By Dave Schwab

Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star break takes place next week, and as usual, all the festivities get underway on Monday night with a heated competition between some of the sport’s top long ball hitters. The 2017 T Mobile Home Run Derby from Marlins Park in Miami is slated to start at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The field is stacked with eight entries broken down into a bracket that consists of four head-to-head matchups in the first round followed by the semifinals and one final showdown between the top two home run hitters in the championship round. Betting odds to win have been released by some of the top online sportsbooks taking action on this competition and it is my job to find the best value in the numbers.

The No. 1 seed coming out of the left side of the bracket is Miami right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. He is one of two players in the field listed as a +175 favorite to win and for good reason. Not only does he bring the home field advantage into this event, he comes in as the defending Home Run Derby Champion after crushing the field last year with 61 home runs over three rounds. Stanton has hit 23 home runs on the year heading into this weekend’s games.

He will face New York Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez in the opening round. Sanchez is well down the list in home runs this year with 13. However, he does have the power to be a factor in this competition with 33 career home runs in just 108 games. Unfortunately he did not get the luck of the draw when the brackets were set, and at +1400 odds I am sensing an early exit on Monday night.

Rounding out this side of the competition is a head-to-head matchup between No. 4 Mike Moustakas and No. 5 Miguel Sano. Moustakas is Kansas City’s third baseman and heading into this weekend he is tied for second in home runs this season with 25. Sano plays for Minnesota and he currently has 20 dingers on the year. This could be one of the tightest matchups on the board; however with Sano sitting at +1000 odds to win against the +1400 betting odds for Moustakas, I am going chalk with Sano advancing to semifinals.

Rookie sensation Aaron Judge is the No. 2 seed and a +175 co-favorite to win it all. The Yankees’ right fielder is on pace to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 home runs after hitting 29 in his first 83 games. There is a ton of value in this guy given what he has been able to accomplish so far and he is set to shine on the prime-time stage in Miami on Monday night.

Judge will face No. 7 Justin Bour in the opening round. The Miami first baseman offers some value at +1400 betting odds given his home field advantage, hitting power and 19 home runs this year. However, I am not about to go against Aaron Judge this early in the competition.

The other half of this bracket pits another rookie sensation in Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers against Colorado’s top home run hitter Charlie Blackmon. Bellinger is the No. 3 seed and he plays left field for the Dodgers. He has been almost as big a story as Judge with 24 home runs this season and he is third on the list at +900 odds to win. The Rockies’ center fielder has the longest odds on the board at +2000 and I just cannot see Blackmon getting past either rookie on Monday night.

I am going chalk with Stanton all the way to the finals given his past success in this competition. From the other side of the bracket, I am going against the grain with Bellinger getting past Judge in what should be the best matchup of the night. When it comes to winning the 2017 Home Run Derby, I am riding the current champ to successfully defend his title in front of the home-town crowd as the best pure home run hitter in the field.

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