The home runs are flying! Nine players have already reached 10 home runs with plenty more on cusp of a double-digit total. While we shouldn’t expect this many players to continue a 60 homer pace – Mookie Betts is on pace for 78 big flies – it’s looking increasingly likely that multiple players will surpass the 50 homer plateau. Injuries and regression will knock a few of these guys off the leaderboard. Others will climb to take their place. Remember, we just played through the coldest month. More home runs are on the horizon.
Last season, only Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge homered over 50 times. Khris Davis, J.D. Martinez, and Joey Gallo were the only others to reach 40 home runs. This year, it should surprise nobody if 10 or more players exceeded 40 home runs. Let’s review recent history for context. Prior to last season, nobody had homered 50 times since Chris Davis in 2013. Only one other player (Jose Bautista, 2010) has eclipsed the 50 homer plateau in this decade.
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Week Six Leaders
Mookie Betts: 5 HR
A.J. Pollock: 4 HR
Matt Adams: 4 HR
Bryce Harper: 4 HR
Nomar Mazara: 4 HR
Ryon Healy: 4 HR
In the April 21 edition of The Homer Report, Betts sat atop the weekly leaderboard with four home runs. Hey look, he’s back. The bulk of the damage was delivered via a three-homer game against the Royals. He also tops the season leaderboard with 13 big flies. Betts is flashing elite power potential. He’s making frequent hard, pulled, fly ball contact.
If he were to maintain his current batted ball profile, he would hit about 58 more home runs this season. Ludicrous, right? He’s due for some regression on his 52.7 percent fly ball rate, 26.5 percent HR/FB ratio, and 49.5 percent hard contact rate. However, because he’s such a high-contact batter, any sustained improvement in his power profile could have huge repercussions. For example, imagine he maintains a 50 percent fly ball rate with only 13 percent HR/FB – that’s a hair above his career norm. In this scenario, he’d still hit another 29 home runs over the rest of the season.
For a second consecutive week, my Power Spotlight pick has hammered four home runs. With 10 home runs already in the bank through early May, Pollock is already a near-lock to set a career high (currently 20 home runs in 2015). Only injury can stand in his way.
Harper showing up on a home run leaderboard is no surprise. Seeing Adams certainly qualifies as a shock. The banged-up Nationals have been using him as their third hitter. He’s rewarded the club with an epic hot streak. Since April 25, he’s batting .444/.531/1.037 with five home runs in 32 plate appearances. He won’t sustain the fluky strong performance, but fantasy owners should still take notice as long as he’s batting directly after Harper and Trea Turner.
Mazara seems like he should be a power hitter. Unfortunately, he has the batted ball profile of Christian Yelich blended with below average plate discipline. A third straight 20 home run season feels like a lock. Achieving more than that could be a challenge. As for Healy, he’s finally back in action. He tends to be a volatile hitter, mixing hot streaks and two-homer games with long slumps. Since returning from the disabled list, he has four home runs and a .300/.300/.733 batting line in 30 plate appearances.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 11 HR, 47 HR projectedJoey Gallo, Texas Rangers: 10 HR, 45 HR projected Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: 12 HR, 42 HR projected Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: 7 HR, 41 HR projected Aaron Judge, New York Yankees: 8 HR, 41 HR projected
Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics: 8 HR, 41 HR projected
Charlie Blackmon, Milwaukee Brewers: 11 HR, 40 HR projected
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: 9 HR, 40 HR projectedMookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: 13 HR, 40 HR projected J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: 7 HR, 39 HR projected
You may have noticed I’ve updated my personal top 10 list. In case it’s not clear, the first number is current home runs. The second number is projected home runs. The methodology used is pretty simple. I estimate remaining plate appearances and remove strikeouts and walks. This gives me a projected total of batted balls. I multiply by projected fly ball rate and again by projected HR/FB ratio. The end result is projected home runs. For a player to exceed my projections, he’ll either need to hit more fly balls or post a higher ratio of home runs per fly ball. Stanton and Judge in particular are capable of destroying my expectations. I estimated 28 percent HR/FB, but they both achieved 35 percent HR/FB last season. This isn’t a perfect process – it’s just back of the envelope math.
Didi Gregorius was bumped to 11th place for now (39 HR projected). I still believe in the adjustments he’s made. His home park plays a large role in my optimism. I went back and forth on moving up Bryce Harper. That’s ultimately what made me decide to report the projected end of season totals. The process made me realize I was massively underrating Gallo’s power. Even with the second fewest projected plate appearances of this group, Gallo’s crazy 54 percent fly ball rate parlays to home run leader potential.
