vladimir guerrero jr home run derby

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. becomes first Toronto Blue Jay to win Home Run Derby

It turns out the second time was the charm as Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the 2023 Home Run Derby in Seattle. He held off division rival Randy Arozarena in the event, out-slugging him 25-23 in the finals.

Vladdy came into the event as the sixth-seeded hitter going into the Derby with just 13 home runs on the season. He faced Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Mookie Betts in the first round, dispatching him 26-11.

Guerrero advanced to the semi-finals and took out the hometown kid, Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez, advancing 21-20. Rodriguez had an ungodly first round of the Derby, slugging 41 home runs to eliminate two-time champ Pete Alonso.

But when it came down to the finals, despite getting little time to rest, Guerrero Jr. put forth 25 home runs and that was enough to edge out Arozarena for the title.

This was Guerrero's second kick at the can, as he stole the show at the 2019 Home Run Derby. Despite hitting 91 home runs through three rounds, he eventually lost in the finals to Alonso. But four years later, Vladdy finished the job at the Derby in Seattle.

The Blue Jays' first baseman totalled 72 home runs through his three rounds of the Derby, not quite matching his robust home run total of 91 during that 2019 contest in Cleveland. The longest home run off his bat this go-around was a 456-foot shot in the first round.

Not only is Guerrero the first Blue Jays player to win a Home Run Derby title, along with his father Vladimir Guerrero Sr., they're the first father-son duo to be crowned Home Run Derby champs. Vladdy Sr. won in 2007 over Blue Jays outfielder, Alex Rios.

In the past, the Blue Jays had three players reach the finals: Rios in 2007, Jose Bautista in 2012, and Guerrero Jr. in 2019.

Credit to Vladdy who never really cracked under pressure, despite facing Rodriguez who came out guns blazing in the first round, and Arozarena who was very well-rested after his second-round victory over Luis Robert Jr.

Guerrero and Blue Jays manager John Schneider found a great rhythm and sent 25 long balls over the fence in the final round, which was just barely enough to secure the Home Run Derby title.

This was a nice feather in the cap for Vladdy and the Blue Jays, but overall it's been a disappointing start to the season for this group. At 50-41, the Blue Jays are tied for the second Wild Card playoff spot, but most expected them to be much better than nine games over .500 at the All-Star break.

At first glance, Guerrero's peripheral stats look alright, but consider he had 19 home runs through his first 88 games of the 2022 season and 30 home runs through his first games of his 2021 campaign.

If the Blue Jays are going to have any shot of holding down a playoff spot in the second half, they'll need big contributions from players like Guerrero Jr., who have underperformed until this point.

Perhaps this Home Run Derby crown is the spark that ignites the fire for Vladdy and the Blue Jays post All-Star break.

Lead photo by

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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