The MLB’s best will be on display when the 2018 All-Star Game festivities begin on Monday night. The Home Run Derby (8 p.m., ESPN) leads things off, followed by the game itself on Tuesday (8 p.m., Fox). Both will be held at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The Home Run Derby will be contested in a bracket-style format for the fourth straight year, with potent Milwaukee Brewers slugger Jesus Aguilar and hometown star Bryce Harper as the top two seeds. The Home Run Derby odds, per Bovada, are as follows:
Bryce Harper 11-4
Jesus Aguilar 7-2
Max Muncy 5-1
Freddie Freeman 11-2
Rhys Hoskins 11-2
Javier Baez 6-1
Alex Bregman 9-1
Kyle Schwarber 9-1
The local crowd will be behind Harper, which makes him a logical choice to win. But Aguilar, the NL-leader in homers (24), has a fairly easy road to the final. His first-round opponent is Rhys Hoskins, who has just 14 home runs despite playing his home games in the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Then Aguilar faces the winner of the Bregman-Schwarber matchup. Bregman’s average home run distance is among the smallest in the field (382 ft, per NBC Sports), while Schwarber, a career .229 hitter, struggles with consistency.
Aguilar shouldn’t have a problem with either of them. Then he just has to deal with Harper, who’s batting a paltry .214 this year compared to Aguilar’s .300, in the final.
The play: Aguilar to win (7-2)
Meanwhile, the American League has won the last five All-Star Games and has dropped just three of them since 1997. That dominance defies explanation, especially considering the National League has hosted the last three contests. The all-time series is tied at 43-43-2.
The AL has an embarrassment of riches to turn to on the mound with Luis Severino, Chris Sale, and Gerrit Cole as primary options. Two of the best closers in baseball, Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrel, are late-game options for AL manager A.J. Hinch.
The balance of power in the position-player battle seems to be tilted towards the AL as well. Hit machine Jose Altuve will set the table for sluggers J.D. Martinez and Aaron Judge, with all-around talents Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado in the starting nine as well.
The NL starters, namely Willson Contreras and Nick Markakis, are mostly good-not-great players having better than average years. It could be slow going for the AL at first, assuming Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer dominate early, but the cream should rise to the top at the end.
Predicted final score: AL 5, NL 2