The home run is one of the most exciting plays in sports. Seeing a star player send a ball into orbit will never get old. So, we decided to imagine what it would be like for all 30 MLB teams to get together and send one player — past or present — to compete in an Ultimate Home Run Derby. Who do you think would come out on top?
30. Carlos Pena — Tampa Bay Rays
Career Home Run Total: 286 HR (163 w/Rays)
Having only been a Major League club since 1998, the Rays don’t have nearly as much historical significance compared to the majority of baseball. Still, there have been plenty of good players to roll through Tampa. Some include three-time All-Star Evan Longoria (Tampa’s all-time home run leader with 261 bombs), Fred McGriff, and Carl Crawford.
When it comes to the art of the long ball, however, Carlos Pena is Tampa’s most iconic slugger. The lefty is second all-time in Tampa history with 163 dingers. But compared to Longoria’s 10-year tenure as a Ray, Pena mashed at the Trop for just five years. From 2007-2010, Pena hit 144 homers — including an AL-best 39 HR in 2009.
29. Adrian Gonzalez — San Diego Padres
Career Home Run Total: 317 HR (161 w/Padres)
In more than 50 years as a franchise, the San Diego Padres have had just one player slug 50 or more home runs in a single-season. In 1998, Greg Vaughn hit 50 HR en route to finishing fourth for the NL MVP. The team has never been known to hit a ton of home runs, so the options are somewhat limited when determining San Diego’s preeminent slugger. Nate Colbert tops the all-time HR list with 163, and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield cranked 154 HR in eight years with the Pads.
Winfield would be a reasonable choice here, but Adrian Gonzalez is our pick. The sweet-swinging lefty played in San Diego for five years — between 2006-2010 — and hit 161 taters. The two-time Silver Slugger hit a career-high 40 HR in 2009, and 31 more in his final season as a Padre the following year.
28. Jeff Bagwell — Houston Astros
Career Home Run Total: 449 HR w/Astros
Jeff Bagwell has six of the Astros’ ten-most prolific single-season homer marks in club history. A lifetime Astro, Bagwell launched a franchise leading 47 home runs in 2000 (his third 40+ homer season in four years). From 1993-2004, Bagwell hit at least 20 dingers each year. Nobody in franchise history comes close to Bagwell’s 449 homers. Teammate Lance Berkman is second on Houston’s all-time list, falling 123 homers short of Bagwell. Bagwell’s unique batting stance helped create a ton of power for the Hall of Famer.
27. Luis Gonzalez — Arizona Diamondbacks
Career Home Run Total: 354 HR (224 w/Diamondbacks)
Best known for his walk-off single in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees, Luis Gonzalez ranks as the Diamondbacks’ top slugger. Like the Rays, Arizona entered the Majors in 1998. In their 25-plus years as a franchise, the Diamondbacks have fielded a few star hitters. Paul Goldschmidt was a six-time All-Star for the D-Backs, and sits second on Arizona’s home run leaderboard with 209 HR. Steve Finley, an outfielder on the ’01 team, hit 153 homers in six seasons.
However, the World Series hero is unquestionably the franchise’s premier slugger. Gonzalez joined the D-Backs in 1999 and hit 26 HR. After hitting 31 the following year, Gonzo exploded en route to Arizona’s World Series triumph. Gonzo mashed 57 HR and drove in 142 runs for the champs — finishing third for the NL MVP and taking home his only Silver Slugger award.
26. Carlos Delgado — Toronto Blue Jays
Career Home Run Total: 473 HR (336 w/Blue Jays)
Joe Carter hit the biggest home run in Blue Jays history. Jose Bautista launched a legendary moonshot (and bat flip) for the Jays a few years ago. However, the franchise’s top slugger is the man who appeared in Backyard Baseball — Carlos Delgado. Carter ranks fifth on Toronto’s HR leaderboard with 203 homers, Bautista is second with 288, and Delgado leads the way with 336. From 1996-2004, the powerful lefty averaged 36 HR per season. The Puerto Rico native topped 40 homers three times — 1999, 2000, 2003 — and hit a career-high 44 HR in ’99. Delgado hit some truly majestic shots, and his at-bats became can’t miss television on a nightly basis.
