Greetings seekers of the long ball, with Brad Johnson away this week I’m going to attempt to take his place here without experiencing a massive drop off. With any luck, just maybe I’ll be able to get a hold of one and knock it out of the park.
We’re now just a hair under 31% of the way through the 2019 MLB season and balls continue to fly out of the yard at a record-breaking pace. To date, 2,009 home runs have already been hit across Major League Baseball. If things continue at that pace, we’re going to see just under 6,500 home runs hit this season. Like Brad has noted the last few weeks, that sky-high rate continues to accelerate and is likely to continue doing so as the weather warms up. Yikes.
That mark is being led by perhaps the biggest surprise story of the season, the Minnesota Twins. As a team, the Twins knocked three more balls over the fence in Friday night’s victory over the White Sox, bringing their team total to 101 on the season. They’re just the second team in MLB history to swat 100 or more home runs in their club’s first 50 games, joining the 1999 Seattle Mariners.
So which players have been leading the record-breaking charge over the past week? Let’s take a look:
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Miguel Sano, 5 HR
Anthony Rizzo, 4 HR
Gleyber Torres, 4 HR
Josh Bell, 4 HR
Freddie Freeman, 4 HR
Renato Nunez, 4 HR
Trevor Story, 4 HR
Jonathan Schoop, 4 HR
Austin Riley, 4 HR
19 others, 3 HR
Leading the way is Twins’ slugger Miguel Sano. The 26-year-old slugger missed his team’s first 42 games of the season due to a lacerated heel, finally making his season debut on May 16. After opposing pitchers were able to keep him in the yard through his first two games, Sano has now swatted five long balls over his last five -- including leaving the yard in each of his last three contests. While his 55.6% HR/FB% is obviously going to come down, there has always been prodigious power in this right-handed bat. Fantasy owners seem to be late to the party here as Sano is still only owned in 46% of Yahoo leagues.
Anthony Rizzo has now homered in each of his last three games, and has slugged 10 of his 14 home runs this season in his last 21 games. During that stretch he’s slashing a healthy .360/.440/.779.
Trevor Story made a bit of history on Friday, as his seventh-inning blast against the Orioles made him the fastest shortstop in MLB history to reach 100 homers for his career. He accomplished the feat in only 448 games, while it took previous record holder Alex Rodriguez 470 games to reach that mark. He didn’t waste any time charging toward the next 100 either, as he clubbed a walk-off two-run homer to sink the O’s.
And how about Braves’ rookie sensation Austin Riley? He earned his call to the show by swatting 15 homers in 37 games at Triple-A Gwinnett and hasn’t missed a beat since joining the Braves. He has made it look easy through his first 10 games at the big league level, slashing .350/.381/.750 with five homers and 12 RBI.
Brad's Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers: 15 HR, 48 HR projected
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers: 20 HR, 47 HR projected
Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics: 12 HR, 47 HR projected
Pete Alonso, New York Mets: 17 HR, 46 HR projected
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers: 18 HR, 46 HR projected
Franmil Reyes, San Diego Padres: 15 HR, 44 HR projected
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: 9 HR, 41 HR projected
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers: 14 HR, 41 HR projected
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: 13 HR, 41 HR projected
Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds, 14 HR, 41 HR projected
The above projections are formed via a home-brewed formula which uses expected plate appearances, current home run totals, and batted ball data to project future home runs. Presently, 14 players are expected to hit more than 40 home runs.
Christian Yelich became the first MLB player to reach the 20-homer plateau this season, doing so in his team’s first 45 games. That smashed the prior Brewers’ franchise record of 58 games set by Prince Fielder in 2007. The last MLB player to hit 20 homers in his team’s first 45 games was Josh Hamilton who did so with the Rangers in 2012.
A couple of Astros’ sluggers who made their way onto the list last week -- Alex Bregman and George Springer -- have fallen off. Springer missed most of the week due to injury, and after sustaining a hamstring injury in his return to the lineup on Friday, it looks like he’ll be heading to the injured list.
Speaking of the injured list, Khris Davis currently resides there as well with an oblique issue. We don’t yet have a clear timeframe for his potential return, but the longer that he’s on the shelf, the more his home run projection is going to take a hit. Expect him to fall off of this list soon.
The big mover within the top-10 list is Mets’ rookie slugger Pete Alonso who crushed three more home runs this week and now has 17 on the season. He still has a massive 32.1 HR/FB%, but that number is supported by his minor league data and his average fly ball distance. He’s already a monster and only going to get better.
