The Home Run Derby returns with a bang after being canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per usual, the competition is wide open, and bettors are licking their chops at the odds on some of these power hitters.
Shohei Ohtani is the only competitor who ranks in the top five among MLB’s home run leaders as of this writing, but there still is plenty of pop in this year’s derby field. Mets slugger Pete Alonso is back to defend his 2019 title and players such as Joey Gallo, Matt Olson and Salvador Perez will fight for the title as well.
Of course, Ohtani is the biggest draw as his 32 homers led the majors through July 8. But after seeing the No. 1 seed bow out in three consecutive events, can you trust Ohtani to win this year’s derby? Or are there better value picks for bettors to focus on?
Here is an in-depth look at the odds and Sporting News’ best bets for the 2021 Home Run Derby.
2021 Home Run Derby odds
All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Eight players are participating in the 2021 Home Run Derby, and Shohei Ohtani (+380) is the favorite to emerge as the victor. Ohtani led MLB with 32 homers and a .700 slugging percentage through July 8.
Joey Gallo (+475), Pete Alonso (+550), Matt Olson (+650) and Salvador Perez (+650) all check in with mid-tier odds. Alonso, the No. 5 seed, is the only lower-seeded player to be favored in his opening-round matchup; he’ll take on the No. 4-seeded Perez.
Trevor Story (+800), Juan Soto (+800) and Trey Mancini (+850) are all considered long shots to win the event.
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2021 Home Run Derby expert picks
Best picks to win 2021 Home Run Derby
Joey Gallo (+475). Gallo is in a favorable situation ahead of the 2021 Home Run Derby. He is the No. 2 seed in the field and landed on what appears to be the easier side of the bracket. The Rangers’ star will face off against Trevor Story in Round 1 before facing the winner of the Matt Olson vs. Trey Mancini battle. Gallo should have a leg up on all three of those hitters.
Gallo has hit 23 homers this season and is tied for the league lead in no-doubt homers with 16, per BaseballSavant.com. The other players to reach that mark are Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mike Zunino. More impressively, Gallo’s 69.6 no-doubt homer percentage ranks sixth among players with at least 15 homers on the year.
So, when Gallo hits homers, he launches them. Additionally, he has homered 10 times in his last 10 games. He’s rounding into form at the right time and if he stays hot, he should have a great chance to win his side of the bracket. The final would be a bit of a toss-up regardless of who Gallo plays, but he can compete with anyone in this field.
Pete Alonso (+550). Picking Alonso over Ohtani on the left side of the bracket is a risk, but as good as Ohtani has been, the numbers suggest that the 2019 Home Run Derby champion could challenge him.
Alonso has clubbed just 15 homers so far this season, but like Gallo, they have been of the convincing variety. Eleven of his 15 long balls have been no-doubt homers. His no-doubt homer percentage of 73.3 ranks second-best among players with at least 15 homers on the year and first among the eight derby participants.
Furthermore, Alonso’s exit velocity topped out at 117.1 this season. That’s the sixth-highest max exit velocity among MLB players, and he trails only Ohtani (119) among derby participants for the lead in that category.
Though Alonso’s path to the final is daunting — he’ll have to knock off Salvador Perez and the winner of the Ohtani vs. Juan Soto battle to get there — he is a good value pick to win. His power and strength paint a favorable picture for him. So does his previous derby experience, as he hit 57 homers during the 2019 event.
Best prop bets for the 2021 Home Run Derby
Top prop bets will be posted as they become available.
Length of longest homer — OVER 512.5 feet (-110). This might seem like a ridiculously high number, but a player could surpass this mark in 2021. Coors Field is a hitter-friendly park and if MLB uses juiced baseballs for this event, it could cause the ball to carry even further at the ballpark.
During the Statcast Era (since 2015), there has been one 500-foot homer launched at Coors Field. That came off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton in 2016 and traveled 504 feet. In 2021, the longest homer at Coors Field was hit by Ryan McMahon. It traveled 478 feet with an exit velocity of 109.4 mph. It is the fourth-longest homer in MLB this season.
At the 1998 Home Run Derby which also took place in Denver, Mark McGuire slugged a ball 510 feet. It was the longest homer hit at that event.
None of these numbers eclipse the threshold we’re looking for, but they still are among the longest homers we’ve seen in recent seasons. And it’s worth noting that two of them took place during regular-season games where it’s harder to hit long homers.
In a glorified batting practice event like the Home Run Derby, players will certainly have a chance to crush the ball and send it flying into Colorado’s night sky. And this year’s contest features two players that rank in the top six of maximum exit velocity: Ohtani (119 mph) and Alonso (117.1 mph). So, they should be able to hit some of the longest homers the Home Run Derby has seen.
Even a University of Illinois physics professor thinks many blasts will travel over 500 feet during the derby.
“During the Home Run Derby, there will probably be a number of shots over 500 feet, certainly many close to 500 feet is my guess,” Nathan said, per The Denver Post.
Even if a ball doesn’t quite pass the 512.5-foot mark, it looks like players could get very close to it. As such, it’s worth investing in the over.
How many home runs will be hit in 2021 Home Run Derby?
There are no over/under prop bets on total homers for the 2021 Home Run Derby yet, but when they become available, bettors will likely want to lean on the over.
Since the Home Run Derby changed formats from an outs-based competition to a time-based competition, players have hit increasing numbers of homers almost every year. In fact, homers have increased year to year in all but one of the last five events under the new rules.
The 2019 derby’s number was inflated by the 79-homer battle between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Joc Pederson that took three tiebreakers to settle. It might be hard for the 2021 derby to eclipse the 311 figure without similar tiebreak luck.
Still, the event should produce quite a lot of homers and could near 300 if all goes well. Coors Field is one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the league and MLB could choose to use juiced baseballs to create more home runs.
Either way, viewers can once again expect to see many long balls fly through the thin Denver air.