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Predicting the Top 10 Home Run Hitters of 2019


Last year 14 players hit over 35 or more home runs; the year before that it was 18. The point is, narrowing such an impressive pool of players down to 10 is challenging.

The list is realistic but I wanted to be slightly bold as well. It wouldn’t be much of a prediction if we just chose the top home run hitters from last year. Coincidentally, there are three sets of teammates, and in two cases, it’s essentially 50/50 who will lead their team by season's end.

There are obviously some notable omissions, some more glaring than others but at the end of the day, I’d be hard-pressed to remove anybody from this list.

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1A. Giancarlo Stanton (Projection: 48 HR)

After spending a season getting adjusted to the bright lights of New York, Stanton will look to return to his 2017 form in this upcoming season. Even though he hit 20 of his 38 homers at home last year, he only had a .229 batting average at Yankee stadium. If that climbs closer to his .300 road AVG, then a monster 2019 could be in the store. Remember, it was just two years ago that he fell two shy of breaking Roger Maris’ (non-steroids-aided) single-season HR record of 61. That season, the outfielder led the league with a .350 ISO and .631 slugging. There is a reason why the Bronx Bombers gave (at the time) the biggest contract in baseball history to the 6’5”, 245 lb beast, and in 2019 he’ll prove he’s worth every penny.

 

1B. Aaron Judge (Projection: 48 HR)

The Judge came back down to earth in the 2018 season after setting the league on fire with 52 HR his rookie year. In 2017, the 6’7” slugger led the league with a 35.6% HR/FB rate and finished second behind the aforementioned Stanton, in ISO (.343) and Slugging (.629). Injury hampered Judge’s sophomore campaign, but he was still productive at the plate. He led the league with a 94.7 mph average exit velocity, and increased his hard-hit rate from his monster first season. Hitting in front of Stanton and Sanchez, pitchers can’t pitch around him at the plate, so as long as he remains healthy, he should return to the 50-homer range.

 

3. Joey Gallo (Projection: 47 HR)

Gallo should really be the best power hitter in baseball, if only he made contact with the ball more often. Unfortunately, with a 35.9 K% last year, it won’t be a surprise if the Rangers slugger finished with the worst average out of anyone on this list by a significant margin. If Gallo had even a respectable average (.206 in 2018, .209 in 2017) he would be an elite fantasy option. However, in terms of sheer power, there aren’t much better. Gallo absolutely crushes the ball; he was third in the majors with a .327 ISO in 2017, second in the league last year with a 48.5% hard-hit rate, and he barreled more balls per PA (11.4%) than any other player in 2018. Everything considered, the 40 HR he hit last year seems closer to his floor than his ceiling, simply put, he’s one of just a handful of players with 50+ HR potential.

 

4. Khris Davis (Projection: 44 HR)

The most underrated, yet the most dependable hitter in all of baseball. Davis has had a .247 average each of the last three years, and he looks to be getting better at 31 years of age. Last year, the Athletics first baseman had a career-high 48 HR, 98 runs, and 123 RBIs, all while having a career-low .261 BABIP. Over the three-year window, the slugger leads the league with 133 bombs, nine more than the second-place Giancarlo Stanton who has 124. With no sign of deterioration and relatively no health concerns, it seems foolish to expect anything different from the most dependable player in the big leagues.

 

5. Nolan Arenado (Projection: 43 HR)

What do you get when you cross an elite power bat with 81 games at Coors Field? A top-10 home run hitter. That’s what Nolan Arenado brings to the table; well.. more specifically to the plate. He’s right there with Khris Davis as the safest bet in all of baseball, with over 650 PA each of the last four seasons. Over that time, the four-time All-Star never hit less than 37 dingers or had an ISO below .264.

This isn’t your typical all or nothing power hitter, however. He posted a .297 avg last year, and .309 in 2017. In addition to that, his HR/FB rate jumped to an elite 20.7% last year. However, even with that increase, his HR total actually went down. That should correct itself in 2019, and is a reason for lofty expectations. The veteran signed the largest per year contract in baseball this off-season and is sneaky young at just 27 years old, it wouldn’t be surprising if he set a career high for long balls this year.

 

6. Mike Trout (Projection: 41 HR)

What can be said about Mike Trout that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the best players the game has ever seen, but everyone already knows that. Perhaps one thing that can be said is that people focus so much on his ability to make contact, that they overlook his elite power. The two-time MVP led the majors with a .316 ISO and 1.088 OPS last season, and his 39 dingers in just 140 games tied for fourth. It’s truly a no brainer to include him on this list, and any other list for that matter.

