Would a Team Relay Make for a Better Home Run Derby?

If the MLB were to change the Home Run Derby format to a team relay rather than an individual competition, what would it look like?

Juan Soto and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees talk during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Juan Soto #22 and Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees talk during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 20, 2024 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images)

Over the years the pinnacle of MLB All-Star Weekend has always been the Home Run Derby.

And as time’s gone on the league has not been hesitant to make changes and alterations to it’s format.

From moving from the 10-out system to timed rounds, to incorporating a bracket-style matchup system, to including bonus rounds for hitting home runs surpassing a certain distance, the Home Run Derby has continually evolved to try and ensure the most entertaining product is showcased to the fans.

But through all the evolution the derby has seen, it’s always been a showcase of individual power, as eight of the league’s most prolific power hitters have traditionally competed for slugging glory.

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But what if that changed and the Home Run Derby became more of a representation of team power?

The crew over at Who’s Better Baseball played out this hypothetical format and broke down which teams would have the best showing if it were to take place at the 2024 MLB All-Star weekend.

All stats in this article were taken prior to July 5 games.

The Format

In this format, the eight teams selected would send a trio of their best power hitters to participate.

The three round, head-to-matchup, bracket style system would remain with the first member of each trio participating in the first round. The four teams that progress would then send their second member of the trio for the second round. And finally the two finalists will be able to utilize their third member of their group in the finals.

The strategy comes into play of where you put your strongest and weakest hitters. Do you start with strongest to ensure you get the chance to utilize more of your hitters?

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Or do you take the gamble and start with your weakest hitter and save your prime power for the later rounds?

This format adds a new and exciting flare to the derby that would showcase more of the leagues prolific power hitters.

Not accounting for current injuries, if this were to occur in 2024, here’s are the teams that the Who’s Better Baseball hosts Ryan Finkelstein and Patrick Lyons would select to participate and the players who’d represent them.

The Teams

New York Yankees – 1 Seed

It’s no shock that the New York Yankees would likely be the team that thrives the most on the team trio format on paper.

With the current league leader in home runs and 2017 derby champion Aaron Judge, 2022 champion Juan Soto and 2016 champion Giancarlo Stanton filling out there lineup, their mix of experience and overall power-hitting prowess is hard to match.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Aaron Judge8732
Juan Soto8521
Giancarlo Stanton6918
New York Yankees HR Derby Team 2024

Baltimore Orioles – 2 Seed

The Yankees may have the more notable trio, but in 2024 no team has hit more home runs than the Baltimore Orioles with 142, 15 higher than the second-place Yankees.

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They’re currently being lead by young phenom Gunnar Henderson, who sits tied for second in the major leagues for round-trippers only behind Judge, with 27 so far this season.

They also can sport Adley Rutschman as part of their derby squad, as his switch hit performance in the 2023 HR Derby captivated the baseball world.

And then Baltimore Orioles have their pick of several guys who’ve hit 10 or more home runs in 2024.

They could go with an all youth team and select a guy like Colton Cowser who currently sits at 12 home runs this year, but it’s hard to overlook the likes of Anthony Santander and his 22 home runs so far this season, which ties him for fifth in the majors.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Gunnar Henderson8627
Adley Rutschman8115
Anthony Santander8222
Baltimore Orioles HR Derby Team 2024

Los Angeles Dodgers – 3 Seed

The Los Angeles Dodgers also have choices on who they could send within their trio.

A non-negotiable of course would be Shohei Ohtani, who’s 27 home runs are tied for second in all of baseball.

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Again if we aren’t accounting for injuries, Mookie Betts seems like a logical choice bringing some past derby experience to the table.

And Teoscar Hernandez and his 19 homers in 2024 seems like the logical way to round out this west coast trio.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Shohei Ohtani8527
Mookie Betts7211
Teoscar Hernandez8619
Los Angeles Dodgers HR Derby Team 2024

Philadelphia Phillies – 4 Seed

The Philadelphia Phillies have themselves a dangerous duo at the top their derby lineup in a couple of guys who were both finalists in the 2018 Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber.

Harper was able to best his now teammate in Schwarber in the derby that year, but both bring valuable derby experience to the table.

Now the issue with the Phillies and this format would be that third guy, who’s likely have to lead off the relay to set up Harper and Schwarber. The two options for that final spot in the trio would likely come down to Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm, who’ve hit 12 and 11 home runs respectively so far in 2024.

Funny enough, we will get to see if Bohm really is a weak spot in this trio firsthand, as it was announced that he will participate in the actual derby this year.

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Name2024 GP2024 HR
Bryce Harper7620
Kyle Schwarber7917
Alec Bohm8511
Philadelphia Phillies HR Derby Team 2024

New York Mets – 5 Seed

The Mets may be a lower seed in this format, but don’t let the ranking deceive you, they would be a force to be reckoned with two-time derby champion Pete Alonso leading the way.

Francisco Lindor would be the clear choice to be their second member as he has the most home runs for the Mets this season apart from Alonso.

And their third hitter would likely be the young and upcoming third baseman, Mark Vientos, who’s immense power has been on full display so far in 2024.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Pete Alonso8517
Francisco Lindor8515
Mark Vientos4211
New York Mets HR Derby Team 2024

Cleveland Guardians – 6 seed

The Cleveland Guardians are an interesting team when it comes to this format.

