SAN DIEGO—When Brooklyn's Nicholas Storz walked to the plate at Petco Park to take his swings in the Junior Home Run Derby, he looked like a potential home run derby champ.
Storz is massive (6-foot-6, 248 pounds). His swings have the bat speed and violence you expect from a power hitter, and he's already mastered the delicate dance of weight transfer as he used his lower half to power through the ball.
Chandler, Ariz., first baseman Nick Brueser does not have Storz’s size—he's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. He doesn't have Storz's bat speed. But he does have a chance to top Storz when the finals of the junior derby take place Monday night during the MLB Home Run Derby.
Storz hit seven home runs in the first round and added one more in the second round to advance to Monday’s finals. Hunter Greene and Brueser were tied with five home runs after the first round. But while Greene was shut out in his five second-round swings, Brueser hit one more to break the tie.
The two finalists were a contrast in styles. Once Storz began connecting, he was hitting lengthy home runs that registered long hang times before reaching the seats. Brueser did an excellent job of pulling line drive after line drive that found the left-field seats.
According to StatCast, Brueser's longest home run was 387 feet. Storz's longest was 432 feet and all but one of his home runs traveled at least 390 feet.
"It’s just surreal, the whole thing, especially the way they’ve treated us since we got here. We’ve been treated like celebrities," said Brueser, a Stanford commit out of Hamilton High in Chandler and the Arizona Gatorade state player of the year. "To get to hit in this ballpark and be around these guys, we’ve had tons of fun. I mean, we’re in this perfect ballpark, I made the finals, it’s San Diego and it’s like 75 degrees. It’s 120 where I’m from in Arizona. This is pretty great."
Two years ago, Luken Baker won the junior home run derby in Minneapolis even though there were a lot of scouts who preferred Baker's power arm to his power bat. Storz draws some similar discussions as he's 90-94 mph as a pitcher as well, but his power also impresses. He also won the home run derby at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars.
"In this type of situation, you want to get the pitch you want and stay calm. It's finding the pitch you want and hitting it as hard as you can," said Storz, who attends New York’s Poly Prep and is committed to Louisiana State. "I can only imagine (what it will be like Monday). It's going to be an unreal experience. I'm looking forward to it."
Greene, out of Notre Dame Prep in Sherman Oaks, Calif., also impressed with his power. He took a little while to warm up before finding his range to his five home runs before reaching 10 outs. Greene hit a trio of 400-plus foot home runs including a 429-footer into the second-level seats in left center field.
The longest home run of the derby was hit by Jayson Gonzalez of Bishop Amat High in Covina, Calif., with a 437-footer to center field.