For the first time since Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant in 2015, the Cubs will have representatives in the Home Run Derby.
The Cubs announced Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez will participate in this year’s contest next Monday in Washington, D.C.
Your Monday night plans are set! pic.twitter.com/Wyf33WH6kn— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 12, 2018
The two have shown special power throughout their young major-league careers that has made fans and players excited to see them take part.
Baez has hit a team-leading 18 home runs this year, giving him the seventh best total in the National League, while Schwarber trails with 17 homers of his own. Both are also on pace to notch career highs in 2018, topping the 30 (Schwarber) and 23 (Baez) they hit last season.
They will each attempt to be the first Cubs player to win the Home Run Derby since Sammy Sosa, who hit 26 home runs in 2000. Bryant and Rizzo had a tough time in 2015, the first year of the newer head-to-head format, when they were both eliminated in the first round.
In this year's opening round, the fifth-seeded Schwarber will face the Astros' fourth-seeded Alex Bregman, and the sixth-seeded Baez will square up against the Dodgers' Max Muncy, a three seed. The bracket also includes the Brewers' first-seeded Jesus Aguilar, the Nationals' second-seeded Bryce Harper, the Braves' seventh-seeded Freddie Freeman, and the Phillies' eighth-seeded Rhys Hoskins.
With the way the bracket is formatted, Schwarber and Baez could face each other in the final round.
The Home Run Derby is a chance for both the Cubs’ second baseman and leftfielder to showcase their talents on one of the most exciting stages in baseball. It’s an opportunity Schwarber has always wanted.
“It’s on the bucket list, being in the Home Run Derby,” Schwarber, who was not selected to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, said. “… it’s definitely a thing that I want to do and at least try once.”
Some players in the past have said the Derby negatively affects hitters’ swings, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn’t worried about having his 25-year-old sluggers in the home run hitting event. In fact, he thinks it will be a good thing for their careers.
“I’m more worried about fatigue, but I also believe the benefit’s gonna be that they did it,” Maddon said. “I would never want to restrict ‘em from that and, like I said, at their age, it’s kind of perfect.”
The Cubs have been one of the best teams in the major leagues as of late, so having one of the team’s players win in this Monday’s competition would be even sweeter for the organization.
All-Star Game festivities come at a good time for the red-hot Baez, who has shined all season in Chicago with a team-leading 66 RBIs (second in the NL) and 95 hits. Those marks have earned him a starting spot in the All-Star Game at second base. He will try to bring the Home Run Derby title back into the hands of the National League after Aaron Judge’s 47-dinger win for the American League in 2017.
“A lot of people got the question mark on their mind how I’m going to do I guess,” Baez said. “It’s all about putting on a show and having fun. We’ll see what happens.”