Barring any injury replacements, no Twins will be participating in the Home Run Derby this year. No Twins are currently in the top-15 of MLB in dingers, although that’s not necessarily a reason - Nelson Cruz’s 18 bombs is more than Derby participants Trey Mancini (15), Pete Alonso (15), Trevor Story (11), and Juan Soto (10) currently have. However, there are good reasons for all of these players to be included. Trey Mancini is bouncing back wonderfully after a bout with cancer, Pete Alonso is the reigning champ, the Derby will take place in Trevor Story’s home stadium, and Juan Soto is one of the best young stars in the game. In addition to these players, MLB leader Shohei Ohtani, Matt Olson, Salvador Perez, and Joey Gallo will be swinging for the crown. Personally, I would’ve liked to see Cruz get a shot at the Derby in what’s sure to be one of his last great seasons, but it’s hard to complain. He probably would rather be napping anyway.
However, even if the Twins don’t have any participants this year, there is a rich history of Twins in the Home Run Derby. The Derby as an official All-Star weekend event was even established in Minnesota - in 1985, at the good ol’ Metrodome. Let’s take a look at how Twins have fared in the Home Run Derby since then.
1985- Tom Brunansky
At the first official Derby, Twin Tom Brunansky was chosen as the now-traditional “hometown contestant”. In what would be his only year as an All-Star, Bruno went up against such greats as Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Jim Rice, Eddie Murray, and Pudge Fisk - however, it was Dave Parker who took home the title with a whopping six home runs. Brunansky finished in a tie for second place with four dingers.
1989- Gary Gaetti
Soon after Brunansky’s turn at the Derby, the last (only?) great Twins third baseman ed note: how dare he disparage Nicky Punto like this? gave it a try. Taking place at Anaheim Stadium, all the totals were down that year. Ruben Sierra of the AL and Eric Davis of the NL tied for the win, with 3 homers each, and Gaetti unfortunately brought up the rear with 0 home runs.
2002- Torii Hunter
One of Torii’s best seasons was marked with his first All-Star nod, as well as a swing at the Home Run Derby. 2002 was a particularly stacked year, as slugging greats Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, Paul Konerko, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds competed, along with Hunter, Lance Berkman, and the “hometown contestant”, Brewer Richie Sexson. Hunter finished fifth, missing the cut to advance to the second round. Jason Giambi took home the hardware.
2007 & 2008- Justin Morneau
The Twins’ only two-time participant, and only champion, Justin Morneau is the un-challenged greatest Derby-ist in franchise history. Morneau, like Hunter, finished fifth and missed the cut to advance to the second round in 2007. Vlad Guerrero took home the title that year, at AT&T Park.
2008 has forever been known as the “Josh Hamilton” Derby- and rightfully so, as Hamilton slammed an unreal 28 home runs in one round. However, it was the first round, and a more well-rested Morneau would best Hamilton in both the semi-finals and finals. It was the last (and only) great Twins win at Yankee Stadium.
2009- Joe Mauer
Joe’s MVP campaign, and most powerful season, was marked with a trip to the Home Run Derby in St. Louis. Prince Fielder took home the title, and Mauer missed the second-round cut. However, he performed admirably, only missing the cut after losing a swing-off to sluggers Albert Pujols and Carlos Pena. Interestingly enough, none other than Nelson Cruz finished 2nd in this Derby, which was his only appearance.
2014- Brian Dozier
On the upswing of his career, Dozier was chosen to participate in the Derby as the hometown guy, with the contest taking place at Target Field. However, Dozier struggled in the Derby, finishing with only two home runs. Yoenis Cespedes took home the title, and other participants of note included current Twin Josh Donaldson, and former Twin Justin Morneau.
2017- Miguel Sano
Now under the matchup bracket format, a young Miguel Sano took a swing at the Derby in his only All-Star appearance. He was a deserving pick, with a terrific first half of the season marked by 21 home runs. Sano came the closest to winning that any Twin has besides Morneau, losing in the final round by only one home run to Aaron Judge. At Marlins Park, Sano took down Mark Moustakas and Gary Sanchez by one home run each before falling at the hands of Judge.