The rest of the players on the list saw little week-to-week change in their power projections.
*** Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics (oblique strain, return unknown)
*** George Springer, Houston Astros (hamstring strain, return unknown)
*** Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (ankle fractures, out for season)
*** Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees (calf strain, return unknown)
*** David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (shoulder inflammation, return unknown)
*** Robinson Cano, New York Mets (quadriceps, mid-June return)
*** Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays (hand contusion, early-June return)
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (hamstring strain, late-May return)
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers (right wrist sprain, late-May return)
Michael Conforto, New York Mets (concussion, late-May return)
Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates (side strain, early-June return)
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins (left wrist strain, early-June return)
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (labrum tear, out for season)
A.J. Pollock, Los Angeles Dodgers (staph infection, late-June return)
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (hamstring strain, early-June return)
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (left oblique strain, mid-June return)
Greg Bird, New York Yankees (left plantar fascia tear, mid-June return)
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks (Grade 2 quad strain, late-May return)
Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates (fully recovered)
Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels (turf toe, mid-June return)
Steven Souza Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks (multiple knee ligament tears - out for season)
Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles (knee surgery, mid-June return)
Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds (groin strain, estimated 8-12 weeks recovery)
Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees (Tommy John surgery, June return as hitter)
*** denotes new injury
Let’s start with the good news. Justin Upton finally appears to be making progress in his recovery from turf toe, as he’s now able to run while placing full weight on his foot and has been cleared to take batting practice. It looks like the Angels should finally be able to add him to the lineup in mid-June.
Eloy Jimenez returned from the injured list this week and proceeded to swat three home runs in his first five games back. The future still looks exceedingly bright here.
Two players who were already on this list suffered additional injuries. Giancarlo Stanton was pulled back from his minor league rehab stint due to a calf strain that he picked up while taking batting practice. He’ll be shut down for the next 7-10 days then be re-evaluated. That’s likely to push his potential return until mid-June at the earliest. Yoenis Cespedes, who had been expected to return to the Mets around mid-season, apparently fractured both of his ankles while falling in a hole at his ranch in Florida. You can’t make this stuff up. He underwent season-ending surgery this week.
There were also a couple of big name sluggers who found their way to the injured list. Khris Davis, who has apparently been trying to play through an oblique strain for several weeks, was finally placed on the injured list. He’ll be shut down from swinging completely for the next five days as they attempt to get him right. There’s no current timetable for his return.
George Springer missed the first four games of the week due to lower back tightness, finally returning to the Astros’ lineup on Friday. It was there, that he suffered a hamstring injury while attempting to make a sliding catch in the outfield. We haven’t received word on the MRI results yet, but Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch didn’t sound optimistic and said it was likely Springer would land on the injured list.
After the two big names, we witnessed a couple of other home run hitters land on the injured list this week as well. David Peralta landed on the injured list in Arizona with a shoulder issue, there’s no timetable for his return. Robinson Cano strained his quadriceps while hustling to first base, just days after getting blasted publicly for not hustling. Rays’ slugger Yandy Diaz suffered a left hand contusion when he was hit by a pitch. He’s expected to return in early June, but monitor how the hand injury effects his power stroke.
What if I were to tell you that there’s a player who has clubbed six home runs over nine games in the past two weeks, that’s getting completely ignored in the fantasy community outside of DFS leagues. What if I added that he has seen a path to increased playing time with the team’s superstar designated hitter landing on the injured list on Friday.
That player, and someone who you should make a priority short-term addition in deeper mixed leagues, is Mark Canha. While he’s primarily been a lefty-masher in his career, Canha should find his way into the lineup on a fairly regular basis with Davis on the shelf and there’s no denying his power potential.
He has been especially hot as of late, leaving the yard in three straight games, and six times in his last nine. During that stretch, he’s slashing .267/.313/.900 with 11 RBI. Despite seeing a majority of his at-bats against southpaws, only three of his eight home runs on the season have come against left-handed pitchers.
He also has all of the ingredients for continued success, as he’s pulling a remarkable 56.6% of the balls the he’s putting in play, and sporting a sky-high 56.6% fly ball rate as well. He’s virtually unowned in most fantasy leagues, sitting at 4% ownership in Yahoo leagues. For at least a short-term power boost while Davis is sidelined, Canha is worthy of a look.