Home Run Derby Primer: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez in 8-man field

Jul 18, 2022, 10:05 AM | Updated: 5:19 pm
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Julio Rodríguez rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics on June 30. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

For the first time in six years, the Mariners will have a player in the MLB Home Run Derby when the event takes place at 5 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

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Julio Rodríguez, Seattle’s 21-year-old All-Star and rookie phenom, is in the eight-man field after smashing 16 home runs in the first half of his debut big league season. He joins three-time winner Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone and Robinson Canó as Mariners to compete in the annual event at the All-Star Game festivities.

The ESPN radio broadcast of the Home Run Derby will air live on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM, and the Seattle Sports app. ESPN will also broadcast it on TV.

The most recent of Rodríguez’s 16 homers came on Friday night when he caught up to a 3-2 fastball from hard-throwing Rangers reliever Jose Leclerc, getting plenty of carry to center at Globe Life Field for his first career grand slam to open up what would be an 8-3 M’s victory, the 12th on Seattle’s current 14-game winning streak.

The next morning, Rodríguez went to work practicing his home run derby swing, hitting off of Franmy Peña, who will be his derby pitcher, in a mock session of the event. Then he finished off the weekend Sunday going 2 for 4 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs to help the M’s improve their winning streak to the longest ever by a team going into the All-Star break and push his slash line to .275/.337/.477 for an .814 OPS.

Not bad a for a kid with just 91 games of MLB experience under his belt.

So what do you need to know about the Home Run Derby before Rodríguez takes part on Monday night? Here’s a primer.

• The derby will be an eight-man tournament, with seeds based on how many home runs the competitors have hit in MLB play this season. Rodríguez is the No. 6 seed and will face Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (No. 3 seed) in the first round. It will be Seager’s first return to Dodger Stadium since he left Los Angeles as a free agent last offseason.

Rodríguez is the only rookie in the bracket, while legendary St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is the oldest competitor at 42 years – yep, twice Rodríguez’s age.

If Rodríguez makes it out of the first round, he’ll have his hands full no matter who his next matchup is, because it will be either two-time defending derby champion Pete Alonso of the New York Mets or Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., who Rodríguez receives comparisons to for his combination of power and speed.

Here’s the full bracket:

• As has been the case since 2015, the Home Run Derby will use a timed-round format instead of counting outs for every swing that does not result in a homer. In the first two rounds, batters will get three minutes per round to swing at as many balls as their pitchers can throw to them, while the final round is two minutes long.

• Batters are afforded one 45-second timeout each round.

• A 30-second bonus period will occur at the conclusion of each round, and if a batter hits two home runs estimated at least 440 feet, they will receive an extra 30 seconds for a full minute total of bonus time.

• In the event of a tie, a 60-second swingoff will occur. If it is still tied after that, the hitters will compete in three-swing swingoffs until a winner is decalred.

• If the second batter of a one-on-one matchup exceeds the total his opponent finished with while time remains on the clock, the round will end.

• The Home Run Derby has a prize pool of $2.5 million, increased from $725,000 last year, with the winner taking $1 million from the pool.

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Home Run Derby Primer: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez in 8-man field