The Daily Sweat: Best bet in the Home Run Derby? It's not Shohei Ohtani

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·6-min read
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We’re entering a pretty light week for bettors. The NBA season is winding down, hockey season is over and Euro 2020 and Wimbledon are in the books. It’s also the MLB All-Star break.

That means there won’t be the usual slate of baseball games to bet on throughout the week, but the break provides one of the most fun events on the sports calendar: the Home Run Derby.

The derby is on tap for Monday night at Coors Field in Denver with eight competitors — five from the American League and three from the National League.

The headliner is Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese slugger leads the league in homers with 33 and is the betting favorite to win his first home run derby with +250 odds at BetMGM.

Next in line are Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers at +450 and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, the defending Derby champion, at +500. From there, it’s Matt Olson at +700 and Salvador Perez at +800 before Trevor Story (+850), Juan Soto (+900) and Trey Mancini (+1200) round out the field.

BetMGM has an array of betting options available. You can choose from the first-round matchups, the outright champion, which two players will reach the final, the distance of the longest home run hit and more.

Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani in action against the Seattle Mariners in a baseball game Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani in action against the Seattle Mariners in a baseball game Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Who is the best bet to win the Home Run Derby?

Ohtani has been the talk of the first half and is going to attract a ton of action. BetMGM said Monday that 37.9% of the straight-up Derby bets it had received came on Ohtani. On top of that, he has attracted a whopping 44.4% of the money, more than 3.5 times that of Soto, who has received the second-most money at 12.6%. 

Clearly, Ohtani is a popular bet and big liability for the sportsbook. He is the game's hottest hitter and certainly worthy of being the favorite. But at +250, I think there is better value elsewhere on the board.

Gallo (+450) has a classic lefty home run swing and has been on fire lately with 11 home runs over his last 12 games. And with the way the bracket shakes out, he would avoid a potential showdown with Ohtani until the final round.

Another intriguing option is Perez at +800. Perez, who leads all catchers with 21 homers, has power to all fields and is actually second in the majors behind Ohtani in Statcast’s xHR (expected home runs) stat with 26.5. By comparison, Perez’s first-round opponent Pete Alonso has 17 home runs on the year, but his xHR is only 15.

Story (+850) has the second-fewest homers of the eight competitors, but the comfort of playing in his home ballpark in Denver has to be considered. 

My favorite play, though, is Olson at +700. Playing in Oakland, he’s not as much of a household name, but this dude can really rake. The lefty has a bit of an unorthodox approach in the box, holding his hands out over the plate as part of his loading mechanism. 

When he’s not right, it’s easy to see when his timing is off. That hasn’t happened much this year as the first-time All-Star has 23 home runs and a .282 batting average that is 87 points higher than what he posted in the shortened 2020 season. In Oakland's final game before the break, Olson slugged two homers to give him some momentum heading into the Derby. 

I’m going to play Olson at +700 and could add Perez at +800 as well.

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Matt Olson #28 of the Oakland Athletics hits his second home run of the day during the game against the Kansas City Royals at RingCentral Coliseum on June 13, 2021 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Royals 6-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics slugger Matt Olson enters the All-Star break with 23 home runs and 59 RBIs. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

Home Run Derby prop bets

With the altitude in Denver, Coors Field has long been a hitter-friendly park. On a warm summer night, the ball should be flying all over the yard on Monday night. And the fact that MLB said a humidor won’t be used for the balls used for the competition, we could see some especially long homers. That’s why I’m taking over 500.5 feet at -115 for the longest home run in the first round.

Of this year’s competitors, Ohtani has the longest homer of the season so far at 470 feet. Story is not far behind, though, at 466 feet. The over/under for Ohtani’s longest homer of the competition is 510.5 feet at BetMGM. For Story, the over/under is 488.5 feet. Story’s average home run distance this season is 419 feet, third-best in MLB. He’s also got the biggest discrepancy between HR (11) and xHR (19.5) in the majors. I’ll take the over 488.5 feet for Story at -110.

BetMGM offers odds for the Derby’s first-round matchups. Of the four matchups, my favorite is Perez at +180 vs. Alonso at -225. Alonso won the most-recent Derby back in 2019 and could end up being a popular bet, driving that price up and Perez’s price down. I’ll ride with Perez over Alonso at +180.

Who cashed tickets over the weekend?

It won’t be the Suns in four this time around. After winning the first two games of the NBA Finals at home, the Suns were blown out in Game 3 on the road by the Bucks. The Bucks were 4-point favorites and covered the spread easily in a 120-100 win. The favorite has covered the spread in all three Finals games so far.

Euro 2020 wrapped up in dramatic fashion on Sunday, with Italy upsetting England in penalty kicks. England jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but Italy tied the score at 1-1 in the 67th minute before eventually prevailing with a 3-2 edge in PKs. Bettors who wagered on a regulation tie at +195 were rewarded. Italy was +230 on Sunday and +1200 when the tournament began. England was +150 on Sunday and had opening odds of +500.

In MMA, Dustin Poirier defeated Conor McGregor by TKO after McGregor suffered a grisly leg injury late in the first round. Poirier opened as a slight underdog (+100), but closed as a -125 favorite. McGregor opened at -120 and closed at +105. Though most of the action was on McGregor (66% of tickets, 61% of money), one bettor won $100,000, thanks to a $130,000 bet on Poirier at -130.

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