MLB

Takeaways and our favorite Derby moments from Dodger Stadium

Juan Soto is your 2022 Home Run Derby champion after dueling it out with rookie Julio Rodriguez in a battle of the young bats Monday evening at Dodger Stadium.

At 23 years and 266 days, Soto becomes the second youngest player ever to win the Derby. He is the second Washington Nationals player to win the event (Bryce Harper won in 2018) and first Dominican-born champion since Robinson Cano (2011).

Washington’s star outfielder might have taken the crown Monday night, but the Derby was full of surprises — from Rodriguez usurping back-to-back reigning champion Pete Alonso in the second round, to Albert Pujols upsetting Kyle Schwarber in the first round. To celebrate the midsummer festivities, we asked ESPN MLB experts Alden Gonzalez, Buster Olney, Jeff Passan and David Schoenfield for their pre-Derby predictions and post-Derby takeaways.

Check out how accurate our experts were in their predictions, relive the biggest dramatic moments of the Derby and see what it all means going forward.

MLB All-Star Home Run Derby bracket

(1) Kyle Schwarber vs. (8) Albert Pujols

(4) Juan Soto vs. (5) Jose Ramirez

(6) Julio Rodriguez vs. (3) Corey Seager

(7) Ronald Acuna Jr. vs. (2) Pete Alonso

Round 1

Julio Rodriguez (32 home runs) defeats Corey Seager (24 home runs)

Pete Alonso (20 home runs) defeats Ronald Acuna Jr. (19 home runs)

Juan Soto (18 home runs) defeats Jose Ramirez (17 home runs)

Albert Pujols (20 home runs) defeats Kyle Schwarber (19 home runs) in extra time

Round 2

Julio Rodriguez (31 home runs) defeats Pete Alonso (22 home runs)

Juan Soto (16 home runs) defeats Albert Pujols (15 home runs)

Finals

Juan Soto (19 home runs) defeats Julio Rodriguez (18 home runs)


Our favorite moments from the 2022 Home Run Derby

Passan: In the afterglow of his victory Monday, Juan Soto took a deep, cleansing breath, unleashed a mighty exhale and said, “That was fun.” Amid the chaos of his life, he had found peace in one thing that always is there for him, even as the world turns him into a dollar figure and a trade chip: swinging a baseball bat.

Perhaps nobody in the world does it as well as Soto, the Washington Nationals star who, upon turning down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension, recently found himself in the middle of rumors about his present and future. Though he handles them the way he handles pitches — staring at them with enmity or whacking them away with fury — the notion that Soto was prepared to win the derby seemed unlikely.

Then he beat Jose Ramirez, ousted Albert Pujols and reminded Julio Rodríguez that there’s a long way to go until the Mariners outfielder can call himself the best young player from the Dominican Republic. It’s a mountain Soto climbed as a teenager and has codified as a 23-year-old, and regardless of how many rumors percolate, how many incarnations of a potential deal are floated, he’s going to do what he does best. Find peace — and, with it, bring anyone who is watching pleasure.

Gonzalez: Heading into his 30-second bonus time in the opening round, while stuck on 10 home runs and seemingly lagging, Pujols stepped out of the batter’s box to take a breath. A crowd quickly swelled around him. Most of the players on the field at Dodger Stadium encircled the future Hall of Fame first baseman and began to applaud. Soto, who would later defeat Pujols in Round 2, fanned him off with his cap. Pujols’ oldest son, A.J., watched from nearby in tears. It was an organic moment of appreciation as Pujols winds down his final season in baseball. Many of those who formed that semicircle are fellow Dominican players who grew up worshipping him. Through the years, all of them got advice from Pujols as they matriculated to stardom.

Schoenfield: As a longtime Mariners fan, this felt like the official arrival of Rodriguez on the national stage, even if Soto beat him out in the end. Rodriguez’s first round of 32 home runs was spectacular, and when he raised his arms in triumph, it wasn’t just a moment for him or even Mariners fans. It was a moment for all baseball fans: The game’s next great star is here.

You have to remember, the Mariners haven’t had a homegrown star since Felix Hernandez — and Hernandez was a pitcher, which means must-watch TV only once every five or six days. With Rodriguez, Mariners fans get to see something every game: his power, his speed, his defense. He is full of the youthful energy you would expect from a 21-year-old, but he also seems to possess preternatural maturity, such as when he struggled at the start of the season and didn’t get overwhelmed.

Oh, and since the Mariners are currently riding a 14-game winning streak, fans are beginning to dream of the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2001.

Seattle teammate Ty France put it this way, talking about the team’s slow start and recent surge: “That’s baseball. I can go 0-for-30 or J.P. [Crawford] can go 0-for-30 or Julio can go 30-for-30.”

I think he was joking.


Updates from the Derby

Trade that!

