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2 sleepers to bet on in the 2019 Home Run Derby

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Most of the favorites are likely to advance on Monday, but a couple sleepers could spring upsets.

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

The 2019 All Star Break has arrived and with it comes the annual Home Run Derby. The Derby gets going at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 8, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, and we get a host of young sluggers looking to shine on the national stage.

This year’s competition includes Josh Bell, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, Pete Alonso, Joc Pederson, Carlos Santana, Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuña, Jr, and Matt Chapman. Home run leader Christian Yelich is not taking part due to a back injury and was replaced by Chapman.

With so many young names, there are plenty of intriguing options to bet on. History suggests that when in doubt, bet the favorite. Twice in the last three years the gambling favorite ended up winning — Giancarlo Stanton in San Diego in 2016, and Bryce Harper in Washington D.C. in 2018 — and in 2017 the winner, Aaron Judge, was judged by the oddsmakers to have the second-best shot of winning.

It goes even deeper than that. If we look at the Home Run Derby odds since 2015, the first year of the new timed, bracketed format, the favorites have really come through. In 28 individual rounds over the last four years, there were three matchups featuring participants with equal odds to win the tournament. In the other 25 rounds, the gambling favorites won 20 times (80 percent). After the opening round is where the favorites have thrived even more, going 7-0 in the second round and 3-1 in the final round.

Each derby field is seeded in inverse order of home runs by a certain date — this year, the cutoff was July 2 — and over the previous four years the better seed has won 19 of 28 rounds (67.9 percent), including 3-1 in the final round.

In other words, favorites are favored for a reason, and betting chalk like Josh Bell (7-2), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (9-2), or Pete Alonso (5-1) is usually safe. Christian Yelich would have been one of the favorites, at 4-1 odds, but he bowed out on Sunday to rest his back. He has been replaced by Matt Chapman, who has 8/1 odds. Yelich would have been fun to bet on for the derby, especially since the reigning NL MVP’s 56 home runs since last all-star break are 10 more than anybody else in baseball.

But if you don’t feel like betting on favorites, here are a couple sleeper picks to watch on Monday night in Cleveland.

Carlos Santana (7-1)

The only underdog to overcome longshot odds in the final round was Todd Frazier in 2015, beating co-favorite Joc Pederson. That was in Cincinnati, Todd Frazier’s home park at the time, joining Harper as Home Run Derby winners in their own ballpark under the new format. The Indians have a representative in this year’s event in slugger Carlos Santana, who with 19 home runs has the second-best power output before the break of his career. Santana has been steady for nearly a decade though more as an all-around hitter; he averaged 100 walks and 31 doubles over the previous at years to go with his relatively modest 24 home runs. Santana isn’t even the most-feared switch hitter in the field; that would be Pirates slugger Josh Bell. But with 7-1 odds and the home crowd behind him, Santana is too good to pass up.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (10-1)

There is a ton of hype with rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the field. The Blue Jays star was the top prospect in baseball and punishing baseballs is his jam. His dad won the Home Run Derby in 2007, so there’s a cool father/son power vibe going on here.

But we are just a year removed from Acuña taking baseball by storm, fulfilling and even exceeding the out-sized expectations that came with being the No. 1 overall prospect in the game. Acuña is a better hitter than Guerrero, and has had more major league success. Acuña is hitting .291/.371/.506 in his second season and already has 21 home runs. He has been on the big stage of the playoffs, hitting a grand slam in last year’s NLDS.

Acuña is as exciting a player as anyone else in the game, and it is criminal that he has the longest odds of anyone in the field, at 10-1. So yes, I’m betting on Acuña. Those odds are too good to pass up.

2019 Home Run Derby odds to win

Josh Bell: 7-2
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr: 9-2
Pete Alonso: 5-1
Joc Pederson: 5-1
Carlos Santana: 7-1
Alex Bregman: 8-1
Matt Chapman: 8-1
Ronald Acuña, Jr: 10-1

2019 Home Run Derby first round matchup odds

Matt Chapman: +120
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr: -140

Alex Bregman: +120
Joc Pederson: -140

Josh Bell: -190
Ronald Acuña, Jr: +160

Pete Alonso: -120
Carlos Santana: Even