Once again, sluggers flexed to the tune of 233 home runs over the last week. The seasonal pace increased from 5,228 to 5,262. With only 10.1 percent of the season remaining, we can be pretty confident we’ll see between 5,200 and 5,320 home runs this season. Let’s get to it.
Alvarez capped an MVP-caliber week with a three-homer game on Friday. He’s moved into a tie for the second-most home runs in the American League. He’s only 21 behind Aaron Judge with just enough time to catch him by the end of the season. Right?
We’ll be seeing a lot of Rodriguez in future boxscores. This week, he set a new personal best with a 117.2-mph exit velocity. Players who post age-21 seasons of this nature typically go on to lead Hall of Fame careers. He’s a candidate for the first overall pick in 2023 drafts thanks to his remarkable combination of fantasy production – all while skipping Triple-A entirely.
Suarez has turned it on over the last month, collecting 12 home runs since August 17. That’s more than a third of his season total. He’s been especially disciplined over the same period. While he certainly won’t approach the 49 home runs he hit in 2019, his current 135 wRC+ is tied for a career-best. What initially looked like an ineffectual trade with Cincinnati has paid dividends – even with Jesse Winker‘s continued mediocrity. Suarez left yesterday’s game with a wrist injury of unknown severity.
The three-homer group is the usual mix of usual suspects and surprises. Mike Trout, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Tucker, Willy Adames, and Adolís Garcia are notable sluggers who appear in this column with at least some regularity. Albert Pujols is up to 698 career home runs. He could achieve the big 700 by the time we reconvene next week. Francisco Lindor isn’t the regular 30-homer threat he was during his Guardians peak, but that might be as much a function of venue as anything else. This has been his second-best season by wRC+. Carlos Santana is still doing his thing. Batting average makes him look like a scrub, but he’s passable in an OBP-based format. He has three home runs over his last two games and five over his last six contests.
Next up is Oneil Cruz, a player who I constantly comp to Judge due to his physical traits, incredibly hard contact, and low-for-a-slugger launch angle. Judge’s first full campaign was in his age 25 season. Cruz is 23. So, don’t judge his low walk rate and painful strikeout rate too harshly. Yet. Let’s give Cruz an opportunity to adjust before we label him a low-angle, low-walk unicorn. Cruz has the record for hardest batted ball in a game.
A minor league journeyman acquired from the Brewers via the Guardians, Rangers cornerman Mark Mathias deserves a longer look down the stretch. Even though he’s performed at every opportunity this season, including a .302/.366/.635 triple-slash in 71 Major League plate appearances, he’s still mostly used as a bench player. His recent usage suggests maybe they’ll finally give him a chance to impress and seize a role in 2023. He’s a late-bloomer who does a little bit of everything from a fantasy perspective.
Last is Rodolfo Castro, a player the Pirates rushed to the Majors last season. He’s quietly posted a 101 wRC+, albeit with an ugly .234/.294/.431 batting line. He has power and speed. His best contact is impressive, but too many of his plate appearances end with a weakly batted ball. Castro is just 23 so there’s time for him to unlock key improvements.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
Sadly, this is the part of the season when the projected leaders tend to all be the actual leaders. While none of the names on the list changed, we did see a bit of shuffling near the top – and a large cluster formed around 40 dingers. Trout and Alvarez jumped from seventh and 10th last week. Judge remains projected to tie Roger Maris and on pace to easily exceed the 61-homer record. Schwarber is just one tater shy of becoming the second player in the 2022 40 Homer Club. Trout, Alvarez, and Riley have four to go. Alonso and Goldy need to bop five. The remaining trio is six shy.
Cabrera is no longer a power hitter (four homers in 393 plate appearances), but we might as well give a nod to the memory of when he’d regularly blast 30 or more big flies. Polanco needed a brief rest for his knee. He’s expected back early next week. Lowe can’t catch a break. Now it’s a minor back injury holding him down.
Lourdes Gurriel, hamstring, late-September
Dylan Carlson, thumb, late-September
Nick Castellanos, oblique, mid-September
Anthony Rizzo, head, mid-September
Willson Contreras, ankle, late-September
Franchy Cordero, ankle, out for season
Mike Moustakas, calf, out for season
Brett Baty, thumb, out for season
Brandon Belt, knee, out for season
Jared Walsh, shoulder, out for season
Byron Buxton, hip, September
Joey Votto, shoulder surgery, out for season
Matt Carpenter, broken foot, early-October
Miguel Sano, knee, early-October
Alex Kirilloff, wrist, out for season
Kris Bryant, foot, late-September
Adam Duvall, wrist, out for season
Ryan Jeffers, thumb, late-September
Mitch Garver, TJS, out for season
Jorge Soler, back, out for season
Trevor Larnach, abdominal strain, mid-September
Jazz Chisholm, back, out for season
Austin Meadows, both Achilles, out for season
Anthony Rendon, wrist, late-September
Mike Zunino, shoulder, out for season
Royce Lewis, torn ACL, out for season
Rendon is working hard to return late this season. He was originally expected to miss the remainder of 2022. This is a good sign from a player who is sometimes questioned for his work ethic. The news isn’t so good for Soler and Chisholm. They’re going to sit out the remainder of the season with their back injuries. Rizzo could return on Sunday. Gurriel hasn’t yet begun running, but he should still return soon.
Albies delivered a two-run homer in his return to the lineup on Friday. Wisdom returned to the lineup last Saturday as a pinch hitter.