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The 2016 Home Run Derby Gambling Guide

Getty Images
Getty Images

The 2016 Home Run Derby will take place Monday night in San Diego, meaning we’re due for a barrage of dingers, giddy player reactions, and inexplicable Chris Berman call-outs to various local suburbs. (Here’s looking at you, Chula Vista.) The derby, which has been a staple of the MLB All-Star break since 1985, is the rare event both beloved and constantly criticized: It’s something fans look forward to every summer, but it’s also been historically labeled as (a) boring, (b) cursed, or (c) both. (There’s no real evidence for this curse, but believing in curses is better than not believing in them, so we’re here for it.)

To the people focused on all of the reasons the derby might be problematic: You’re overthinking this. This event is great for the same reason it’s always been great. Seven of MLB’s top players (and Adam Duvall!) will stride to the plate at Petco Park and attempt to obliterate baseballs into the stratosphere. If you’re not ready to sit back and enjoy that, you’re doing it wrong.

For those looking to add some extra intrigue by combining one of America’s favorite pastimes (unfathomably long home runs) with another (gambling), we’ve got you. Here are our dos and don’ts to betting on this year’s field.

1. Do: Bet Heavily on Todd Frazier

Frazier’s reputation in the Home Run Derby could become what Zach LaVine’s is in the Slam Dunk Contest: He has a skill set perfectly tailored to this event. Frazier placed second in the 2014 competition, falling to Yoenis Céspedes in the finals, before triumphing last summer in what was then his home park in Cincinnati. Now a member of the White Sox, Frazier is set to face the Rockies’ Carlos González in the first round, and the third baseman has been smoking the ball of late: He’s 7-for-20 with two bombs over his past six games, including this laser-beam shot against the Braves.

According to Vegas, Frazier is listed at plus-500 to win, the third-best odds in the field. This is dumb, and you should take the bargain. Just don’t bank on the guy who uses Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” as his walk-up music to keep thriving in the second half: Last season he hit .220 with 10 homers after the break.

2. Don’t: Expect Much Out of Corey Seager

Seager is one of the bright young stars in the game. He’s 22 years old, he just wrapped a 19-game hitting streak, and he has 17 homers and 3.9 WAR, the ninth-best mark in the bigs. He should become the face of his franchise for years to come. But his chances of winning the derby — listed in Vegas as plus-900 — are about as good as this fan’s chances were of successfully catching a foul ball with her beer.

No one younger than 25 has won this event in the past 20 years. Fellow Dodger Joc Pederson came the closest last year when he was 23, and he subsequently came unhinged in the second half, batting .178 with six homers. The Los Angeles Times has already lost its mind over the possibility of Seager experiencing a similar downturn, and when asked about his chances Monday, the shortstop said: “I’m worried about getting shut out.”

Seager is going to flop here. In the long run, this is probably for the best.

3. Do: Invest in Adam Duvall

I know what you’re thinking: What the shit is an Adam Duvall? And it’s a very good question! Duvall, a 27-year-old outfielder who has come out of nowhere to bash 23 dingers for the Reds, seems like he might be fake. Hell, before arriving in Cincinnati, he played for teams such as the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Augusta GreenJackets, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and the Bravos de Margarita. Those all sound fake, too. Yet here we are, and as The Ringer’s Zach Kram recently wrote, doubt Duvall at your own peril. He’s defied conventional baseball wisdom at every step of his rise to this point.

So, will Duvall win on Monday? In all likelihood, no. As Kram notes, the slugger has oft been compared to a poor man’s Mark Trumbo, which makes it difficult to favor him over the actual Mark Trumbo, who will also try to destroy baseballs in San Diego. But Duvall is the lovable dark horse here, and we’re behind him. He’s at least reaching the semis.

4. Don’t: Have Faith in an Oriole

Sure, OK, fine: The Orioles are really good this season! They enter the All-Star break with a two-game lead in the American League East, and they feature a legitimate MVP candidate in Manny Machado. Their derby participant, Trumbo, has transformed from a player who was acquired via a low-level trade for backup catcher Steve Clevenger into a home-run-clubbing robot who leads the majors with 28 long balls. What a world.

But the Home Run Derby simply isn’t the O’s event. They’ve had an entrant in each of the past three years (Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Machado); none advanced to the finals. Trumbo will probably make it past Seager, but expect him to fade come the semis. Well, unless his pitcher of choice is Red Sox starter Rick Porcello.

5. Do: Avoid Betting on the Favorite and the Hometown Kid

Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the favorite to win the derby, with Vegas listing him at plus-300. This makes sense, because at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, Stanton is the closest thing baseball has to an Avenger. Here he is wrecking a 475-foot bomb off of Phillies reliever Héctor Neris; here he is demolishing the soul of the Mets’ Jacob deGrom; here he is asserting his alpha status on the Sports Illustrated cover in nothing but body paint.

But remember: Stanton did partake in the derby once before (2014), and he didn’t fare very well. He hit six dingers to advance to the semifinals, and then he posted a goose egg and was promptly eliminated. Stanton may seem like a safe bet, but I’m choosing to zig where everyone else zags.

As for Wil Myers, well, the representative of the hometown team rarely reigns supreme in this event. It’s happened just twice in the derby’s history, with Frazier last year and the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg in 1990. If Myers did win, however, it’d add another interesting wrinkle to the ever-evolving Who Won the Wil Myers Trade(s)? debate, which ranks up there with Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich? as one of the most vexing questions of our time.

6. Don’t: Sleep on Robinson Canó

Remember last season, when analysts were wondering, “What’s wrong with Robinson Canó?” Remember when he was supposedly past his prime because he hit .287 with 21 home runs in 2015? Well, Robbie has been an absolute force of nature for the Mariners this season: He’s batting .313 with 21 HRs and has 3.7 WAR at the break. Now he’s set to participate in his fourth Home Run Derby, an event which he won in 2011.

Look, I’m just saying, Canó is currently listed at plus-900 and he’s going to win this whole damn event. Then he’s going to drive away in this. Tag along for the ride.