25. Bo Jackson — Kansas City Royals
Career Home Run Total: 141 HR (109 w/Royals)
Bo Jackson doesn’t crack the top-10 on Kansas City’s HR leaderboard, but that doesn’t matter to this writer. One of the greatest athletes of all-time, Jackson possessed superhuman strength — and it often showed when he swung a bat. In just 511 games with the Royals, Jackson smashed 109 dingers. In 1990, the uber athlete hit 28 HR in 111 games. Few things were as mesmerizing as watching Jackson take a healthy hack at the plate. George Brett is Kansas City’s all-time leader with 317 HR, but Jackson is easily the most impressive slugger in franchise history. If we’re putting together an epic Home Run Derby, Jackson has to be the Royals’ representative.
24. Larry Walker — Colorado Rockies
Career Home Run Total: 383 HR (258 w/Rockies)
Playing at altitude, the Rockies have always been associated with the long ball. Since entering the league in 1993, the Rockies have had their fair share of boppers. Dante Bichette tallied 201 HR in seven seasons, Andres “Big Cat” Galarraga smacked 172 in five years, Vinny Castilla notched 239, and recent sluggers Carlos Gonzalez (227) and Nolan Arenado (235) left their mark, as well.
In the end, however, it comes down to two players — Larry Walker and Todd Helton. Both men hit a franchise single-season record 49 HR (Walker in 1997, Helton in 2001). Helton holds the franchise record with 369 HR, but it took him 17 years to reach that mark. Walker is second all-time with 258, a feat accomplished in 10 years. When he was healthy, Colorado’s lone MVP was a marvel at the plate. His sweet swing resulted in titanic blasts into Coors Field’s right field bleachers. You can’t go wrong with Helton or Galarraga, but Walker deserves a spot in the ultimate Home Run Derby.
23. Juan Gonzalez — Texas Rangers
Career Home Run Total: 434 HR (372 w/Rangers)
The Rangers have had some elite home run hitters over the years. Back in the late 1960s, Frank Howard hit 136 homers over a three-year span for the then-Washington Senators. Alex Rodriguez tops the single-season HR leaderboard with 57 (2002) and 52 HR (’01) — and launched 156 HR in just three years with the club. In 10 years with the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro bashed 321 dingers.
Josh Hamilton could also be the choice here. Hamilton hit a career-high 43 HR in 2012, and also put together one of the most memorable Derby moments of all-time when he tore the house down at Yankee Stadium four years earlier. Ultimately, the top slugger title goes to Juan Gonzalez. Nicknamed ‘Juan Gone’, Gonzalez leads the Rangers with 372 career HR. With Texas, Gonzalez topped 40 HR five times and paced baseball in HR twice.
22. Cecil Fielder — Detroit Tigers
Career Home Run Total: 319 HR (245 w/Tigers)
For the Tigers, I’m going with pure power. The franchise has trotted out many historic players over the years, including some great sluggers. Hall of Famers Al Kaline and Hank Greenberg are first and fourth on Detroit’s all-time HR leaderboard with 399 and 306 HR, respectively. Future HoF Miguel Cabrera slugged 373 HR for the Tigers. In 1938, Greenberg launched a franchise record 58 homers.
With that being said, Cecil Fielder gets the nod to represent the Tigers in the all-time Derby. After spending a season playing in Japan, Fielder returned to the States in 1990 and proceeded to dominate in the box. Fielder led the Majors in home runs two years in a row. The monstrous man mashed 51 dingers in ’90, which was 11 more than the next closest player. His 44 HR the following year was only matched by Oakland’s Jose Canseco. In a little less than seven seasons with the Tigers, Fielder smacked 245 HR — the sixth-most in franchise history.
