MLB

Home Run Derby Betting Guide: Who the Stats Say to Back

A few signs point to Joc Pederson in tonight's home run derby. Is he the best bet?

The All-Star break may mean a few days off for our fantasy baseball lineups, but that certainly doesn't mean there's no action to be had.

FanDuel Sportsbook offers up odds on the derby champ, and while there's no heavy favorite, there sure are some bats who stand out as picks to back.

Home Run Derby Odds Odds
Pete Alonso +350
Josh Bell +400
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. +450
Joc Pederson +600
Matt Chapman +850
Alex Bregman +950
Carlos Santana +950
Ronald Acuña Jr. +950


Which bats are they?

What to Look For

For the Home Run Derby champ, we should be seeking fly-ball rate. Sure, other things like hard-hit rate and isolated slugging will help, but Jim Sannes' research suggests that batters who tend to get the ball in the air fare well at the derby. That's intuitive.

The other key variable -- something else that's intuitive -- is handedness. Certain parks are better for certain batters, and Progressive Field does favor a certain type of hitter. Lefties.

Via RotoGrinders' Ballpark Factors, despite Progressive Field being 325 feet deep in both right and left field, the lower fence in right field actually has a significant impact on home run numbers in Cleveland. The home run factor in left field is 0.94, below the average of 1.00. That's a slight ding to right-handed bats. In right-field, the mark is 1.10, suggesting a beneficial situation for lefties.

Who Fits the Bill?

Here are the competitors, including their handedness, fly-ball rates, and hard-hit rate on fly-balls in 2019.

Home Run Derby OddsOddsBatsFly-Ball RateHard Fly-Ball Rate
Pete Alonso+350R40.0%58.5%
Josh Bell+400S35.8%61.1%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.+450R34.6%45.2%
Joc Pederson+600L40.5%39.5%
Matt Chapman+850R40.4%35.2%
Alex Bregman+950R46.0%34.4%
Ronald Acuña Jr.+950R36.7%47.4%
Carlos Santana+950S34.2%50.0%


Handedness Advantage

Just one true lefty -- Joc Pederson is in the field -- and two switch hitters could take advantage of the smaller outfield fence (Josh Bell and Carlos Santana). Bell's hard fly-ball rate as a lefty this year is 58.9%, and as a righty, it's 68.2%. Whew. Either way, he crushes his fly-balls.

Santana's hard fly-ball rate is 49.3% as a lefty and 52.9% as a righty. Neither should have a massive disadvantage if they hit lefty. And based on the ball-park, Santana's home park, they should.

Fly-Ball Hitters

Longshot Alex Bregman leads the field in fly-ball rate (46.0%), and that alone should get us excited at his prospects here. No other player has a fly-ball rate even over 40.5%. At 40.5%, though, Joc Pederson both has the platoon advantage and the ability to get the ball in the air.

Matt Chapman (40.4%) and Pete Alonso (40.0%) are the two others in the top half of the field in fly-ball rate. The others are all 36.7% or below.

Hard Fly-Ball Hitters

While Bregman often gets lift (again, he leads the field in fly-ball rate), none of the other seven batters get hard contact less frequently than he does on fly-balls (34.4%).

It's Josh Bell and Pete Alonso who really stand out on their hard fly-ball numbers. They're the two favorites for a reason.

To Target

Josh Bell (+400) - All eight batters are deserving in one way or another, based on their batted-ball profiles. At the top, Alonso and Bell do project as studs, given their hard contact on fly balls. Again, they're the top-two in hard fly-ball rate. Bell, though, comes in at +400 and has the potential handedness advantage. If targeting a favorite, Bell seems like the best bet, though they'll match up in round two if each win their opening rounds.

Joc Pederson (+600) - Among the mid-range options, Pederson offers a lot: he's the only true lefty in the field and he's second in fly-ball rate. He should get to unload over that right-field fence, and he may be the best combination of value and stats on the board.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (+950) - Of the value picks, there's obviously an angle for Santana. It's his home park, and while he has low fly-ball numbers, he does generate hard contact when he gets the ball elevated. However, he'd have to go through Alonso and (likely) Bell to earn a victory. Between Chapman, Acuña Jr., and Bregman, they all have pros and cons. Acuña Jr. doesn't get lift as frequently as the others, but he does generate pop when he hits fly-balls. His average homer distance is longest among the field (422 feet). Guerrero is second at 421 feet, followed by Bell at 413. Long homers earn extra time on the clock. If seeking value, it's Acuña Jr. who is going to get my vote.