Anyone who’d been paying attention during the first half of the season should not have been surprised that Aaron Judge won the 2017 Home Run Derby last night. The 6’7″, 282 pound rookie outfielder for the New York Yankees was the heavy favorite going into the event, as he came in to the All-Star Break with a league-leading 30 home runs. Other favorites going into last night were Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger and defending champ Giancarlo Stanton.
If you want to talk about surprises though, there were two.
Two Surprises from the 2017 Home Run Derby
Surprise #1: Giancarlo Stanton
The biggest shocker of this year’s Derby was Stanton’s early exit. His first round opponent was Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez. Although Sanchez broke into the majors with that impressive streak of home runs last year, quite frankly, he is not having the same kind of year in 2017. On the other hand, Stanton looked like he was ready to defend his throne when he homered on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.
Most fans expected Stanton to at least reach the semi finals; it was certainly disappointing to see him eliminated in the first round. Now that the league is seeing more home runs, it would have been fun to see the two power bats in Judge and Stanton face off against each other.
Surprise #2: Justin Bour
Bour was no doubt the sleeper in this year’s Home Run Derby, but he put on a show for his home town crowd. Bour, who hit 22 home runs, gave Aaron Judge a giant hill to climb in the first round. For a moment it looked like Bour was going to upset Judge. In the end, however, we found out just how great of a hitter Aaron Judge really is. The Yankees slugger came back and defeated Bour by slugging 23 home runs in the first round.
Once Stanton was turned away by Sanchez in the first round and Judge made his 23 home run display in first round, the Derby trophy was his. Judge moved on and beat Bellinger in the semis before easily out-slugging Miguel Sano in the finals to claim the trophy.
A quick note on Bellinger’s performance in the derby: for being the favorite for 2017 National League Rookie of the Year, Bellinger’s performance was a little underwhelming. Since Stanton was eliminated early, Bellinger could have been the next person to give Judge a challenge. That ended up not being be the case. Bour was Judge’s only true test.
After his fantastic showing, the next step in Judge’s quest to claim AL Rookie of the Year is to not get worn out from the Derby in the second half.