21. Harmon Killebrew — Minnesota Twins
Career Home Run Total: 573 HR, 559 w/Twins
Harmon Killebrew spent 21 of his 22 years with the Minnesota Twins franchise — playing for the Washington Senators from 1954-1960 before the team moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. The Hall of Famer is in a league of his own when it comes to both home runs and overall greatness within the organization. Killebrew leads the franchise with 559 HR — Kent Hrbek is second with 293 HR — and has the six-best single-season HR tallies. The legend led the league in homers six times, topped 40 HR on eight occasions, and averaged 40 dingers over a 12-year stretch.
20. Johnny Bench — Cincinnati Reds
Career Home Run Total: 389 HR w/Reds
The Reds have a handful of good options to choose from for the ultimate Home Run Derby. The man who occupies the No. 5 spot on Cincinnati’s all-time HR leaderboard, Adam Dunn, was an absolute bomber. While he was never a good all-around hitter, Dunn hit some of the loudest and furthest homers the league has ever seen. The Big Donkey was a Reds player for eight seasons. He launched 270 HR during that timeframe (including four-straight 40 HR seasons).
Johnny Bench leads the franchise with 389 dingers, and twice led baseball (’70, ’72) with 45 and 40 HR seasons. Frank Robinson sent 324 balls over the fence while with the Reds. He has a clear argument to be the pick here, but we will be seeing him a little bit later on in the piece. Bench is the man for the job.
19. Shohei Ohtani — Los Angeles Angels
Career Home Run Total: 171 HR w/Angels (through 2023 season)
Shohei Ohtani is the most impressive home run hitter the franchise has ever seen. Mike Trout is the franchise’s best player and all-time home run leader (368 and counting), but he is not viewed as a pure HR hitter. While Trout has hit 27 to 45 HR in each full season of his career, even he doesn’t have the sheer power that Ohtani possesses. Shohei hits missile after missile. If he doesn’t hit a majestic shot, it is truly a shock. If we’re putting together an all-time Derby, Ohtani needs to be involved.
18. Duke Snider — Los Angeles Dodgers
Career Home Run Total: 407 HR (389 w/Dodgers)
Despite being one of the most iconic franchises in baseball — not to mention the world — the Dodgers haven’t had an iconic slugger spend the majority of his career with the club. However, that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t had its fair share of studs. Mike Piazza hit 177 HR before being traded. Roy Campanella, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Matt Kemp hit over 200 homers for the Dodgers. Gil Hodges is second all-time with 361 bombs.
Other stars like Shawn Green (49), Adrian Beltre (48), Cody Bellinger (47), and Gary Sheffield (43) enjoyed big single-season efforts. One man — Duke Snider — put together a string of explosive seasons for the franchise. While the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn, Snider launched 316 HR and posted five-straight 40-plus HR seasons. Other Dodger stars may have more notoriety as power hitters, but Snider is deserving of this spot. His consistent HR prowess stands alone in Dodger history.
17. Mike Schmidt — Philadelphia Phillies
Career Home Run Total: 548 HR w/Phillies
Mike Schmidt or Ryan Howard, who are you taking? Howard was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005 after hitting 22 homers in 88 games, but nobody could have predicted what would happen next. En route to winning the 2006 NL MVP, Howard smashed 58 HR. The next three years, Howard would add 47, 48, and 45 HR to his tally. But after hitting 220 HR in five years, the slugger would only manage to hit 160 over his final seven seasons.
When it comes to Schmidt, the Hall of Famer was able to sustain his power stroke for a much longer time. From 1974-1987, he hit 31 or more homers in all but one season. A three-time MVP, Schmidt led baseball in dingers six times and paced the NL eight times. For as fun as Howard’s peak was, Schmidt’s greatness is unmatched in Philadelphia Phillies history.
