The opening round matchups for the 2015 All-Star Home Run Derby have been announced, and former San Diego Torero Kris Bryant will face one of the greatest sluggers of all time. The Cubs rookie will face Angels slugger Albert Pujols, who will be competing in the contest for the fourth time in his career, and the first time since 2009.
Matchups for the first round were based on home run totals through Tuesday, so fate and a little luck led us to this matchup. The Home Run Derby has a vastly different format than in past years, which has led to these one-on-one matchups.
In the past, all contestants competed against each other and had unlimited time to hit as many home runs as possible before they reached 10 outs. The best performing hitters where whittled down round-by-round until two were left for the finals. This year, players will go against each other head-to-head starting in the first round. They loser of each matchup will be eliminated until one player is left standing.
Also notable is the new time limit. Players will have just five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, with up to a minute and a half of bonus time if they hit home runs that reach certain distances. This will certainly change the approach of the hitters, and allow for less patience to take bad pitches.
Will this allow Bryant to upset the future Hall of Famer? It just might happen. With a set time limit, there is more luck involved. Some players might get more good pitches than others. Some might show more patience and an ability to reset and keep swinging faster. Granted that favors a seasoned veteran like Pujols, but Bryant rarely shows his age. He is a mature player even as a rookie, and he has as good a chance as any contestant in the field.
Should Bryant get past Pujols, it will be a youth movement in the second round. He would either face the fast rising Manny Machado of the Orioles, or we would get a really exciting matchup against Bryant and Joc Pederson of the Dodgers. The two young phenoms are blowing away the competition for NL Rookie of the Year, and voters might take note of who wins if they go head-to-head even though this has nothing to do with real game statistics.
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In the final two rounds, Bryant would face a variety of opponents. He could see Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays, Todd Frazier of the Reds, or Prince Fielder of the Rangers. Frazier will have a good shot playing in his home stadium. But the matchup most Midwest fans will want to see, at least if they live anywhere near Illinois, is Bryant versus fellow Cubbie Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are the only team with multiple players in the field, and both are young up and comers. It’s a testament to the talent Theo Epstein has put together in Chicago that these two young players are already reaching milestones like the Home Run Derby.
Regardless of how Bryant performs, this is another feather in the cap of WCC Baseball. Bryant continues to develop in a legitimate star, and continues to look like he could become the best baseball player to come out of the WCC, and possibly one of the best athletes in general.
The Home Run Derby will take place this Monday, July 13th, and 5 pm Pacific on ESPN. Bryant will then suit up for the NL All-Stars as a reserve in the actual All-Star Game on Tuesday.