MLB’s elite sluggers swung for the fences at Coors Field

MLB’s elite sluggers swung for the fences at Coors Field

7:20 PM ET

  • MLB InsidersESPN

Pete Alonso is your 2021 Home Run Derby champion, smacking scores of towering home runs in the thin air of Coors Field to become back-to-back champion. Alonso might have taken the crown, but the Derby was full of drama — from Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto battling it out in an epic double-overtime first round to Trey Mancini continuing his incredible comeback story by making it to the finals. To celebrate the midsummer festivities, we asked ESPN MLB experts Alden Gonzalez, Buster Olney, Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers and David Schoenfield for their pre-Derby predictions and post-Derby takeaways.

Check out how accurate our experts were in their predictions, relive the biggest dramatic moments of the Derby, and see what it all means going forward.

MLB All-Star Home Run Derby bracket

(1) Shohei Ohtani vs. (8) Juan Soto
(4) Salvador Perez vs. (5) Pete Alonso
(2) Joey Gallo vs. (7) Trevor Story
(3) Matt Olson vs. (6) Trey Mancini

Round 1

Trey Mancini (24 home runs) defeats Matt Olson (23 home runs)
Trevor Story (20 home runs) defeats Joey Gallo (19 home runs)
Pete Alonso (35 home runs) defeats Salvador Perez (28 home runs)
Juan Soto (31 home runs) defeats Shohei Ohtani (28 home runs)

Round 2

Trey Mancini (13 home runs) defeats Trevor Story (12 home runs)
Pete Alonso (16 home runs) defeats Juan Soto (15 home runs)

Finals

Pete Alonso (23 home runs) defeats Trey Mancini (22 home runs)


Takeaways from the 2021 Home Run Derby

Dave Schoenfield: As much as we wanted to precook the “Shohei Ohtani shows us another reason he’s a superhero” story, the Home Run Derby is as unpredictable as real baseball — although after watching Pete Alonso defend his title with a dominating performance, maybe that particular result was predictable. His 35-homer onslaught in the first round matched Josh Hamilton’s epic round in 2008 and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s round in 2019 as the most exciting in Derby history, and then he walked it off in the final with six home runs in a row to beat Trey Mancini. Let’s do it again next year, Pete, and see if you can match Ken Griffey Jr. with three titles.

One final thought: Let’s bring back pre-humidor baseball to Coors Field. Embrace your altitude, Rockies. Sign some sluggers.

Jesse Rogers: The night might have belonged to Pete Alonso, but the highlight was Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani’s first-round, double-overtime showdown. Remember way back when — like at the beginning of the season — it was Soto who was considered the heir apparent to Mike Trout as the best player in the game.

But Ohtani’s 33 home runs at the break combined with his pitching prowess might have led many to forget about Soto — at least a little. After all, he has just 11 home runs this season and he was the third-longest shot to win the Derby.

On this night, he was also the enemy. The packed house at Coors Field began chanting Ohtani’s name as his HR pace picked up during their match. It happened in the breaks between their overtimes as well.

The fans made it clear whom they wanted to win, so when Soto calmly hit the three pitches he saw over the fence in the second overtime, he beat Ohtani and a partisan crowd. And here’s another thing you might have forgotten: Soto is almost five years younger than Ohtani. That best-in-game label might not be far off after all.

Alden Gonzalez: Trey Mancini, 16 months to the day since being diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, came excruciatingly close to defeating the reigning Home Run Derby champion and taking home the crown. Mancini hit 11 consecutive home runs to top Matt Olson in a thrilling first round, then cruised past Trevor Story, the hometown hero, in the second round and accumulated 22 home runs in the finals.

Mancini spent six months last season fighting through a biweekly chemotherapy program. He worked his way back with the Baltimore Orioles, earned his way to the Derby with a 16-homer first half and almost won the whole thing despite facing the second-longest odds to do so. He wanted to honor his longtime friend Ricky Palmer, who died of brain cancer in October — and he wanted to send a message to cancer survivors.

“I think it can set an example that you can go back to your normal life, even if you have this thing hanging over you sometimes,” Mancini said. “That’s the message that I really wanted to get across.”


