The Home Run Derby has taken on a near-equal status with the featured All-Star Game, and fans at Nationals Park will get a chance to see Washington star Bryce Harper attempt to win the competition against seven other sluggers.
Harper, who belted his 23rd home run Thursday night against the New York Mets, is the No. 2 seed in the home-run hitting contest, and he will square off against seventh-seeded Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves.
The eight-man battle will be held Monday night at 8 p.m. ET, and it will be televised by ESPN.
The other competitors in the Home Run Derby include top-seeded Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers, third-seeded Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers, fourth-seeded Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros, fifth-seeded Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs, sixth-seeded Javier Baez of the Cubs and eighth-seeded Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The competition is divided into two brackets, and the winner between Harper and Freeman will face the winner between Bregman and Schwarber in the semifinals. The winner of that round will advance to the finals.
Aguilar will meet Hoskins in the first round, and that winner will face the survivor of the matchup between Muncy and Baez. The winner of that semifinal will advance to the championship round.
If the seeds hold, the powerful Harper will meet the explosive Aguilar for the Home Run Derby crown. Another possible finals matchup could see Schwarber meeting his teammate Baez in a good-natured bout.
The competition usually consists of an equal number of American League and National League competitors, but Bregman is the only American Leaguer to participate. Sluggers like Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and major-league home run leader J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox chose not to participate.
While the competition bears some resemblance to the batting practice that most players participate in on a daily basis, the more home runs each competitor hits, the more swings they take. As a result, the competition can take on an exhaustive nature if a player gets on a long hot streak of hammering the ball out of the ballpark.
Judge went into a significant slump after participating in the 2017 Home Run Derby, and the belief that participation in the event is bad for those players has been brought up for years. However, several studies by organizations including FiveThirtyEight.com and other respected researchers have concluded that derby participation is not the cause of any major deficiencies.
In Judge's case, pitchers made significant adjustments to their approach to slowing down the Yankees' slugger in the second half of the year, per Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated. Those adjustments, which included more high fastballs, played a key role in Judge's downturn. The 6'7", 285-pound slugger also said that he was missing his pitch more than he had in the first half of the season.
All the participants in this year's Home Run Derby are making their first appearance in the event with the exception of Harper.
Aguilar has belted 24 home runs, and he was the winner of the fan vote to make the National League All-Star team. Aguilar didn't hit his first home run until April 21, and 12 of his home runs have come with two-strike counts.
Harper has struggled with a .213 batting average this season, but he said he would participate in his home ballpark if selected, and he is making good on that pledge.
Muncy has hammered 21 home runs and is clearly one of the top surprises of the season. Bregman was an upcoming star prior to this season, and he has raised his status with 19 home runs in the first half of the campaign. That matches his 2017 home run total.
Schwarber and Baez are both known for their aggressive swings. Schwarber has bashed 17 home runs to this point, while Baez has 18 home runs.
Freeman is an accomplished all-fields hitter who is just as likely to hit the ball out to left field or center as he is to pull a home run to right field. Freeman has 16 homers for the much-improved Braves this season.
Hoskins has hit 14 home runs, and he may have a chance to make a run in the derby because he excels against the fastball.