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2021 MLB Home Run Derby: Derby Thread - Will Juan Soto shock the world?

Juan Soto has a tough first round matchup, but don’t count Juan Soto out...

Washington Nationals v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Davey Martinez’s advice for Juan Soto going into the 2021 MLB All-Star HR Derby? Don’t go changing anything. Just be yourself.

“I want him to have fun with it,” Martinez told reporters after Soto was announced as part of the field for this year’s Derby.

“It’s an honor,” his manager said. “But I told him, I said, ‘Hey, go out there and have fun and do what you do best.’ You watch him in batting practice, he hits the ball all over the field for homers, so I told him don’t try to change a thing, just you be you.’”

Soto, naturally, was pumped about participating in the event for the first time, after he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.

“Yeah. Hell yeah,” he said when he was asked if he was excited.

“It’s going to be a nice experience and I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.”

Earlier this week, MLB announced the brackets for this year’s Derby, and Soto, who’d hit 11 home runs in 78 games and 328 plate appearances heading into Sunday’s first-half finale, was matched up against the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in the first round, so he’ll have to spoil the proceedings for a lot of those tuning in if he’s going to advance against the 28-year-old slugger, who’s hit 33 in 83 games and 338 PAs this season as of Sunday morning. But no less an authority on such things as Max Scherzer, said not to count Soto out.

“This is actually going to be interesting,” Scherzer said after he too was added to the NL All-Star roster along with fellow Nationals’ All-Stars Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and Soto.

“I know Ohtani, what he’s doing right now is absolutely unbelievable, it’s great for the game,” Scherzer added. “But let’s not sleep on Juan here. Juan can get in a groove, and I actually think this is actually going to be a great thing for him. I think he has a decent idea of how he wants to attack the HR Derby, how he’s going to launch the ball in the air and it actually could — a lot times we hear, you see different guys saying, ‘I do the HR Derby and it screws me up going into the second half.’ I think for Juan this actually is an opportunity like, hey, use this and this might propel you in the second half. I think what he wants to do and how he wants to attack the Derby, with K-Long [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] throwing at him and get some left-on-left, it’s going to be fun. So, it’s such a show. The HR Derby is a show and all these guys are going to come in there and put on a show.”

And how will Long hold up? The left-handed throwing hitting coach will have the honor of throwing to Soto. His boss thinks Long will be just fine.

“It’s tough, it really is,” Martinez acknowledged, of throwing a high-profile, longer-than-usual BP session. “I’ve seen a few HR Derbies and those guys that throw, it’s constant.

“You’ve got to keep going. But I think K-Long will do fine, They have those timeouts, so they’ve been strategizing on how to use that timeout, but I think he’ll do fine.”

Will Long and Soto shock the world and knock Ohtani out in the first round? Or will it be a quick night for Soto in the Derby?