Home runs rule in 2019, and tonight's $1 million Derby proves it

MLB HR Derby ESPN illustration

As the Year of the Home Run collides with an annual All-Star home run tradition with $1 million on the line for the first time, we dive into the numbers behind the home run spike and the sluggers you'll be watching swing for the fences in Cleveland on Monday night.

Here's what you need to know about how home runs are taking over baseball and how the Home Run Derby proves it.

All-Star coverage: All-Star Week guide | ESPN+: How sluggers are preparing | Rosters, how to watch

The new sultans of swat

Baseballs are leaving the yard more frequently than ever, and the game's top sluggers are taking advantage of the rise. We could see the game's first 60-plus home run season since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa eclipsed the mark in 2001. And even if Christian Yelich can't break 60, you can expect to see several 50- and 40-homer campaigns come October.

It all adds up to a lot

Remember that record-setting year of long balls way back in 2017? Well, that number isn't looking so big these days. With 14 teams projected to set their franchise record, MLB is on a pace not just to best that total -- but to smash the mark.

The big payoff comes tonight

The stakes will be higher than ever during tonight's Home Run Derby, as one powerful slugger will be rewarded with a $1 million prize for one night of long-ball work. For some of the contestants competing in Cleveland, that means they could make more money in a few hours than they'll be paid for the entire 2019 season.

And we'll be watching

Remember the days when the Home Run Derby was a clear warm-up act for the main event of the Midsummer Classic? That's not how it works anymore. While the game itself is still baseball's marquee of attraction of the summer, more and more fans are watching their favorite stars go deep as a part of how they celebrate the festivities.