Home runs bring a different type of excitement to baseball. Fan of the team or not, when hitters like Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez, (696), Willie Mays (660), or Ken Griffey Jr. (630) came to the plate, people dropped what they were doing to watch or listen, because they knew something big could happen. Some of the numbers above are frowned upon or listed with an asterisk because of the introduction of performance enhancing substances that likely played a part in some of the added power. For example, one of my favorite seasons of all time growing up was the 1998 season where Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa duked it out to catch Roger Maris’s record 61-home run season. They both caught that record and everyone wondered how many more they would hit by the end of the season. McGwire finished with 70 and Sosa with 66. Not long after, Barry Bonds surpassed McGwire’s record with 73 home runs in 2001. Looking back at all of those records broken can be looked at with a grain of salt knowing that all three were involved in the steroid controversy, whether they admitted it or “didn’t understand the questions” (cough Sosa cough). Low and behold, the home run ball is back and better than ever. According to statistics from Baseball-Almanac, home run totals by season have steadily increased over the last century. 2017 saw the most home runs in a season with 6,105 homers. To put that number into perspective, that record-breaking season in 1998 saw 5,064 home runs. Will we see another uptick in the 2018 season, or was last year just a fluke? Let’s take a look at the potential top-ten home run hitters for 2018. Included is Razzball’s own preseason overall rankings, and FantasyPros ADP. Please feel free to follow up in the comments with your own opinions!
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10. PHI 1B/OF Rhys Hoskins (Razzball Ranking 44/FantasyPros ADP 42.7)
Hoskins took the league by storm last year after being called-up and appearing in his first major league game August 10th. Much like the Trevor Story (story) of 2016, he went on an impressive tear hitting 18 home runs in only 212 plate appearances. It would be near impossible for Hoskins to sustain the type of production he experienced in his rookie season, as pitchers have more tape on him and will try and find his weak spots, which is why he is this far down the list. He was an impressive home run hitter throughout the minors. In 2016 for the AA Reading Fightin’ Pills, he hit 38 home runs. To follow that up in 2017 at AAA for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, he had 29 before his late season call up to the Phillies. A sophomore would not be surprising, but Hoskins should still hit his fair share of home runs.
9. LAA OF Mike Trout (Razzball Ranking 1/FantasyPros ADP 1.0)
Give me a top ten baseball list this guy is not on. My favorite list that he is not on is players with the most syllables in their last name, in which case Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes the cake. Trout has been somewhat of an enigma since joining the majors. Year in and year out he dominates major league pitching and fills the stat sheet as a true five-tool athlete. He has finished in the top four in MVP voting every year since his first full season in 2012 and won the award twice. Trout struggled to stay healthy last season, only playing in 114 games, compared to seasons past 159, 159, 157, and 157. He still managed to finish the season with 33 home runs. He is a threat to make hard contact and put the ball into the seats any time he comes up to bat, as he has proven to be one of the tougher outs since his first full season in 2012.
8. OAK OF Khris Davis (Razzball Ranking 60/FantasyPros ADP 62.3)
No I did not spell that name wrong, I am aware Chris Davis is a different guy and in seasons past would have been on this list. Khris Davis is the one on this list. He was a decent home run hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of his career, but more recently joined the Oakland Athletics in 2016. Since joining the A’s, Davis has become one of the best home run hitters in baseball with 42 in his first season and followed up with 43 last season. Oakland Coliseum ranks as one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball and Khris Davis has taken advantage. Along with a hitter friendly park, Davis is top five in MLB in barrels/plate appearance.
7. SEA DH Nelson Cruz (Razzball Ranking 38/FantasyPros ADP 54.0)
Cruz has been a bit of a late bloomer. He made his debut in 2005 and spent most of his career with the Rangers. It wasn’t until 2009 that the home runs started to pile up, finishing with 33 and his first all-star game appearance. For Cruz, there has been no looking back since then. Now 37 years old with 13 MLB seasons under his belt, he has consistently put up big home run numbers, especially in the last four seasons (40,44,43,39). Currently on the final year of his contract with the Mariners, Cruz will look to continue to do what he does best at the plate at the back end of his career.
6. BOS OF J.D.Martinez (Razzball Ranking 15/FantasyPros ADP 25.0)
Martinez, similar to Cruz, has been somewhat of a late-bloomer when it comes to home runs. He totaled 24 home runs in his first three seasons, but followed it up with 23 home runs for the Tigers. Since then, he has been one of the more prominent power hitters in the majors. Exit velocity and barrels do not always lead to home runs, but if you are barreling up as often as Martinez did last season, it’s easy to see why he finished with so many home runs. He was second in the majors in barrels/plate appearance at 12.3, only trailing Aaron Judge.