16. Darryl Strawberry — New York Mets
Career Home Run Total: 335 HR (252 w/Mets)
Between Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry, the Mets have two fantastic sluggers in their historical ranks. Strawberry was a towering presence in the box with a sweet left-handed swing. The eight-time All-Star is the Mets’ all-time leader with 252 HR. He also won a Home Run Derby while with the club. Piazza is third in Mets history with 220 homers, and is responsible for one of the greatest moments in baseball history. The Hall of Fame catcher famously hit a massive home run in New York’s first game following 9/11. Pete Alonso slugged a single-season record 53 HR as a rookie and has two Home Run Derby titles, but he has work to do to catch Strawberry and Piazza.
15. Reggie Jackson — Oakland Athletics
Career Home Run Total: 563 HR (269 w/Athletics)
The A’s have a handful of top tier options for a hypothetical all-time Derby. Though Mark McGwire is the franchise leader with 363 homers, he will be representing a National League club. Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx hit 302 dingers while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics — including a franchise record 58 HR in 1932. The franchise has also fielded famed sluggers Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi. However, the nod goes to Reggie Jackson.
Mr. October is third on the A’s all-time list with 269 homers. In his first stint with the franchise, Jackson smashed 47 HR in his age-23 season, and twice led the league in homers. Additionally, Jackson launched one of the more memorable blasts of all-time when he hit a home run off the light tower at Tiger Stadium in the 1971 All-Star Game.
14. Manny Ramirez — Boston Red Sox
Career Home Run Total: 555 HR (274 w/Red Sox)
I can hear the outrage now — “Are you serious? Do you know who Ted Williams is? How about a guy named Big Papi? Yaz!!!” Yep, I’ve heard of them all. And guess what? I’ll take Manny. Williams is a legend of the game. He leads Boston with 521 all-time homers, and he still lost three seasons due to Military Service. Yaz hit 452 homers with the Sox, but only hit more than 28 dingers three times. David Ortiz is another logical pick. Big Papi holds the single-season record with 54 HR (2006), is second in Boston history with 483, and had a powerful left-handed swing.
Still, give me Manny. Ramirez smacked 274 homers for the Sox over 7.5 years. From 2001-2006, Man-Ram averaged 39 HR. For me, Manny’s personality is the difference-maker. In addition to having a beautiful swing, Manny’s flair for the game was always amazing to watch. Sorry, Boston fans. Don’t be too mad.
13. Frank Robinson — Baltimore Orioles
Career Home Run Total: 586 HR (179 w/Orioles)
Frank Robinson doesn’t crack the top-10 leaderboard in Orioles history, but he is the choice here. Cal Ripken Jr. leads the O’s with 431 homers, and fellow Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Brooks Robinson also land in the top-5. Robinson started his career with the Reds, where he hit 324 dingers in 10 seasons. In his first season with the Orioles, Robinson cranked an MLB-best 49 home runs, led the AL with 122 RBI, and won the MVP for good measure. In just six years with the O’s, Robinson sent 179 balls over the outfield fence. If there is going to be an ultimate Derby, Robinson needs to be a part of it.
12. Frank Thomas — Chicago White Sox
Career Home Run Total: 521 HR (448 w/White Sox)
Can you, in good faith, leave out a guy nicknamed ‘Big Hurt’? Absolutely not. At 6-foot-5, 240 (generous) pounds, Thomas was an absolute monster on the field. After making a 60-game debut in 1990, Thomas became a full-time player in ’91 and immediately established himself as a premier slugger. From 1991-2000, Thomas mashed 337 HR and 350 doubles — including four 40-plus HR campaigns. The two-time MVP is 16 homers ahead of Paul Konerko on the White Sox all-time leaderboard. In a true testament to his power, Thomas’ swing wasn’t geared towards hitting home runs — but instead line drives. The man was so strong that the ball had no choice but to leave the yard, no matter the trajectory.
