In his one previous appearance in the Home Run Derby back in 2013 in Citi Field, Nationals’ slugger Bryce Harper finished second behind Yoenis Cespedes. He hasn’t participated in a Derby since, though he’s been an All-Star in four of the five seasons.
This year, with the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital, Harper signed on to participate again.
“If we weren’t in D.C., I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Harper acknowledged. “But looking forward to going out there and represent the Nationals and hopefully bring home a trophy.”
MLB released the bracket for the T-Mobile HR Derby tonight, and it has Harper, who has the second-most home runs in the National League right now, seeded second out of the eight hitters, in a first-round matchup with Atlanta Braves’ slugger Freddie Freeman, who’s hit 16 homers so far in 2018, and has always hit well in Nationals Park (.320/.405/.502, 35 HRs in 269 plate appearances).
“I think doing it is going to be a lot of fun,” Harper said when asked if he was in it to win it or just for the experience. “I participated in New York the first time and it was a lot of fun.”
“If I win I win, if I don’t, it’s part of it,” the 24-year-old outfielder added.
“I’m just excited to hopefully share that again with my dad if I do have him throw to me, but just excited for the fans to be able to do that in front of them as well. That’s the main reason why I’m doing it.”
The joke going around D.C. these days is that players often worried that the HR Derby can mess up their swings, but with the way Harper has been swinging lately it might have the opposite effect. Good one, right?
After he went 0 for 2 with two walks in Wednesday’s series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park, Harper has a .213/.369/.468 line with 14 doubles, the 22 homers, 78 walks, and 97 Ks in 401 plate appearances, with the 97 strikeouts the fourth-most among NL hitters.
Who’s your pick for the winner of the 2018 Home Run Derby?