Updates from the Home Run Derby

And still …

In the end, could it really be anyone else? Pete Alonso became only the second rookie (after Aaron Judge) to win the Home Run Derby back in 2019. With the Derby returning after being canceled in 2020, Alonso was called upon to defend his crown, and did so in grand fashion, bobbing his head along to the rhythm as he defeated Salvador Perez, Juan Soto and Trey Mancini. He’s the first back-to-back Derby winner since Yoenis Cespedes in 2013 and 2014. Also of note: His $1 million prize for winning the Derby is more than his salary this season. Not a bad time to be Pete Alonso.

— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021

The finals are set

Alonso. Mancini. Maybe not the pairing everyone thought would be facing off in the Home Run Derby finals, but it’s a good one. Pete Alonso looks to add a second Derby title to his trophy cabinet, while Mancini continues his incredible comeback story.

Pete Alonso called timeout two HRs away from eliminating Juan Soto to hype up the crowd 😂 pic.twitter.com/qrY1vLvGIJ

— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021

— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021

Double overtime

For a second there, it looked like Shohei Ohtani was going to put up a goose egg in the first round against Juan Soto, but he recovered just in time to tie him. Then he did it again in the bonus round. It took a final swing-off, in which Soto hit three towering moon shots and Ohtani hit a grounder in his first swing, for the whole thing to finally be resolved. Huge drama here in the first round of the Home Run Derby.

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0:41

Juan Soto prevails over Shohei Ohtani in the first round of the Home Run Derby.

Move over, Trevor Story

518 feet? No big deal. Juan Soto’s out here hitting home runs 520 feet, which is two feet farther.

Juan Soto became the 2nd player to surpass the mark for longest Derby HR since Statcast tracking began in 2016 when he belted a 520-foot dinger during his 1st Round performance. pic.twitter.com/zx8lwOpgXp

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2021

Alonso smashes a record

Pete Alonso, leave some home runs for someone else, why don’t you? The 2019 Derby winner, who seemed to be practically dancing with joy through his at-bat, broke Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s first-round Derby record of 29 home runs by launching 35. Seems like his secret weapons are working out pretty well.

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0:24

Pete Alonso puts on a show in the first round of the Home Run Derby with a record 35 homers.

The never-ending Story (home run)

Trevor Story just survived a ferocious comeback by Joey Gallo, and if he keeps hitting dingers like his record-setting second of the first round, he could go far.

The 2nd of Trevor Story’s 20 HR during his Home Run Derby 1st Round traveled 518 feet.

That’s the longest HR at the Derby since Statcast began tracking it in 2016. pic.twitter.com/zShfh0e9v2

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2021

Mancini starts off strong

Trey Mancini might have the most inspiring story out of any of the Derby participants, and he wasted no time proving he belonged in the first round, putting up 24 home runs. He just edged out Matt Olson’s 23 in the first round, and got props from Russell Wilson to boot.

Trey Mancini with a nice show to start the Derby. Longshot pick comes through with a huge first round.

— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 13, 2021

It’s almost Sho-time

In a field of baseball’s elite sluggers, Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani is the one everyone will be watching when the Home Run Derby begins at Coors Field. He leads the majors with 33 home runs, his batting practice sessions are legendary — and he throws 100 miles per hour on the mound as well. Will this be the night he adds Home Run Derby champion to his impressive collection of 2021 achievements? If the final pre-Derby BP blast he hit to the deep, deep reaches of Coors Field is any indication, it just might.

Babe Ohtani pic.twitter.com/babnSf2EDK

— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 12, 2021


Pre-Derby predictions

Who is going to win the Home Run Derby?

Passan: Ohtani. A mea culpa.

Schoenfield: What, you want me to bet against Ohtani? No way.

Olney: Alonso. He won in 2019 despite the fact his cousin was really, really nervous and struggled to throw strikes. Now he’s got bench coach Dave Jauss throwing to him — and you could see him getting on an incredible roll.

Rogers: Gallo. He finished the first half with 11 home runs in his final 12 games. He’ll carry that over to the derby.