5. TEX 1B/3B/OF Joey Gallo (Razzball Ranking 81/FantasyPros ADP 128.7)
Gallo has been a boom or bust hitter in his first three seasons. He struggled in years one and two with strikeouts. The Rangers finally gave him a full season of work and he was a disappointment in many offensive categories, but excelled at hitting home runs. Out of his 94 hits on the season, 41 of them left the park. Gallo is known for having one of the most extreme uppercut swings in the league. In the first half of the season he led the majors with the highest launch average launch angle of 25.6 degrees. Proof of his pure strength shows in Statcast comparisons of batted balls with a launch angle between 35 and 45 degrees. As a group at that launch angle, MLB players batted .130 and slugged .349 compared to Gallo .294 BA, 1.059 slugging % and eight home runs. Even more impressive was his ability to lower his average launch angle in the second half of the season to 19.3. That lower angle led to less pop fly outs and plenty of home runs. We will see if he can carry over the tear he was on in the second half of last season.
4. LAD 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (Razzball Ranking 17/FantasyPros ADP 24.0)
5’1’’ 87 lbs Cody Bellinger. That’s strange, I thought he was bigger than that. Okay, you got me, he is bigger now, but in 2007 Bellinger played for his hometown Chandler, AZ in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, at just 12 years old. This is when people became aware of his tremendous potential. In my opinion, Bellinger might have one of the sweetest swings since Ken Griffey Jr. Hop back in your time-machine to present day. Bellinger is now 22 years old, and quite a bit bigger at 6’4’’ 210 lbs. In his rookie season, he showcased his power with 39 home runs and 97 RBIs for the World Series runner-up L.A. Dodgers. The rookie showed out in the home run derby as well, beating Charlie Blackmon in round 1 and losing by one in the semi-finals to Aaron Judge. He can hit just about every type of pitch. Last season Bellinger hit 14 home runs off 4-seam fastballs, 10 home runs off sliders, 4 off 2-seam fastballs, and 3 each off change-ups, curveballs, and sinkers. The one pitch he struggled with most was the cut fastball and only had one home run when he saw a cutter. Bellinger proved that he will put just about any pitch into the seats.
3. COL 3B Nolan Arenado (Razzball Ranking 6/FantasyPros ADP 4.3)
Coors Field, thin Colorado air, high altitude. The Rockies are home to one of the most extreme hitter friendly parks in professional baseball. Arenado and the Rockies have 95 games at home and really became a household name in Colorado and MLB in 2015 when he hit 42 home runs and followed up in 2016 with 41 home runs. He was no slouch in 2017 either finishing with 37 home runs. If you take a closer look at Arenado’s numbers, his splits at home and on the road are not as drastic as you might think. In 2015, he actually hit more home runs on the road (22) than he did at Coors Field (20). 2016 was a bit more in favor of home (25) versus road (16). Last season Arenado only hit one more home run at home (19) than he hit on the road (18). He has consistently proven to be one of the best home run hitters in baseball and that his statistics may not be as inflated as some may think with the benefit of hitting at Coors.
2. NYY OF Aaron Judge (Razzball Ranking 21/FantasyPros ADP 18.3)
Spoiler alert! Remember the opening scene of “Troy” when Boagrius, played by behemoth Nathan Jones standing at 6’11’’ 360 lb, fights a much smaller Achilles, but still loses to the superior fighter? I picture Judge as Boagrius, who at 6’7’’ and 282 lbs is one of the great home run hitters in the majors, but not quite ready to take over as home run champion, yet. Not that Judge won’t hit it out of any ballpark with his easy swing and natural power, but Yankee stadium, according to Baseball Monster, yields the highest percentage of hits that result in home runs of any stadium tied with Guaranteed Rate Field at 27%. Although the stadium is slightly more friendly to left-handed power hitters with a short porch, it simply does not matter to Judge as he hits to all parts of the park. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Yankees will once again lead the league in home runs as a team.
1. NYY OF Giancarlo Stanton (Razzball Ranking 9/FantasyPros ADP 8.7)
The man, the myth, the legend. Achilles, I mean Mike, I mean Giancarlo Stanton is not a small man. He is just one inch shorter and 37 lbs lighter than Judge, but built like a brick wall. It’s hard to believe that Stanton has only led the majors in home runs twice since 2010, however many of his seasons have been derailed by injury. Outside of the facial fracture injury that held him out of 17 games in 2014, many of his ailments were lower body issues that have forced him to miss time. Even so, Stanton has never been held below 22 home runs in a season. This includes the 2015 season where he was on a ridiculous pace having hit 27 home runs through just 74 games before missing the rest of the season with injury. Finally, with the Marlins, Stanton played an entire season, showcasing what he really is (video-game stats). He earned his first NL MVP award, 4th all-star game appearance, 2nd Silver Slugger award and led the majors in HR (59), RBI (132), and SLG (.631). Clearing house in Miami, Derek Jeter (CEO and part owner of the Marlins) sent Stanton to the Yankees where he will team up with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to hit in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball. Assuming Giancarlo can remain healthy through 2018, there is no reason to believe he won’t be right at the top again in home runs. Yankees fans have a lot to be excited about.