11. Jim Thome — Cleveland Guardians
Career Home Run Total: 612 HR (337 w/Guardians)
Travis Hafner had a moment for Cleveland, hitting a total of 200 HR while with the organization. Before becoming a legend with the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez slugged 236 dingers in Cleveland — including 45, 44, and 38 in his final three years. Albert Belle was a four-time Silver Slugger with the club, and hit 242 HR in a little over six full seasons. But standing alone atop the leaderboard is Jim Thome. Thome’s 337 dingers squash Belle’s second-place total. After hitting 49 HR in 2001, Thome hit a franchise-record 52 bombs the following year. The man hit massive home runs for many, many years.
10. Vladimir Guerrero — Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos
Career Home Run Total: 449 HR (234 w/Expos)
While his son is making waves in the American League currently, Vlad Guerrero remains the family’s top ball player. The then-Montreal Expos turned Washington Nationals have had some solid sluggers over the years. The franchise’s top-5 home run hitters are Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman (284 HR), Montreal’s Guerrero (234), MTL’s Andre Dawson (225), MTL’s Gary Carter (220), and MTL’s Tim Wallach (204). Before leaving for Philadelphia, Bryce Harper hit 184 HR for the Nats.
Despite being second on the franchise’s leaderboard, Vlad is the clear pick for this exercise. At the age of 23, Guerrero hit 38 homers. Over his next four seasons, Guerrero went on to slug 42, 44, 34, and 39 taters. In his years an everyday player with the Expos, Vlad averaged 37 homers per season. His ferocious swing was second to none and truly a sight to behold.
9. Prince Fielder — Milwaukee Brewers
Career Home Run Total: 319 HR (230 w/Brewers)
Like father, like son. Just as Cecil Fielder launched homers deep into the bleachers, Prince followed suit. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 275 pounds, Fielder became one of the most beloved players in baseball during his peak. After a brief 39-game debut in 2005, Fielder hit 28 homers as a rookie the following year. As a 23-year-old in ’07, Prince led the National League with 50 HR. Although he would never reach that threshold again, the slugger hit 150 HR over the next four years for the Brewers. The two-time Derby champion is third on Milwaukee’s HR leaderboard — trailing Ryan Braun (352) and Robin Yount (251). However, Fielder is undoubtedly the best man to represent the Brew Crew in an ultimate Home Run Derby.
8. Willie Stargell — Pittsburgh Pirates
Career Home Run Total: 475 HR w/Pirates
The Pirates are one of baseball’s most storied franchises, so it isn’t surprising to see the Hall of Fame names that appear on their home run leaderboard. Barry Bonds — before he became a home run hitting monster — comes in at No. 5 with 176. Former MVP Andrew McCutchen (215 and counting) is fourth behind Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente (240) and Ralph Kiner (301). But sitting at the top of the leaderboard by a wide margin is Stargell.
Over the course of a 21-year career with the Pirates, Stargell launched 475 HR and twice led baseball in dingers — 48 in 1971 and 44 in ’73. Kiner was unbelievable for the Pirates. He led baseball in homers seven years in a row and averaged 41 HR per year while in Pittsburgh. However, Stargell’s power was legendary. He is only one-of-four players to hit a HR out of Dodger Stadium (he did it twice).
7. Giancarlo Stanton — Miami Marlins
Career Home Run Total: 402 HR (through 2023 season), 267 w/Marlins
Only a franchise since 1993, the Marlins don’t have many sluggers to pick from. Gary Sheffield — 122 HR in six seasons — would be a fun choice, as his combination of bat speed, power, and style made him an electric player to watch. In four and a half seasons with the Marlins, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera launched 138 HR (5th all-time). Mike Lowell and Hanley Ramirez also had their moments, but Giancarlo is in his own stratosphere. Not only does he lead the franchise with 267 HR — 113 ahead of Dan Uggla — but he also hit a franchise record 59 HR in 2017. Stanton hits the ball harder than anybody and usually further than anybody, as well.
