This year’s MLB Home Run Derby is so hungry for star power that Ichiro seems like a good headliner. But it might have found its star — the one star that makes the most sense.
Bryce Harper confirmed Friday to Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post that he would participate in the Home Run Derby on one condition: That he makes the All-Star team.
“So count me in for the Derby if and only if I make the team,” Harper said in a text message to The Washington Post Friday afternoon. “But if I do I will be a participant in the 2018 HR Derby.”
While some might construe that as some sort of ultimatum, it’s actually pragmatic: If Harper isn’t in the All-Star game, then he gets a vacation for four days in mid-July. Participating in the Derby isn’t enough reason to disrupt that.
That said, it’s in MLB’s best interest for Harper to make the All-Star team regardless of the Home Run Derby, since the game is being played in his home stadium, Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Not only would this put one of the game’s biggest stars in position to be the Belle of His Own Ball, it would help out a Home Run Derby that won’t have Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, the last two Derby winners.
Making the All-Star game isn’t remotely out of the question for Harper. He’s second in the NL outfielder for All-Star voting. Charlie Blackmon, who ranks fourth, has 678,831 votes. Matt Kemp ranks third with 925,697 and Harper has 1,002,696.
Those numbers might be stronger than Harper’s stats. His .213 batting average is a glaring weakness, but his .352 on-base percentage is much better. Harper’s 19 homers lead the NL while his 45 RBIs rank 10th.
In short: It’s probably a good bet that he ends up in the Derby, because his name and home-run total alone should get him on the All-Star team.
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