The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place at Nationals Park on Monday, July 16, and Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper will participate in the event ... under one condition.
According to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, Harper said Friday he will participate in the Home Run Derby if and only if he's an All-Star. From Svrluga:
"So count me in for the Derby if and only if I make the team," Harper said in a text message to The Washington Post Friday afternoon. "But if I do I will be a participant in the 2018 HR Derby."
Many players have participated in the Home Run Derby without being an All-Star over the years, including 2016 Home Run Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton. It's possible Harper is planning a quick vacation -- lots of players spend the All-Star break on an island somewhere -- and doesn't want to stick around town during the break if it's not necessary.
Truth be told, Harper has not had an All-Star caliber season to date. He does lead the National League with 19 home runs, though he's hitting .213/.352/.469 (119 OPS+) with plus-0.4 WAR through 73 team games. Among NL outfielders, Harper is ninth in OPS+ and 39th in WAR. It has not been a typical Bryce Harper season so far.
Now, that said, Harper is currently in line to start the All-Star Game thanks to the fan voting. His lead on a starting spot is over 300,000 votes as of this week's update. The All-Star Game is in Nationals Park and I imagine Nationals fans are stuffing the ballot box because they want to see their players in the game.
MLB is reportedly pushing Harper to participate in the Home Run Derby, but now it's up to the All-Star selection process. Here are the eight players we want to see in the Home Run Derby.