6. Sammy Sosa — Chicago Cubs
Career Home Run Total: 609 HR (545 w/Cubs)
Corked bat? Steroids? I hear your accusations and it doesn’t change my mind — Sosa is the player that I would pick to represent the franchise in an ultimate Home Run Derby. Sosa leads the franchise with 545 HR and also has five of the ten best single-season home run performances. This is how many homers Sosa hit from 1998-2002: 66, 63, 50, 64, 49. Ernie Banks is second in team history with 512 HR, and the legend is certainly the best player in franchise history. However, Sosa is the greatest home run hitter to play home games at Wrigley Field.
5. Mark McGwire — St. Louis Cardinals
Career Home Run Total: 583 HR (220 w/Cardinals)
McGwire could have been the pick for Oakland, but his tenure in St. Louis was simply extraordinary. Big Mac isn’t the Cardinals’ all-time home run leader. In fact, he is far from it. The iconic Stan Musial is first with 475 HR — but it took him 22 years to reach that number (and he never hit 40 homers in a single-season). Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols comes in behind Musial with 469 dingers.
In his first 11 years with the Red Birds, Pujols never hit less than 32 HR and topped out at 49. Acquired by St. Louis towards the end of the 1997 season, McGwire hit 24 HR in 51 games. In ’98, Big Mac hit a then-record 70 home runs. In ’99, McGwire blasted 65 more. In total, McGwire launched 220 HR in just 545 games as a Cardinal. Yeah, that is special.
4. Ken Griffey Jr. — Seattle Mariners
Career Home Run Total: 630 HR (417 w/Mariners)
Was it ever going to be anyone else? Ken Griffey Jr. is arguably the coolest baseball player of all-time. Possessing the most beautiful left-handed swing of all-time, Griffey made a habit out of sending souvenirs into the bleachers. From 1996-99, Junior hit 209 HR — 49, back-to-back 56 HR seasons, and 48 in ’99. While with the Mariners, Griffey led the American League in homers four times. Oh, and he was a three-time Home Run Derby champ.
3. Babe Ruth — New York Yankees
Career Home Run Total: 714 HR (659 w/Yankees)
Mickey Mantle, 536 HR. Lou Gehrig, 493. Joe DiMaggio, 361. Yogi Berra, 358. Alex Rodriguez, 351. Aaron Judge, 62 HR in 2022. The Yankees have no shortage of Hall of Fame hitters. Every player listed above sans Judge is considered an all-time great (yes, A-Rod is a legend despite his suspension). Then there is Roger Maris, the man who hit 61 homers in 1961. However, Babe Ruth is the clear and obvious choice for this exercise. The Bambino hit 659 of his 714 homers in pinstripes. Ruth led baseball in homers 12 times, and finished seasons with 54 (twice), 59, and 60 dingers. The Sultan of Swat stands alone.
2. Hank Aaron — Atlanta Braves
Career Home Run Total: 755 HR (733 w/Braves)
Hank Aaron, the man who is second all-time with 755 home runs, is a lock for the ultimate Derby. Aaron never hit more than 47 HR in a season, but finished 20 seasons with 20 or more shots. Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones, Dale Murphy, and Andruw Jones (who holds Atlanta’s single-season record with 51 HR) all had some serious pop, but they aren’t in Aaron’s realm. Hammerin’ Hank is the top dog.
1. Barry Bonds — San Francisco Giants
Career Home Run Total: 762 HR (586 w/Giants)
Did you really think I’d leave out Barry Bonds after including Sosa, McGwire, and Manny Ramirez? The all-time home run king isn’t even atop the Giants’ all-time leaderboard. That honor belongs to Willie Mays. Mays hit 646 HR with the Giants, led the league four times, and topped the 50-HR mark twice (1955, 1965). Mays and Bonds aren’t the only mashers in Giants history, either. Mel Ott slugged 511 homers, and Willie McCovey hit 469. From 1990-2004, Bonds never hit less than 25 homers. In 2001, he launched an MLB-record 73 HR. Bonds is the greatest home run hitter of all-time, period.