If you like watching Ronald Acuña Jr. hit dingers, you might be in luck, depending on your feelings about exhibition-type skills contests: the young phenom is going to be participating in this year’s Home Run Derby.
It is official that Ronald Acuña Jr. will participate in the 2019 HR Derby. #Braves— Kelsey Wingert (@KelsWingert) June 30, 2019
Not all of the remaining seven participants have been announced, but Acuña will square off against Peter Alonso, Carlos Santana, Christian Yelich, Josh Bell, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as well as two other sluggers.
On paper, the Atlanta outfielder isn’t quite a direct match for a dinger competition, as he doesn’t even fall within the top 60 in ISO among hitters qualified for the batting title (unlike teammate Freddie Freeman, who is 15th overall by this measure). He is indeed tied for the 25th-most homers in MLB (though Freeman has more), but all of that misses the point (I guess), as this is really a marketing event for the game moreso than a direct competition against the most prolific sluggers of the season’s first half. He is, however, top eight in overall hard-hit (95+ mph) batted balls so far this season, so I guess there’s one metric on which his inclusion can hang its theoretical hat.
(Other relevant metrics can be the fact that his homers are particularly crushed, as he’s top eight among all players with 10+ longballs in both xwOBA on homers and average exit velocity on homers.)
Freddie Freeman was a participant for the Braves last year and did not advance past the first round, losing to Bryce Harper 13-12. The Braves have never had a Derby winner since its inception in 1985.
Also, just a reminder that the Home Run Derby’s effect on participants’ second halves is a myth. Here’s a bunch of links, in case you care: