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Top 10 Home Run Hitters: 2014 Fantasy Baseball Predictions


Blevine37 at the English language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dingers. Big Flies. Longballs. They're fun to watch. They can change the momentum of the game. Chicks dig 'em. Whether you're playing in a roto league or head-to-head, there is no underestimating the value of having home run hitters on your team. But who will be the top producers in the HR category in the upcoming MLB season? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, here are some predictions for home run totals in 2014.

 

10. Jay Bruce

2012: 34 Home Runs

2013: 30 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 33 Home Runs

Blevine37 at the English language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Reds' hard-hitting right fielder has shown consistent power in the last couple of seasons, and this year shouldn't be any different. He has been healthy for most of his career, playing in at least 148 games every year since 2010. He's been a Silver Slugger each of the last two seasons, and also received MVP votes in those years. It's helpful that Bruce hits most of his homers to right field, and The Great American Ballpark is a bit smaller on that side than it is in left. The Big Red Machine also looks approximately the same as it did last year, with the only major departure being that of Shin-Soo Choo. In other words, there's not much reason to think Cincinnati's offense should be drastically different than it's been in years past, which bodes very well for Bruce's numbers.

 

9. Mark Trumbo

2012: 32 Home Runs

2013: 34 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 34 Home Runs

Trumbo was the topic of lots of trade rumors at this year's winter meetings, and he finds himself this year in Arizona, where he will man left field for the D'Backs. At only 28 years old, Trumbo is still in his finery in regards to power production. Last year, Trumbo didn't hit a single home run with a "true landing distance" of fewer than 350 feet, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker. Arizona's ballpark isn't known for being especially hitter-friendly, but its dimensions in left field are similar to those Trumbo saw during his tenure for the Angels, and Trumbo is essentially a dead-pull hitter. Some might be concerned about him adjusting to the NL; if he were a more complete hitter I might be concerned, too, but Trumbo's approach is pretty much the same no matter who he faces: when he swings, he swings hard.

 

8. Alfonso Soriano

2012: 32 Home Runs

2013: 34 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 35 Home Runs

Soriano split time last year between the Cubs and the Yankees. He hit exactly half of his total homers for each team, but played only 58 games for the Yankees, as opposed to 93 for the Cubs. This season, Soriano will don the pinstripes all year long and he'll play half his games in a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark. Soriano is getting up there in years, but will likely slot into the DH spot occasionally since the Yankees have so many outfielders. Barring any serious decrease in PAs, he is certainly capable of hitting homers at the same clip he has the last couple years.

 

7. Giancarlo Stanton

2012:  37 Home Runs

2013: 24 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 35 Home Runs

Perhaps the biggest question mark in terms of home run production this year is Giancarlo Stanton. When healthy, he's arguably the purest power hitter in the game of baseball. Problem is, he's never played more than 150 games in an MLB season. He missed time for knee surgery in 2012 and for a hamstring injury last year. But this year is different: it's a contract season for Stanton, and if he puts up big numbers he'll be due an even bigger paycheck. In all reality, my prediction of 35 homers might be a bit of an underestimation of what Stanton is capable of producing. Sure, most players might experience difficulty producing torque with injuries to their legs, but Giancarlo is only 24 years old. With good legs under him, he'll enjoy a long career with an abundance of longballs.

 

6. David Ortiz

2012: 23 Home Runs

2013: 30 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 36 Home Runs

Some more skeptical analysts out there might point to David Otiz's age (38) and health (he has missed time each of the last two seasons) as reasons why Big Papi won't crack the top ten in home runs this season. To those people, I say... you might have a point. At the same time, I have a good feeling about Ortiz in 2014. To Ortiz, age seems like little more than a number. The guy seems as young as ever, and genuinely enjoys playing the game. I think he has another strong season or two in him before we see any serious decline. Ortiz hit 30 jacks last year in just 137 games. If Papi can stay off the DL this year, it will be a big year for him and the reigning champs.

 

5. Paul Goldschmidt

2012: 20 Home Runs

2013: 36 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 38 Home Runs

Goldschmidt established himself as a high-OBP player with some pop in his bat in his first two years in the league, but emerged last season as a legitimate power hitter. The Diamondbacks added Mark Trumbo this season, who figures to slot in behind Goldschmidt and make pitchers think twice about pitching around the slugging first baseman. Playing to Goldschmidt's advantage is the fact that he has power to all fields: 14 of Goldschmidt's 36 home runs last year found the seats in the right half of the ballpark. He's a skilled hitter who takes what pitchers give him (think Miguel Cabrera) and will confirm this year that he is one of the more dangerous hitters in the NL.

 

4. Edwin Encarnacion

2012: 42 Home Runs

2013: 36 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 39 Home Runs

Edwin Encarnacion can flat-out mash. And, unlike many other power hitters, he very rarely strikes out. Encarnacion went down via the K only 10% of the time last year, which means he puts the bat on the ball consistently; when he puts the bat on the ball, it tends to go far. Encarnacion missed some time last year to have wrist surgery, but he still managed to hit 36 home runs. After the injury, Encarnacion told reporters that one of his goals was to "try to make it to 40 home runs." In other words, Encarnacion makes it clear that his goal is to hit bombs. There is no reason to believe that Encarnacion will have a different approach this year. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 

3. Miguel Cabrera

2012: 44 Home Runs

2013: 44 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 42 Home Runs

Miguel Cabrera is the best overall hitter on this planet -- or any other planet, for that matter. Reports from Detroit say that Cabrera arrived early for Spring Training and is ready to go. This is great news for the Tigers, who lost a bit of power production when Prince Fielder was traded to Texas. With Fielder's absence, there is no legitimate home run threat to follow Cabrera. At the same time, the Tigers have added some speed to their lineup in Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis. The Tigers are now a team that can score from second base on a single, or from first on an extra-base hit. For this reason, I think we'll see a slight dip in Cabrera's home run total. Cabrera is a good enough hitter to know what he needs to do in a given situation, and if an opposite field single can score Rajai Davis, Cabrera will find a way to do just that. By my estimation, we'll be hearing Cabrera's name in the MVP conversation again by the end of this season.

 

2. Prince Fielder

2012: 30 Home Runs

2013: 25 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 48 Home Runs

Prince Fielder's power numbers have been down in each of the last two seasons, playing half his games in Detroit's enormous Comerica Park. Last season was especially disappointing for Fielder, who battled personal issues off the field for most of the year. Now Prince heads south to Texas. I expect Prince Fielder to have a big first month. The Rangers play three games in Boston and three in Seattle, but the rest of the Rangers' April games are played either in Texas, indoors, or in warm-weather cities. Once we're into the warmer months, Prince's production should continue to impress. Ron Washington has Fielder pencilled in ahead of Adrian Beltre, offering Fielder protection he's never had in his career. Not only that, but NBC Hardball Talk recently reported that Fielder is in the best shape of his life. Add in the fact that Globe Life Park is notoriously hitter-friendly, and it's a recipe for lots and lots of big ol' Prince Fielder bat flips.

 

1. Chris Davis

2012: 33 Home Runs

2013: 53 Home Runs

2014 Prediction: 49 Home Runs

Last year, Chris Davis got off to a crazy start and amassed 37 home runs before the All-Star break; he hit just sixteen in the second half of the season. Does Davis' second-half drop off mean his first half was a fluke? I doubt it. You don't hit "fluke" home runs as far as Davis hits his. However, what it does tell me is that nobody should expect Davis to break any records. He is human. Expect Davis to have more consistent power production this year in both halves of the season and to continue to reap the benefits of playing in AL East ballparks that are notorious for yielding home runs to left-handed batters.

*****

There are still some question marks out there as well. What will Ryan Braun do coming off his suspension? How will Yasiel Puig hold up in his first full season at the big league level? They're definitely worth keeping an eye on, but in my opinion they'd be a bit risky to take in the early rounds of your draft. But as far as the ten guys on this list are concerned, if you're looking to add some pop to your lineup on draft day, these are your safest bet.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck to all you RotoBallers out there.




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