Soto spent Monday afternoon begrudgingly answering questions about his hometown team potentially trading him over the next couple of weeks, and then he went out and showed the world why every executive throughout baseball is salivating at the possibility. With 19 home runs in the final round — and 53 total — Soto became champion of the Home Run Derby by defeating the 21-year-old rookie Rodriguez, who put on an incredible performance himself that included amassing 32 home runs in Round 1 and defeating two-time reigning champion Alonso in Round 2.

Soto had registered only 10 home runs before taking a timeout with 32 seconds left in regulation, then he proceeded to hit five more — the last one at the buzzer. Before his 60-second bonus time, he was only three away from Rodriguez’s final round total. Forty seconds later, Soto buckled to a knee, launched his bat to the air and embraced his teammates.

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0:58

Bad Bunny surprises Juan Soto with the Home Run Derby championship chain as the Nationals slugger explains how he felt to compete.

“Right now, I’m not even thinking about it,” Soto told ESPN’s Buster Olney on the field, after having the Derby chain placed around his neck by Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny. “I’m thinking I’m a champion.”

Running out of gas

After bashing 30-plus home runs in each of the first two rounds on Monday night, Rodriguez looked a little gassed when he hit just 18 homers to start the final — and it cost him.

Soto ends Pujols’ night

Admit it: You didn’t even expect Pujols to get this far, did you? Well, it was fun while it lasted. But after advancing past No. 1-seeded Schwarber in the first round, Pujols’ final Derby appearance came to an end when he was outhomered by Soto — setting up a Soto-Rodriguez final showdown.

Rookie squashes three-peat dream

The rookie Rodriguez moves on, knocking out the two-time defending champ, with Alonso failing to become the first three-peat Derby winner. (Alonso remains tied with Yoenis Cespedes and Ken Griffey Jr. with two titles in a row.) With Rodriguez facing either Soto or Pujols in the finals, we are guaranteed our second all-Dominican final, matching 2010, when David Ortiz beat Hanley Ramirez.

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Julio Rodriguez defeats Pete Alonso in Round 2 of the Home Run Derby.

J-Rod puts the pressure on the reigning champ

Juli-ooo!! After a slow start when he called timeout with 1:44 remaining and just seven home runs, J-Rod found his groove — and what a sweet-swinging groove it is. Rodriguez hit 16 more in that 1:44 then added eight in his minute of extra time to finish with 31. His longest of this round: 450 feet. Game on, Pete.

And the crowd goes wild!

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0:31

Kyle Schwarber bows to Albert Pujols after losing to him in a swing-off in the first round of the Home Run Derby.

It’s the 1969 Mets of Home Run Derby results: Pujols moves on, hitting seven home runs in his one minute of extra time to knock out Schwarber. Two more rounds to go, old man!

Pujols isn’t done yet

We have a tie, as Schwarber goes 0-4 to end his round and remain tied with Pujols at 13 home runs.

Paying respect to a legendary player

The oldest player ever to compete in the Derby, Pujols might have been the sentimental favorite, but he was hardly the favorite to win a contest that rewards stamina as much as raw power. He got off to a slow start with just one home run in the first 56 seconds and had to call an early timeout. Not a good sign. Some of us shed a few tears in that moment for Pujols. And then we shed a few more when all the All-Stars surrounded Pujols before his final 30 seconds to honor one of the great careers in major league history. A true legend.

Soto heating up in defeat of Ramirez

Soto moves on — not even needing his 60 seconds of extra time to beat Ramirez. Soto’s longest blast was his 17th of the round: a 482-foot rocket just below the concourse in right-center. You get the feeling he might just be warming up for some titanic home runs in the next two rounds.

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Juan Soto eliminates Jose Ramirez in the first round with 18 home runs, and he celebrates with an emphatic bat flip.

Ramirez sets up battle with Soto

Ramirez didn’t show the raw power of Rodriguez or Alonso — no surprise there — but finished with 17 home runs, just enough pressure that Soto won’t be able to cruise into the second round. Soto beat Shohei Ohtani in that epic overtime duel last year, including a Statcast-era-record 520-foot shot. Let’s see if he can pull a Willie Stargell and hit one out of the stadium.

The three-peat dream lives on

One thing about Alonso in the Home Run Derby: He never panics. Midway through his round he was in trouble, struggling to find that perfect launch angle and instead hitting low liners that were falling short of the warning track. But he found his swing and edged past Acuna with just under 30 seconds remaining in his bonus round. It wasn’t a dominant round, but the dream for a three-peat lives on.

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Julio Rodriguez has the Home Run Derby off to a hot start with 32 home runs in the first round.

Seattle great praises rookie

With his victory over Seager, Rodriguez is the first Mariner to advance to the semifinals of the Derby since Griffey in 1998. Guess who’s on site today: The Kid himself. Griffey’s advice: “Let Julio be Julio.”

Rodriguez hot out of the gate

Rookie nerves? Not for Julio Rodriguez. The 21-year-old phenom put together one of the most impressive rounds in Home Run Derby history, finishing with 32 home runs. He started out hitting a series of high fly balls that scraped over the fence, transitioned into some low screaming liners that cleared the fence and then started bashing a few that cleared the whole dang stadium.