Gonzalez: I’m going to go way against the grain here and pick Trevor Story. He knows this park well, obviously, and has actually averaged a greater distance on home runs than Ohtani. (Yes, on 21 fewer home runs. And he plays half his games at Coors Field. But come on — work with me here.) More to the point, it would just be a cool moment for a Colorado Rockies fan base that is still mourning the departure of Nolan Arenado and will soon do the same for Story.

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2:20

Check out each of the Home Run Derby contestants’ longest home runs of the 2021 season thus far.

Who will hit the longest home run of the night and how far?

Passan: Joey Gallo, 533 feet.

Schoenfield: While Ohtani has certainly hit a few tape-measure shots this season, I’m going with Gallo as well. He hit a career-long 495-foot home run in 2018, and since 2017 he and Giancarlo Stanton are tied with 16 home runs of at least 450 feet. Now, factor in the Coors Field altitude and I’m going with a 529-foot blast.

Olney: Ohtani. Moon shot; I’ll say 586 feet, in honor of Frank Robinson, who hit that many homers in his career.

Gonzalez: This is Ohtani, without question. Mike Trout believes he might “leave the stadium,” which sounds impossible given how far and how high the Coors Field roof is in right field. But this is Ohtani … at Coors Field … without the humidor … hitting baseballs that will probably be wound very tight. I’ll go with 515 feet.

Rogers: Ohtani will launch one onto the Rocky Mountains early in the contest. It’ll go 509 feet.

What will be the one moment we’re all talking about long after this Home Run Derby ends?

Olney: Something that Ohtani does — whether he wins or loses or wrecks the upper deck in Coors Field.

Passan: Ohtani is going to have a round for the ages. While the format for the Derby might make it such that he doesn’t win the whole thing, he’s going to do in 2021 what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did in 2019.

Schoenfield: Ohtani beats Alonso 23-22 in the second round, including one stretch of five straight 450-foot home runs that sends Coors Field into a frenzy.

Gonzalez: I think Ohtani will be the story here, but I also think Gallo is going to get hot and put together an epic round at some point. Gallo wouldn’t face Ohtani until the final, and that would be a really fun pairing.

Rogers: I agree with Jeff. Early on, Ohtani is going to go off and hit like 10 straight pitches out. We might not see him in the finals, but we’ll be talking about that first round.

Who will win Tuesday’s All-Star Game and by what score?

Schoenfield: American League wins 11-10 as the hitters go wild and match the 21 runs scored in the 1998 All-Star Game at Coors.

Passan: National League, 3-2.

Gonzalez: I agree with Dave. Let’s go with the American League winning by a 13-8 score. More importantly: Offense has increased over these past few weeks, partly because of Major League Baseball’s crackdown on foreign substances, and that will reach another level in this environment.

Olney: The American League will push its winning streak to eight; I’ll say 7-3.

Rogers: The NL is stacked on the mound. They win 7-3.

Who is your All-Star Game MVP pick?

Olney: Everybody will be looking for a reason for Ohtani to be the MVP, which will be an advantage going into the night — and let’s face it, he’ll get more chances to do damage than anybody else, on the mound and at the plate. The math says: Ohtani.

Schoenfield: Rafael Devers goes 3-for-3 with a home run, a double and four RBIs.

Passan: Fernando Tatis Jr.

Gonzalez: Guerrero records three hits, two of which go for extra bases, and paces the AL.

Rogers: Nick Castellanos. Why? Because he’s the type of player who wants to be the All-Star MVP. That’s good enough for me.

What’s the one All-Star Game matchup you are most excited to see?

Schoenfield: Well, it would have been Ohtani batting against Jacob deGrom, but deGrom won’t be pitching, so let’s go with whatever inning Ohtani pitches. Hopefully it will be early in the game when the NL starters are still in, because I’d love to see him face Tatis and fire a few 100 mph fastballs.

Olney: Tatis against Ohtani. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’ll be the swaggiest matchup in All-Star Game history.

Gonzalez: The best moment might come at the onset, when Ohtani faces Tatis to lead off the bottom of the first. That’s arguably the two most dynamic, fascinating players in the sport going head-to-head. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Rogers: I’ll take Aroldis Chapman vs. Tatis with the game on the line, please. Tatis wins that battle.