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Home Run Derby 2018: Format, Bracket Layout and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 05:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals prepares for a pitch during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on July 5, 2018 in Washington, DC.  The Nationals won 14-12.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

One of the greatest spectacles on the sporting calendar should crown a new champion July 16.

With Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge reportedly not participating in the 2018 Home Run Derby, according to Pete Caldera of NorthJersey.com, a first-time champion is expected to win the exhibition at Nationals Park.

The National League field is set, as the Chicago Cubs duo of Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber are reportedly set to join Washington's Bryce Harper and Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times

The rest of the field has yet to be named, but the remaining four participants will come from American League ballclubs.

Below is a look at how the Home Run Derby operates and what to watch for July 16. 

          

Format

Each of the eight hitters has five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. 

The first round features four head-to-head matchups, with the winners advancing to the semifinals, and then the pair of semifinal winners move on to the final. 

In each round, every hitter has an opportunity to receive extra time, with a 30-second bonus awarded for two home runs hit over 440 feet. 

A 45-second timeout is allowed for each player in every round in order to take a rest and maximize the amount of pitches they see.

          

Bracket Layout

The eight participants are sorted by home run total, with the No. 1 seed being the top slugger of the octet at the All-Star break. 

Once the bracket is set, the hitters face off in head-to-head matchups until two contestants meet in the final. 

         

Predictions

Harper Puts On A Show In Home Ballpark 

Harper needs a boost after going through a tough time at the plate in June, as he totaled two home runs and nine RBI. 

In nine July games, Harper's already matched his home run total from June, and he appears to be on the upswing at the plate just in time for the Home Run Derby. 

The 25-year-old is vying to become the third participant to win the Home Run Derby in his home stadium alongside Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs in 1990 and Cincinnati's Todd Frazier in 2015. 

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Eleven of Harper's 22 home runs in 2018 came at Nationals Park, and he's hit 86 balls over the fence in Washington D.C. during his time with the Nationals. 

Given his familiarity with the park and the want to put on a show in front of his home fans, Harper should be up for the occasion and at least make the final. 

While some past champions struggled after the Home Run Derby during the second half of the MLB season, a strong performance July 16 could be the perfect jolt for Harper and the disappointing Nationals. 

        

Cubs Teammates Thrive As Lower Seeds 

Schwarber and Baez are looking to achieve more success than teammates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo had in 2015. 

When Bryant and Rizzo represented the Cubs at Great American Ball Park, they were both eliminated in the first round. 

Since the pair of Cubs stars participated in 2015, one other pair of teammates was involved in the Home Run Derby.

Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour suffered the same fate in Miami Marlins uniforms a year ago, as they both didn't make it out of the first round. 

Since Schwarber and Baez both have 17 home runs to their names, they shouldn't face each other when the bracket is seeded, giving them a chance to become the first set of teammates to advance in the new Home Run Derby format. 

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Although the American League participants haven't been announced yet, Schwarber and Baez should be near the bottom of the seeding chart since they would rank in a tie for 19th on the AL home run list. 

It's going to be a difficult task to outhit the other sluggers in the bracket, but there is a path for Schwarber and Baez to advance as lower seeds. 

Receiving a low seed might appear to be a bad thing at first, but it's worth noting Stanton won as a No. 5 seed in 2016 and he was upended by Gary Sanchez, who was a No. 8 seed, in 2017, while Miguel Sano advanced to last year's final as a No. 5 seed. 

Following in the footsteps of Sanchez and Sano, the pair of Cubs put together impressive opening rounds, no matter who their opponents are, and become the first pair of teammates to advance in the new format.

             

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference and MLB.com