A year after falling to Pete Alonso in the second round, Juan Soto is back in the home run derby.
After struggling to attract the top stars of the sport in recent years, for the second straight year, the MLB Home Run Derby is stacked. Four of the eight participants have been announced — Albert Pujols, Pete Alonso, Ronald Acuña Jr, and Juan Soto.
Alonso is the two-time reigning champ and the massive favorite to three-peat, but Soto is once again standing in his way. A year ago, the two-faced off in the semi-finals, with Alonso winning with ease. Soto was gassed after his match with Shohei Ohtani which ended with a three-pitch swing-off.
Yet, in the first round — Soto launched a 520-foot homer — the longest in derby history. With this year’s event at Dodgers Stadium instead of Coors Field, it is very unlikely anyone will come close to breaking his record.
Acuña is back in the event for the second time — having participated in 2019. Ranked the sixth seed that year, he took down third seed Josh Bell in the first round handily before facing a similar fate to Soto, losing to Alonso.
The biggest surprise so far is the addition of Albert Pujols. Named to his 11th and final All-Star team, this marks the fifth time the future Hall of Famer is participating in the Derby — having played in 2003, 2007, 2009, and 2015. Despite being one of the most prolific sluggers of all time, the veteran has yet to win the Derby and is facing insurmountable odds.
Juan Soto MVP watch?
While some players avoid the Derby due to it possibly ruining their respective swings, Soto embraces the event. After all, it actually fixed his swing and he is assumedly looking for a similar result. Heading into last year’s Derby, Soto was slashing a respectable .283/.407/.445, with 11 homers, 42 RBIs, and an OPS of .852.
But in the second half, the Nationals’ superstar exploded onto the scene — slashing a monstrous .348/.525/.639, with 18 homers, 53 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.164 — resulting in him finishing second in NL MVP voting. Now Soto and Nats fans can only hope that he will have a similar second half.