The Home Run Derby has grown in stature and popularity over the years. Regarded as a novelty when the event made its debut in Minneapolis in 1985, it has become a staple of the MLB All-Star experience.
The event has gone through several format changes, and Major League Baseball appears satisfied with the current format, which includes eight participants belting long balls in two brackets.
The eight-man battle will be held Monday night at 8 p.m. ET at Nationals Park in Washington, and it will be televised by ESPN. The Home Run Derby can be live-streamed via the WatchESPN app.
The competitors include the top-seeded Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers, second-seeded Bryce Harper of the hometown Nationals, 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, seventh-seeded Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and eighth-seeded Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The winner will be successful in three one-on-one matchups, with each round lasting four minutes. Players can gain an additional 30 seconds of swing time by hammering a ball 440 feet or more on at least two occasions.
Competitors who are tied at the end of the round will each get an additional minute to try to hit as many long balls as possible. If the score still remains tied, each batter will get three swings until the deadlock is broken.
Players can stop the clock with a 45-second timeout in each of the first two rounds. Participants in the championship round get a 45-second timeout and an additional 30-second timeout.
The second timeout can be quite useful because the sluggers work themselves to near exhaustion as they are swinging for downs on every attempt.
Prior to this season, MLB made sure there was an equal number of participants from each league. However, that has changed dramatically this time because Bregman is the only American Leaguer who is participating. The other seven participants are all from the Senior Circuit.
The top-seeded Aguilar has come into his own for the Brewers this season, and he has belted a National League-leading 24 home runs to go with his .300/.370/.626 slugging percentage. Aguilar enjoys himself on the field and regularly shows emotion and plays to the crowd, and that should win him a lot of fans at Nationals Park.
While Harper has belted 23 home runs this year, he has not had the kind of season he was hoping for as he prepares for free agency at the end of the season. His slash line of .214/.365/.468 is not what he was looking for, and it helps explain why the Nationals have a losing record.
Muncy is a huge surprise for the Dodgers, as he has taken advantage of his opportunity to play regularly by pulverizing 22 home runs with a slugging percentage of .618.
Bregman is having a sensational season for the defending World Series champion Astros. He has hit 20 home runs with a .288/.388/.538 slash line. He has already hit one more home run than he did all of last season.
Schwarber and Baez are two of the most exciting players in the National League. Schwarber hit is 19th home run of the season Saturday night against the San Diego Padres, and he has demonstrated awe-inspiring power at various points in his career. Baez is perhaps the most thrilling player on either team, and he also hammered his 19th home run Saturday night
Freeman has one of the sweetest swings in the game, and he is one of the primary reasons the Braves are among the most improved teams in the league. Freeman has hit 16 long balls with a .315/.404/.532 slash line.
Hoskins has hit 14 homers and driven in 56 runs, and he could prove dangerous because he can go on a hot streak and string long balls together.
Schwarber is the betting favorite to win the event, per OddsShark. He comes into the competition at +300, meaning a $100 bet on the Cubs slugger would return $400 ($300 profit plus the original $100 bet).
Harper, who is sure to have plenty of support from his home fans, is the second choice at +325, while Aguilar is the third choice at +450. Bregman is the long shot in the field at +1,100.
All stats courtesy of MLB.com.