Truby , who “throws money BP“, would pitch to him during the event. Truby played in the big leagues in parts of four seasons from 2000-03, mostly as a third baseman with four different organizations.
So can Hoskins win the Home Run Derby? Sure he can. Anyone who has watched him since he burst on to the scene a year ago knows that his power is legitimate. The key will be separating himself from all the hype and distractions, and then letting his talent take over.