He’s played in a sub-par lineup for most of his career but always manages to put up elite numbers. The scariest part is that at 27 he could get even better. The only concern for the six-time Silver Slugger is that he was intentionally walked a league-leading 25 times in 2018, but he managed to excel regardless. Surprisingly, Trout’s career high in homers was the 41 he hit in 2015; look for him to set a career high this upcoming season.

 

7. Rhys Hoskins (Projection: 39 HR)

After hitting 18 bombs in a 50-game rookie season in 2017, 34 homers last year could be viewed as a disappointment for the Philly. However, the addition of star free agent Bryce Harper helps Hoskins for two reasons. First, in addition to adding J.T. Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen, pitchers can no longer avoid him (13.2 BB%.) Secondly, the 25-year-old can now become the full-time 1st baseman in Philly. The 135 games he played in LF last year went as poorly as it could have gone, now Hoskins can stick at first base and just focus primarily on going yard.

His pedigree is certainly backed up by the batted-ball data. The 31.6% HR/FB% in 2017 was unsustainable, but he should do better than the 16% he dropped to last year. Hoskins led the league with a 51.7% FB rate in 2018, 213 total. At his 2017 HR/FB rate that would equal 66 HR, at a 20% HR/FB rate it’s still 42 bombs. The point is, Rhys Hoskins has just as good of a chance to lead his team in home runs as the golden boy Bryce Harper does.

 

8. Bryce Harper (Projection: 38 HR)

Signing for the Phillies this off-season was the best-case scenario for Bryce’s bat for 2019… and for the next dozen years. If he ended up in San Francisco almost certainly would not have made this list. Not only is Citizens Bank a much better hitters park, but Harper is also likely going to see more balls in the zone than ever now that he’s hitting in front of Hoskins and Realmuto. That should help his HR total by a significant margin, after being walked 130 times last year, more than anyone else in the majors.

The 2018 Home Run Derby champion definitely had a down year in 2018 but his batted ball data was close to his career average and he did have an elite 42.3% hard hit rate. At 26 years old, the former National is in the prime of his career, and if he returns to his 2015 MVP form (42 HR, .319 ISO, .330 avg) he should set a career high in bombs. All projections point to Harper only going yard 35-37 times but he’s never been in a lineup like he will be in 2019 and has a strong chance to exceed expectations.

 

9. Cody Bellinger (Projection: 37 HR)

Perhaps the boldest entry on this top 10 list, Bellinger can hang with anyone in the majors in terms of sheer talent. This is a player who went yard 39 times in 2017, with a .315 ISO in just 548 PA, oh, and he did all that at just 21 years of age. His success this season will almost entirely depend on two factors, one he can control, and one he can’t. Primarily, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts needs to let the kid play.

On paper, he was one of only seven players to play in all 162 in 2018, but his 632 PA was 46th in the league, due to only starting 135 games. With Puig and Kemp now in Cincinnati, Bellinger should be platooned less, especially if Justin Turner or A.J. Pollock follow script and miss time with injury. He also needs to improve against lefties, the 23-year-old had just six homers in 186 ABs vs southpaws in 2018. However, he’s shown he can do it, 12 of his 39 HR came against lefties in 155 ABs two years ago. The youngest entrant on this top 10 list by two years, Bellinger is projected to bat clean-up for the blue crew and should return to 2017 form once Roberts stops meddling and lets him find a groove.

 

10. Trevor Story (Projection: 36 HR)

There are at least 10 elite power hitters that could have held the last spot on this list, including J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez, Matt Olson, and Manny Machado, just to name a few. However, when in doubt, go with the hitter that plays half his games 5,280 ft above seas level in Colorado. Trevor Story’s career trajectory is a large reason to put so much faith in Judge, Hoskins, and Bellinger. Story went through a sophomore slump in 2017, just like those three sluggers did last year. However, he bounced back and hit 37 homers in 2018, after hitting fewer home runs in all of 2017 (24) than the 27 he hit in 97 games in 2016. In fact, his home runs averaged a league-leading 422 ft last season; that’s some serious power.

All of last year's batted ball data is more strongly correlated with 2016 than 2017. He improved his contact to a superb .291 avg and cut his K% to a career-low 25.6. The 2018 Silver Slugger hit 10 homers in just 84 AB in the month of September, slugging .750 over that time. If he could sustain those numbers over a few more weeks then Arenado will have to start sharing some of the spotlight in the Mile High City.

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