10 of the Best Hitters to Never Win a Home Run Derby

Abbey MastraccoContributor IIJune 26, 2021

10 of the Best Hitters to Never Win a Home Run Derby

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The 91st MLB All-Star Game will be held July 13 at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies. The All-Star festivities begin Monday with the Home Run Derby. The Derby might not count for much, but it has long been a showcase of some of the game's most explosive hitters, including Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and, more recently, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

    But many prolific hitters haven't won it all at the Midsummer Classic. Some, like Alex Rodriguez, aren't fans of the event because of the perceived "hangover" effect on a player's swing. The Home Run Derby Curse is a myth that has persisted throughout the years, discouraging some from entering into the event. But it appears to be just that—a myth.

    MLB.com's Mike Pietrello tried to put that notion to bed two years ago with research that disproves the theory that power diminishes after participating in the derby, and SABR came to the same conclusion back in 2010, calling the curse "fiction."

    I've listed 10 of the best hitters to never win a Home Run Derby, but only one of them has never competed. It doesn't make sense to list all of the players who declined the event, except for one, because he's the best hitter in baseball.

    There are plenty of others who didn't make this list, like Manny Ramirez, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rodriguez. For Beltre and Rodriguez, the Derby just lacks appeal. Ramirez competed in one Derby, and it's been contested 34 times. So it's a lot of competitors.

    With that said, here are 10 hitters that never won a Derby, including two who still could.

Mike Trout

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    You probably guessed this one from the teaser, but Mike Trout is probably the best active hitter to have never won a Derby. And that's because he never competes in it. He has said the league asks him to compete each year, but he declines. The eight-time All-Star has finished in the top five of MVP voting for nine straight seasons, he's won the award three times and he has the second-highest career bWAR of any active player. 

    Trout is still out with a calf injury this season, so maybe 2022 will be the year he finally decides to participate in the event. His teammate Shohei Ohtani will participate in his first Home Run Derby this season, becoming the first Japanese-born player to compete.

Albert Pujols

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Trout's former Los Angeles Angels teammate Albert Pujols was once one of the best hitters of a generation. But back in 2003 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols had only been in the big leagues for two seasons. A young player like that in the Home Run Derby against some veteran heavy-hitters made for an exciting event. 

    He nearly won it at U.S. Cellular Field (now called Guaranteed Rate Field) on Chicago's South Side, but he finished second to the Angels' Garret Anderson, who bested Pujols 9-8 in the final round.

Mike Piazza

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Mike Piazza was named an All-Star 12 times, and he won 10 Silver Slugger Awards. But the Hall of Famer could never find his swing in the Home Run Derby. Piazza participated in two editions of the event in back-to-back years at Camden Yards (Baltimore, 1993) and Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh, 1994), failing to hit even a single home run.

    The catcher finished his career with 427 dingers, so for the most part, he hit them when they mattered the most. But the Derby just wasn't his thing.

Jim Thome

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    Genevieve Ross/Associated Press

    Jim Thome was always among the league leaders in home runs, even tying Rodriguez for the league lead in 2003 with 47. But Thome never finished better than runner-up in the Derby, doing so in 1998, the first year the event was televised live. 

    Thome, a member of the Cleveland baseball team at the time, was an up-and-coming slugger. He had competed in the event one year prior but didn't hit any home runs in front of a hometown crowd at Jacobs Field. One year later, he fared much better but still lost to Griffey at Coors Field.

    The title was Griffey's second of three. Thome went on to belt a total of 612 home runs in his career.

David Wright

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Was David Wright one of the most feared hitters of a generation? No, but he was one of the best to wear a New York Mets uniform, and he provided the franchise hope through some of its darkest days. Until neck and back injuries derailed his career about six years ago, Wright was one of the most consistent hitters and overall players for a team that featured a rotating door of cast members and role players.

    The Mets hosted the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, so fans were excited to see their captain duking it out with the league’s best. Wright even captained one of the Derby teams, and Robinson Cano, currently with the Mets but then with the Yankees, captained the other team. But Wright failed to make it out of the first round, hitting only five dingers.

    Yoenis Cespedes, then with the Oakland A’s, won the event with a three-round total of 32. Cespedes would go on to win the Derby the next season as well before joining Wright on the Mets in 2015.

Larry Walker

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    DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/Associated Press

    That same year Thome failed to even one ball out of the park, Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies hit 19 of them. But it wasn't enough to defeat Tino Martinez, who became the first Yankee to ever win the event.

    Walker did finish with more home runs than any other player, but he couldn't outhit Martinez in the final round. The Canadian outfielder said he had fun going round-for-round, but apparently, he wasn't much of a fan of contests like the Derby.

Chipper Jones

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Chipper Jones finished his 19-year MLB career with 468 home runs but managed only six through three different Derbies in 1997, 1998 and 2000. The career Atlanta Brave took his home field in 2000 but didn't give the Turner Field faithful much to cheer about, hitting only two homers.

    Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs would go on to win the event in the same year he led MLB with 50 home runs.

Carlos Beltran

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Carlos Beltran is No. 101 on Baseball Reference's career WAR list, and he made nine trips to the MLB All-Star Game. But he was unsuccessful in his one Home Run Derby appearance. Beltran entered the 2012 competition as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and made it out of the first round with seven homers, which was good enough to tie him for second place with the Angels' Mark Trumbo.

    But he managed only five in the second round for a total of 12. One more and he could have been involved in the swing-off between Trumbo and the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista.

    Prince Fielder won the event at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, becoming the first and only member of the Detroit Tigers to earn the Derby crown.

Miguel Cabrera

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    If you answered Miguel Cabrera as the only Tiger to win the Derby, you answered wrong. Cabrera participated in the event only once as a Tiger, in 2010 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, despite the fact that he is an 11-time All-Star, a two-time American League MVP, a seven-time Silver Slugger and he led MLB in home runs in 2012.

    His performance was somewhat forgettable. Cabrera hit seven homers in the first round and five in the second for 12 total. David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox won with a three-round total of 32.

    It's not surprising that hitters with accolades like Cabrera haven't won a largely ceremonial contest. The event is supposed to be fun and entertaining, and oftentimes it isn't taken seriously out of fear of injury.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Two years ago, baseball's future was on display as Pete Alonso dueled Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the title. Guerrero Jr., the league's home run leader with 25, has opted not to compete this year, leaving Alonso to defend his title.

    Guerrero's father, Vladimir Sr., won the event in 2007 as a member of the Angels. The event was held at San Francisco's AT&T Park, and Vlad Jr. was out on the field watching his dad battle Alex Rios, Matt Holliday, Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Magglio Ordonez and Pujols. Only Pujols remains active in 2021.

    Guerrero is only 22, and he's already among the best in the American League with the Toronto Blue Jays. He should have plenty more opportunities to win a Derby title if he decides to compete in future editions of the hitting contest.