Sport News The HR Derby field is set so who’s going to take the crown?

Yesterday, the bracket for the 2021 Home Run Derby at Coors Field (the field Home Run Derbies were made for) was filled out when Washington’s young superstar Juan Soto and Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo announced that they’d be competing in the annual slugfest.

This lineup is absolute fire, though not perfect. I would’ve preferred to see Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper and Washington’s Kyle Schwarber instead of Salvador Perez and Juan Soto, but we got Harper and Schwarber in 2018, so they can take a backseat for now. Maybe Vladdy Jr. could have made his second appearance, but still — fire.

Every one of these guys is a bonafide powerhouse and, aside from 2019 Derby Champ Pete Alonso (there was no 2020 Derby due to COVID) looking to defend his crown, this is every contestant’s first Derby appearance. So, what’s going to happen? Let’s try to break this thing down and figure out who to bet on.

The main statistics we need to look at to determine who will walk away victorious are launch angle, exit velocity, and barrel percentage. How often do these hitters make the best possible contact with the ball, and when they make that contact, do they launch the ball at high speeds and at a home run angle?

Exit velocity and barrel percentage are pretty easy to observe. You want to barrel the ball up as often as possible, and obviously, the harder you hit the ball, the better. You can never have too high an exit velocity. But what is the best angle to send the ball? Well, per Baseball Savant, the best launch angle for home runs is 29 degrees. At an exit velocity of 100 miles per hour, batters are hitting dingers at 51.2 percent clip — the highest of any angle.

At 110 mph, every single ball hit this season at a 29 degree angle has left the yard.

Ohtani currently leads MLB in barrel percentage among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, and he’s blowing away his competition. Ohtani is barreling balls thrown at him 25.9 percent of the time — over five percent higher than the next qualified hitter: Fernando Tatis Jr. (21.3 percent). The other derby competitors rank as follows:

Gallo — 5th (19.4 percent)

Alonso — 12th (15.7 percent)

Perez — 22nd (14.1 percent)

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