***Randal Grichuk, Toronto Blue Jays
***Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
***Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
***Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
***Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
***Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Greg Bird, New York Yankees
Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
***denotes new injury
Four players escaped the disabled list recently, namely Mark Trumbo, Steven Souza, Josh Donaldson, and Carlos Gonzalez. Donaldson immediately fired up a pair of home runs and doubles during Friday’s lengthy doubleheader. The other three have been quiet. Anthony Rendon and Jonathan Schoop are expected to return this week.
Of the six freshly disabled sluggers, the most serious injury belongs to Seager. He’ll miss the remainder of the season for Tommy John surgery. Hamstring woes have befallen Cabrera, Sano, and Yoan Moncada (not expected to need a DL stint). Myers has a strained oblique. Note the coincidence of his return to the outfield and crumbling health. Puig hurt his hip and foot. He may be back on May 8. Grichuk sprained his knee.
Teams Visiting Launching Pads
For Opening Week, I provided a detailed report on home run park factors (skip to the part titled “Park Factors” on page two). This section will be used to highlight which teams are visiting the most homer happy venues – namely Citizen’s Bank Park, Coors Field, Yankee Stadium, and Great American Ballpark.
The Giants and Mets are visiting Philadelphia. It’s a big upgrade for San Fran “sluggers” like Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Alen Hanson, Brandon Crawford, and Austin Slater. I assume you don’t have ready access to Buster Posey or Andrew McCutchen. Notable Mets include Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Brandon Nimmo. The club is finally showing a willingness to bench Adrian Gonzalez in favor of Nimmo (via moving Bruce to first base).
The Angels and Brewers will arrive at Coors Field this week. Ian Kinsler, Luis Valbuena, Kole Calhoun, and Albert Pujols can be found on some waiver wires. With Ryan Braun day-to-day, Jesus Aguilar may receive some starts at first. Domingo Santana is the other potentially available Brewer.
The Marlins and the Mets play at Great American Ballpark. Derek Dietrich, Brian Anderson, Martin Prado, Starlin Castro, Lewis Brinson, and Miguel Rojas are some of the guys I’m trying. They’re (deservedly) on the waiver wire in most formats. Use the same Mets are mentioned above.
The Yankees host the Indians, Red Sox, and Athletics this week. Yonder Alonso, Bradley Zimmer, and Tyler Naquin are threats for the remainder of the weekend. Boston doesn’t offer us easily acquired power bats. Jackie Bradley is the lone exception, and he’s struggling. The same isn’t true of the Athletics. You can probably “buy high” on Jed Lowrie very cheaply. I’ve seen plenty of shares of Matt Joyce, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, and Stephen Piscotty floating around waivers too.
This spotlight feature is still new. I like to think of it as an opportunity to identify players who might be underappreciated by their current owner. So far, Mitch Haniger and A.J. Pollock have rewarded my attention with instant gratification. Can Yangervis Solarte continue the trend?
Unlike Haniger and Pollock, Solarte’s hot start isn’t really attributable to a change in profile. He’s currently batting .277/.360/.555 with nine home runs in 136 plate appearances. He bats cleanup most days, ensuring healthy run production. He’s never hit more than 18 home runs in a season. With health, he’ll easily leapfrog that figure in 2018.
As I’ve hinted, the batting profile is basically unchanged. He’s a high contact switch-hitter with around a 40 percent fly ball rate from both sides of the plate. A move from pitcher friendly Petco Park to the homer happy Rogers Centre accounts for much of my optimism. Other AL East venues are even more generous to power bats.
Although Solarte won’t maintain his current 20.5 percent HR/FB ratio, I do expect a career best figure – something around 15 percent. This may also be his first season of true everyday action. I’m projecting another 23 home runs in 495 plate appearances. That’s a total of 32 home runs while batting cleanup behind at least one OBP monster (Donaldson). It’s not a stretch to expect 80 runs, 95 RBI, and a .270 average with the surprise power output.
The overall statistical profile reads like Nelson Cruz minus a handful of homers. To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying Solarte is a similar player to Cruz, only that the end of season stats might look shockingly similar. Even with the hot start, you probably can acquire him cheaply. As an added bonus, he’s eligible all over the infield.
This could go wrong in one of two ways. I may be overestimating the effect of moving from the NL West to the AL East. Compared to a hypothetical “neutral” stadium, Petco Park suppresses power by about four percent. The Rogers Centre buffs home runs by four percent. That’s an eight point swing. Since Solarte has wall-scraping power, I anticipate an oversized effect on his home run totals.
The other mistake I could have made was projecting 495 more plate appearances. This is his age 30 season. He’s never had more than 571 plate appearances in a major league season. I’ve tabbed him for 631 plate appearances this year. With Donaldson back in the lineup, Solarte may have to fight Devon Travis, Lourdes Gurriel, Aledmys Diaz, and Kendrys Morales for playing time at second base, shortstop, and designated hitter. His current performance demands he start over those alternatives, but it’s possible the Jays will prefer to get more looks at their younger infielders.