With Soto in the Home Run Derby, how have past Nationals fared? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Juan Soto announced Wednesday that he will participate in Major League Baseball’s 2021 Home Run Derby. On Monday, the league’s best power hitters will converge at Coors Field in Denver to see who can hit the most dingers.
Last year’s derby was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means Pete Alonso of the New York Mets is still the defending champion. Alonso knocked 23 long balls in the final round of the Home Run Derby in 2019, just edging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who had 22. The year before Alonso, Bryce Harper took the title in a legendary performance at his then home ballpark.
Soto joins a field which includes Shohei Ohtani (LAA), Pete Alonso (NYM), Trevor Story (COL), Trey Mancini (BAL), Salvador Perez (KC), Matt Olson (OAK), and Joey Gallo (TEX). With Soto the latest Washington player participate in the historic competition, how have past Nationals/Expos players fared in the derby?
Let’s take a look:
Bryce Harper, 2018, Derby Champion with 19 home runs
July 16, 2018, was a great night in D.C. The Washington Capitals, fresh off their Stanley Cup triumph, were in the midst of a legendary Summer of celebrations. At Nats Park, 25-year-old Bryce Harper was in a slugfest against future National Kyle Schwarber.
In the final round, Harper tied Schwarber, who was then a Chicago Cub, with his 18th home run on the very last pitch as time expired in regulation. Then in bonus time, Harper clinched the derby title with 16 seconds to spare. Teammates and fellow National League All-Stars Sean Doolittle and Max Scherzer presented Harper with the trophy in front of an adoring home crowd.
Bryce Harper, 2013, lost in final round to Yoenis Céspedes
Harper couldn’t have climbed the Home Run Derby mountaintop without taking a loss on the way, right? Yoenis Céspedes of the Oakland Athletics really ran away with this Derby, as he hit 17 dingers in the first round alone. Two players tied for second with just eight homers that round.
Harper, then just 20, was still able to make it to the final round, where he was edged nine homers to eight by Céspedes at Citi Field in New York. Céspedes would win the Derby the very next season, as well.
Vladimir Guerrero Sr. (Montreal Expos), 2000, eliminated in first round
Nineteen years before his son would compete in his first HR Derby, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was setting the majors ablaze at the turn of the century. Then a member of the Montreal Expos (which would later become the Washington Nationals), Guerrero Sr. participated in the 2000 Home Run Derby at Turner Field in Atlanta. It wouldn’t be an especially glorious night for the future Hall of Famer, though, as his two dingers weren’t enough to advance to the second round.
Larry Walker (Montreal Expos), 1992, eliminated with four home runs
Before the current format for the Derby was established, contestants from each league would just try to hit as many homers as they could in a single round with the winner crowned champion. Walker, who played for the Expos from 1989-94 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020, hit four bombs on the night. Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics would win the contest with 12 homers, five more than the second-place finisher.
Hubie Brooks (Montreal Expos), 1986, eliminated with one home run
Brooks competed in the second-ever Home Run Derby in 1986 at the Houston Astrodome. While many younger fans might not know the name, Hubie Brooks had a fifteen-year career in the majors, playing for the Expos from 1985-89. He would hit just one homer in the 1986 Derby, though, losing in the National League segment of the contest to Darryl Strawberry of the Mets who had four.