PENSACOLA, Fla.—Braves prospect Ronald Acuna and Reds prospect Gabby Guerrero treated fans at Blue Wahoos Park on Monday night to an epic display of power during the Southern League’s home run derby. It took three rounds and a tiebreaker rule, but Guerrero came out on top with 27 total home runs over the course of five rounds.
Of course, the derby was only supposed to last three rounds—the opener, the semifinals and the finals—but Acuña and Guerrero each hit seven balls out in the finals. Guerrero trailed Acuña late, but clubbed four out in roughly 40 seconds to put himself back equal.
Each player hit three more home runs in the one-minute swing-off that was supposed to break the tie and crown a champion. Instead, the powers that be declared—in the interest of saving time and energy—that if the second swing-off ended in a tie the champion would be the player with the most home runs overall.
That gave the advantage to Guerrero, who hit 17 in the first two rounds. And that’s exactly how it ended. Acuña and Guerrero hit two more homers apiece, and Guerrero, an outfielder with the hometown Blue Wahoos, was awarded the win. For his efforts, he was awarded a giant paddleboard.
“It was special. We put on a good show for the fans, and that’s good,” Guerrero said after being given the celebratory ice water shower by his teammates. “I’m tired right now, but I’m happy. We put on a good show for the fans.”
After being shut out during the first round, Acuña won a swing-off with Jackson’s Colin Walsh (Diamondbacks) to advance to the semifinals. Both Acuña and Walsh hit one home run, but Acuña’s ball went farther so he moved on to the next round. Once there, the raw power he’s been displaying across the minor leagues all season as he’s rocketed to Double-A as a 19-year-old started to show.
The dozen home runs he hit over the course of the battle with Guerrero were prodigious blasts, and they had to be. The wind was whipping in from left field off the shores of the Pensacola Bay, knocking down plenty of would-be home runs. The power display was no surprise to his teammates with Double-A Mississippi, however, who’ve witnessed his batting practice displays ever since he got promoted.
“He can play (a) little bit. He can play,” Mississippi lefthander Kolby Allard said. “It’s obviously fun to have him playing behind you and watch him hit.”
Guerrero’s win was especially interesting considering that, despite his massive raw power, he’d hit no home runs in the first half of the season. He said that he fed off the energy of the crowd, which cheered his every home run and went wild when he final homer left the yard during the second swing-off.
Guerrero is the cousin of former big league outfielder, nine-time all-star and 2004 American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero, but he wasn’t Vladimir’s only relative competing in a home run derby. One thousand miles north, at the Great Lakes Loons’ Dow Diamond, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was scheduled to take his hacks during the Midwest League’s festivities.
And you’d better believe bragging rights were on the line.
“I’m going to text him right now,” Guerrero said.