Previewing the MLB Homerun Derby

Our in-house MLB expert, Billy J (-1.39 units), gives his best bet for today!

It is one of the more entertaining nights of the year. Chicks dig the long ball, right? Thanks to the wonderful commercial that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine created over 20 years ago, who can ever forget. Remember when pitchers used to hit in the National League? My mind is all over the place with excitement for another year of Home Run Derby if you can’t tell. A night of its own wonder and awe as we see the best power hitters in the game literally try to tear the cover off the ball. With so much excitement for this event, it is easy to get completely lost and throw money on prop bets that will drain your account.

For starters, it took a pretty aggressive approach last Friday for me here to get near the even mark YTD. So I feel like I have a little wiggle room here to place my chips so to speak with numerous plays. I’m treating this event how I always do in that I’m at the roulette table. I’m not trying to play a color, odds or evens, or even worse… continuously playing a number. I’m going to try and play smart and aggressive. I’ll carve out a path here that I believe gives me the best chance tonight to come away positive. There’s the chance of course that the spin of the wheel here can damage all my plays and take my chips from the table. That reference being of course if a specific player in the Home Run Derby tonight does better than expected. I’ll get to that shortly.

The cleanest approach for me will be playing one book. I find it the easiest to keep everything in one book for a multitude of reasons, but please continue to monitor for best value throughout the day before placing your final wagers.

So let’s get started shall we?  The odds on favorite for this event will of course be back-to-back champion Pete Alonso of the Mets. Alonso won in dramatic fashion last year as he took down Trey Mancini of the Orioles 23-22 in the final round. Alonso was a five seed then and this time enters as the two seed with an intriguing matchup versus the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. One would say it’s a tough draw. The beauty of it all is that seeding shouldn’t really matter in this event. Anyone can get hot at any time. Regardless, Alonso is +190 to repeat and potentially be a three time champ. “In order to be the man, you have to beat the man”. Maybe if I hit all these plays listed below I can let out a Ric Flair woo of my own.

Listen, every part of me wants to root for Alonso to be the three-time champ or “threepeat”. Whatever you want to call it. He will immediately have a target on his back in the first round. I personally like Acuna here as nobody I’ve seen so far is giving him a fair shot. Many are looking at his eight home runs thus far and assuming Alonso will make short work of him. As it is Home Run Derby we can throw out most analytics and advanced metrics here as we will have players taking glorified batting practice. However, the Mets and Braves rivalry will always mean something. We know Acuna wants to take down the champ and he gets the golden opportunity in round one. I’ve outlined the first matchup, but here are the four first-round matchups.

Left Bracket:

#1 Kyle Schwarber vs #8 Albert Pujols

#4 Juan Soto vs #5 Jose Ramirez

Right Bracket:

#3 Corey Seager vs #6 Julio Rodriguez

#2 Pete Alonso vs#7 Ronald Acuna Jr.

The Picks (with some extra context next to each)

I mentioned above that I don’t want to not root for Alonso. The +190 to repeat as champion is not the best value. There is definitely a subset of people who see plus odds for Alonso to win again and throw multiple units on it. That may very well net them a good profit. However, I see things playing out differently this year. Especially with the field going for Alonso. I will not take the +190, but in an interesting take here I will actually take Alonso to make the final at -105. This will help potentially hedge some damage or if things play out accordingly, a chance to middle.

What else am I looking at here? (All plays within the same book here to make my life easier in Caesars SportsBook.)

Kyle Schwarber to make the final +130 seems like too good of a value to pass up. Am I crazy here to think that Schwarber will not beat Pujols here in round one? As the number one seed, there is potential where Schwarber doesn’t have to empty the tank and save some much-needed energy for the winner of Soto/Ramirez. Even with Schwarber being an odds on favorite now in that potential matchup, I’ll gladly take the plus odds there to make the final if I feel that strongly about getting through round one.

I’ve talked about making the final. How about who wins it? I’m looking at my pick to win it all and the best value play on the board. My pick to win it all is Soto. Like I said, Home Run Derby is not going to come down to analytics or advanced metrics. Soto was taken down by Alonso last year so we have the revenge factor. We’ve seen Soto in the underdog role last year as he took out fan favorite Shohei Ohtani in an absolutely memorable swing-off in which he won by a final score of 31-28. We know Soto has the bat and the magic to pull this off. With all the trade rumors that will be talked about at great length this week and during this telecast, I see this as yet another showing for Soto to the national audience and current odds at +650 couldn’t be better.

In terms of best value play to win, I like Seager. He gets the Mariners phenom in round one who is brand new to all of this excitement. Then there is a potential round two date with the winner of Alonso/Acuna who may be absolutely gassed after the first matchup. If Seager gets that far and takes down Alonso or Acuna, we are already on the right side of things at +1200 and can start looking at some live bet scenarios. And oh yea, Seager is playing in the same ballpark he has spent his entire career playing in until this season. There could be a huge pull from the hometown crowd at Dodgers Stadium to cheer him on.

Summary (with final context):

Alonso to make the final -105 (1 unit)

Schwarber to make the final +130 (1 unit)

Soto to win the Home Run Derby +650 (1 unit)

Seager to win the Home Run Derby +1200 (.5 units) 

Longest Home Run in Derby OVER 492.5 feet (1 unit). Soto, even though it was Coors Field last year, hit a 520-foot bomb. If it’s not him, I can see most of the contestants here blasting one past this amount

Acuna Jr. to hit the most Home Runs in the First Round +400  (.5 units)– In order to beat the man, you have to hit more homeruns than the man. There is a reason why Acuna has the second lowest odds here in this category. He will have to put on a memorable performance to make it to round two

Home Run Derby Exacta – Give me Soto to beat Acuna +2400 (.25 units) I like Soto to win it all and if Acuna can get past the gauntlet of beating Alonso and the winner of Seager/Rodriguez, I’ll look to see what the live bet odds are here

Total Units to Play – 5.25 with potential for live odds based on matchups and other factors

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