Ronald Acuna Jr. will be representing the Atlanta Braves in tonight’s Home Run Derby. Acuna can make history for the Braves tonight if he can win. Ten other Braves have tried before him. Let’s look at how other Braves have fared in the Home Run Derby.
The first ever Home Run Derby was in 1985 and Dale Murphy was Braves representative. The initial format of the Home Run Derby was American League against National League. Each league had five hitters and whichever team hit more home runs was the winner. Murphy hit 4 home runs, second-most for the National League side. However, it wouldn’t be enough, and the American League won the opening Home Run Derby 17-16.
1987-Ozzie Virgil Jr.
I’m not very familiar with Ozzie Virgil Jr.’s time with the Braves. He played for the Braves for a couple of seasons, and in between those years, participated in the Home Run Derby in 1987. The format of the Home Run Derby had changed once 1987 had rolled around, with only two representatives from both leagues. Ozzie hit two home runs, one more than George Bell and Mark McGwire, but losing to Andre Dawson, who hit 4 to win the 1987 Home Run Derby.
The Braves lacked representation for a few seasons until 1993 when David Justice was apart of the Home Run Derby that season. 1993 was a stacked year with Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Albert Belle, Cecil Fielder, Bobby Bonilla, and Mike Piazza. Justice didn’t fare well against his competition and was eliminated after the first round with two home runs. Juan Gonzalez would go on to win the Home Run Derby in 1993.
1994- Fred McGriff
Fred McGriff had the best showing of any Braves player since the opening Home Run Derby and Dale Murphy’s 4 home runs. Unfortunately for McGriff, Ken Griffey Jr. was in this Home Run Derby, too. McGriff was outdone by Griffey, who hit 7 home runs to win the Derby in 1994.
The first of Chipper’s three Home Run Derby appearances came this year. Another format change had taken place, this time making it more a tournament style Derby with players who hit the most home runs advancing to the next round. Chipper along with Ken Griffey Jr., Brady Anderson, Ray Lankford, Nomar Garciparra, and Jim Thome all were eliminated after the first round. However, Chipper did hit three home runs, better than Lankford, Nomar, and Thome.
Two Braves in the 1998 Home Run Derby. This was at the height of the Braves power movement, and baseball’s power surge. However, for the Braves players, they weren’t able to advance in this year either. Lopez, who hit 5, had the best chance, but didn’t have enough. Chipper had his worst performance in all his Derby’s, only hitting one.
Chipper was a popular name in the Home Run Derby in the late 90s/early 2000s. This would be the last season Chipper would compete in the Home Run Derby. This Derby was being held in Atlanta so maybe the extra motivation of the home crowd would push the Atlanta legend to a win. Not so fast. Again, Chipper was eliminated after the first round, posting two home runs for his efforts. Chipper was a great Braves, but not so great Home Run Derby participant.
Gary Sheffield spent two seasons with the Braves. The power hitting outfielder enjoyed a productive stint with the Braves, and even took place in the 2003 Home Run Derby. Sheffield seemed like the Braves best chance ever in any Home Run Derby up to this point of the competition, but was eliminated after the first round, too. Sheffield was bounced when Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols tied with 4 home runs in the first round, but got the nod over Sheffield for their higher season-to-date home run totals.
The Braves had another shot at the Home Run Derby in 2005 with their power hitting, gold glove center fielder Andruw Jones. In the 2005 season, Jones led the league with 51 home runs. It was an incredible power season for the Braves center fielder. That power didn’t transfer over to the Derby, however, and Jones was eliminated in the first round.
The Braves had a big gap between Home Run Derby participation between Jones and Freeman. The Braves had players who could have competed, Jeff Francouer, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, but Freeman was the first in 2018. The format has taken another change since the Braves last participant. Now the players were seeded and face off in one-on-one affairs. Freeman was matched up with Bryce Haprer, who hit 13 home runs and eliminating Freeman in the first round. A constellation prize for Freeman was hit total of 12, surpassing any previous Braves player’s total.
2019-Ronald Acuna Jr.
Acuna is the next in a long line of Braves players to compete in this competition. And with Riley, Albies, Freeman, still on the roster, the Braves have a chance to have more players in the future. Acuna is a long shot in tonight’s competition. He will be matched up with Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first round. If Acuna can win tonight, he will be the first Braves player ever to win the Home Run Derby.