We’re one batter in, but the message has been sent: Julio is coming for your crown, Pete Alonso.

We’re underway!

The 2022 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby is underway with Mariners phenom Julio Rodriguez getting it started in Los Angeles.


Pre-Derby predictions

Who is going to win the Home Run Derby and whom will he beat in the final?

Gonzalez: Soto was not happy to be thrown into trade rumors right before the All-Star break, and this is the perfect place for the game’s best pure hitter to channel his anger. Soto has been scorching hot this month and will dethrone Pete Alonso in the finals. He’ll do so by whacking a bunch of opposite-field homers, too.

Olney: Soto will go head-to-head with Alonso, and it’ll be like Ali-Frazier, with Soto barely edging the defending champion.

Passan: Alonso, of course. He’s the most prolific home run hitter on the planet. He knows how to win the derby, seeing as he’s done so the past two times. His most difficult test might come in the first round against Acuna, but they’ve faced one another before, in 2019, and the Polar Bear came out on top. He’ll do so again this year, thwarting NL East foe Soto in the finals.

Schoenfield: It’s the year of the Mariners! Rodriguez has been on fire, and he’s not lacking in confidence. He’s going to hit a bunch of low lasers into the left-center bleachers and, like Alonso in 2019, he’s going to win it as a rookie — knocking out Alonso in the semifinals and Schwarber in the final.

Who will hit the longest home run of the night and how far?

Gonzalez: Acuna is averaging 437 feet per home run this season, the longest in the majors. Dating back to his rookie year in 2018, he has hit 13 home runs 450 feet or longer, second to only C.J. Cron — even though he missed significant time with a torn ACL. Three years ago, Acuna homered to all fields, producing a beautiful spray chart, but he lost to Alonso in the second round. If he decides to get pull happy this year, he’ll clear Dodger Stadium a few times. One might even reach 510 feet.

Olney: Alonso will club a 512-foot homer, revitalizing conversation about a juiced ball.

Passan: The prodigious power of Soto is so free, so easy, one takes it for granted. In an event like the Home Run Derby, the number of home runs matters more than the distance when it comes to winning the event, but not hearts and minds. We want to see tanks. We want to see balls that never stop flying. We want to see Soto hit a ball 515 feet, and we will.

Schoenfield: There have been only five home runs hit out of Dodger Stadium during an action game — two by Willie Stargell and one each from Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza and Giancarlo Stanton. The longest of those was one of Stargell’s at an estimated 506 feet. We’re not only going to see a few fly out of the ballpark during the contest, we’re going to see a couple longer than 506. And the longest: Schwarber is going to crack a 522-foot home run.

Albert Pujols is participating in his final Home Run Derby tonight, what are your predictions for the 42-year-old?

Gonzalez: I have him shocking everybody by defeating Schwarber, the NL’s home run leader, in the first round. Don’t ever underestimate Pujols’ pride and competitiveness. He hasn’t been, well, Albert Pujols, because his bat speed is no longer quick enough to adjust to the cartoonish velocities of today’s game; it has nothing to do with his raw power. He knows this event, having competed in the first timed derby in 2015, and it’ll be Soto who swiftly eliminates him in Round 2.

Olney: He’ll get the second-biggest ovation of the night, and all the players will surround him to congratulate him after an impressive first round. But he won’t survive a really tough matchup against Schwarber.

Passan: He will have a better showing than expected, which is to say his first-round matchup against Schwarber will not end with Schwarber having a minute-plus left on the clock. Pujols is too competitive, too prideful, to allow that. But in the end, he will get respect for having pushed the top seed … but not the W he desires.

Schoenfield: One and done. I mean, not one home run. He’ll crack a dozen in the first round, but Schwarber will knock him out.

What’s the one moment we’ll all be talking about long after this HR derby ends?

Gonzalez: The final round. Soto versus Alonso. Two division rivals going at it. The best pure hitter of this generation against one of the most illustrious derby competitors ever, in a rematch of last year’s semifinals from Coors Field. It was largely happenstance that Soto and Alonso wound up on opposite sides of this year’s bracket, and it will ultimately produce one of the most electrifying rounds this event has ever produced.

Olney: Soto shuffling and dropping his bat after he puts up a huge number in the championship round.

Passan: An Alonso-Rodriguez matchup in the semifinals would be everything: king vs. prodigy, right-handed thunder vs. right-handed thunder, a could-be coronation vs. a national coming-out party. While Rodriguez may draw the ire of the crowd for ousting Seager, a longtime Dodger, in the first round, he’ll win them back with a show in the next round … only to be thwarted by the champ not yet ready to cede his crown.

Schoenfield: How about a passing of the torch? Rodriguez was 6 months old when Pujols made his first All-Star Game as a rookie in 2001. Now we have the game’s next big star on center stage. They won’t face each other unless they meet in the final, but I’m sure at some point we’ll get a Pujols-Rodriguez embrace — one generation to the next.

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