Their conversation around their top two seeds seem open and shut with Jose Ramirez, who has 23 home runs this season, and Josh Naylor, who has 20 home runs, both ranking in the top 10 in the majors.

But the question comes in who they would sport as their third name. And in this case the most intriguing name might be a brand new major leaguer, Jhonkensy Noel.

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Noel has already gone deep twice in his first seven major league games. And according Just Baseball’s prospect grading, he sports 70 grade game power.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Jose Ramirez8223
Josh Naylor8120
Jhonkensy Noel72
Cleveland Guardians HR Derby Team 2024

Atlanta Braves – 7 Seed

The Braves are certainly a sleeper at the 7-seed and could do damage in a derby format like this.

Their trio would most likely consist of the reigining NL MVP in Ronald Acuna Jr., a guy who’s coming off of a 50 home run season in Matt Olson, and a top 10 home run hitter in 2024 so far in Marcell Ozuna.

Name2024 GP2024 HR
Ronald Acuna Jr.494
Matt Olson8512
Marcell Ozuna8521
Atlanta Braves HR Derby Team 2024

Texas Rangers – 8 Seed

Like the Braves, the reigining World Series champion Texas Rangers are not a team to be underestimated either.

The middle infield duo of two 2023 AL MVP finalists, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, would likely lead the way for the Rangers, with Adolis Garcia and his team leading 16 home runs this season being the logical third name to round out the trio.

And what a better way to round out the derby field than having the host team try and put on a show for the home fans.

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Name2024 GP2024 HR
Corey Seager7415
Marcus Semien8511
Adolis Garcia8316
Texas Rangers HR Derby Team 2024

How Would It All Play Out?

Now that we have the field set, here’s how it could play out.

Round 1

1- New York Yankees vs 8- Texas Rangers

The matchup here would likely see Garcia go up for the Rangers against either Soto or Stanton, as the Yankees would look to save Judge for the finals.

Regardless of who either team puts forth, it seems very unlikely that an upset occurs here that knocks off the Yankees and their formidable three.

2- Baltimore Orioles vs. 7- Atlanta Braves

This would be an absolute spectacle to see these two juggernauts square off.

The experience and top-end talent of the Braves might be too much for Orioles, who are deep as a team when it comes to power, but besides Henderson are not as top heavy as a trio consisting of Acuna Jr., Olson and Ozuna.

With the Orioles likely holding Henderson until the later rounds, regardless of who the Braves select to hit first, the upset seems all too likely here, meaning the Braves move onto round two.

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3- Los Angeles Dodgers vs. 6- Cleveland Guardians

In this matchup it will likely be Noel who leads it off for the Guardians, as Ramirez and Naylor would likely be the choices to hit in the second and third rounds.

And as great of a story this would be having a fresh major leaguer go toe to toe with the Dodgers’ super trio in David and Goliath type fashion, an upset here seems unlikely with Noel likely to face either Betts or Hernandez.

4- Philadelphia Phillies vs. 5- New York Mets

What an all NL East matchup this would be with Harper and his Phillies going up against Alonso and his Mets.

The duo of Harper and Schwarber are nice, but with a three hitter of, in this case, Alec Bohm going up against the Mets three hitter of Vientos, the edge would have to go to the Mets youngster who’s been far more of a power threat than Bohm this season. Both guys have the same amount of home runs in 2024 and Vientos has played less than half the games Bohm has.

Round 2

1-New York Yankees vs. 7 Atlanta Braves

Let’s say the Yankees threw out Stanton in the opening round and the Braves threw out Ozuna.

This means that we would get an exciting matchup of Soto versus Acuna Jr. in the 2nd round.

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The Braves may put up the best fight against this Yankees trio in this whole competition, but Soto is just too strong of a derby competitor for Acuna. Soto’s derby experience mixed with his sheer power would take him over the line here.

3- Los Angeles Dodgers vs. 5- New York Mets

If the matchup here is Hernandez and Lindor the Mets would seemingly be at the end of the line.

Hernandez’s raw power would just prove to be no match for any effort Lindor would put up.

Final Round

1- New York Yankees vs. 3- Los Angeles Dodgers

Isn’t this the matchup we would all be dying to see?

Two of the leagues most globally recognized teams going up against each other with arguably the two best baseball players on the planet in Judge and Ohtani.

Both have the ability to absolutely crush the ball as both have immense power.

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But with the tear that Judge has been on in 2024 mixed with his sheer raw power and the fact he’s won a derby before would give him the slight edge over Ohtani.

What This Format Would Mean For The Derby

The problem with the derby is the hesitancy some top power hitters have to commit to it, with their focus being more on the season and not wanting to negatively affect their swing for the second half of the season in a competition that is more for fun than anything.

But if Major League Baseball can pitch the derby to it’s star players as just being a one round commitment, rather than the potentially three round commitment it is now as an individually centred competition, then stars might buy in more consistently.

And with 24 guys being included in this format rather than the traditional eight, there is more opportunity to see young power hitting names too, names that may not typically get the nod right away as it stands now, like Noel or Vientos.

And if more big name stars with big power buy in, and more up and coming power hitters can be included, the Home Run Derby would be more of representation of what it’s aimed to be, a showcase of the best power in Major League Baseball.