For just the second time this season, the pace of home runs declined over the last week. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a power-friendly period by historical standards. Hitters hammered another 259 deep shots – a total which still puts most past campaigns to shame. To add a little perspective, the average week in 2018 included roughly 220 home runs. Rewind to before the league started mucking around with the baseball, and the average falls to around 190 home runs per week.
The temporary setback in homer pace is probably sufficient to kill off any chance at 7,000 home runs. Overall, we’re up to 5,408 home runs with one-fifth of the season still to be played. If the pace is maintained, we’ll see just over 6,800 home runs.
Shall we dive right in?
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Gleyber Torres, 5 HR
Adam Eaton, 4 HR
Tom Murphy, 4 HR
Mike Moustakas, 4 HR
Juan Soto, 4 HR
Nolan Arenado, 4 HR
Torres, Eaton, and Murphy have all appeared in the Power Spotlight in the past due to plentiful fly ball contact. To find them here among the weekly leaders is not surprising. Torres is up to 32 home runs and now has a chance to reach the vaunted 40 homer plateau. Here's a thought exercise. Clear your mind and imagine it's early February. Of all the many Yankees who could have been predicted to reach 40 home runs, where does Torres rank on the list? Not top five, right? Now pretend you know they'd acquire Edwin Encarnacion. Definitely not top five.
Although Eaton made a swing change to massively increase his fly ball rate, he perhaps lost some pop in the process. Even with the hot week, his 7.5 percent HR/FB ratio is among the worst in the league among qualified hitters. He’s also among the laggards in hard contact rate. As for Murphy, he’s a one-trick pony at the dish, launching frequent hard, pulled fly balls. The profile doesn’t support his lofty .373 BABIP. If somebody is offering to pay a meaningful piece for Murphy’s home runs (an unlikely scenario), you’d be wise to sell high.
The others are not surprising additions to a weekly leaders list. Moustakas, Soto, and Arenado are some of the best power hitters in the league. Soto is seemingly the heir apparent to Joey Votto (without the ridiculous lack of infield flies). The 20-year-old is sitting on 29 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and a .403 OBP. Arenado (32) and Moustakas (31) are right ahead of Soto on the home run leaderboard.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers: 41 HR, 52 HR projected
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers: 42 HR, 52 HR projected
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 42 HR, 51 HR projected
Pete Alonso, New York Mets: 40 HR, 50 HR projected
Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals: 35 HR, 43 HR projected
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves: 36 HR, 42 HR projected
Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees: 32 HR, 42 HR projected
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins: 34 HR, 42 HR projected
Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers, 33 HR, 42 HR projected
Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds: 34 HR, 41 HR projected
This preceding list is calculating using a homebrewed home run projection system. The top three sluggers continue to jockey for position while Alonso represents a credible also-ran. Hunter Renfroe and Josh Bell fell off the list with Torres and Muncy taking their spots. Lurking just outside the Top 10 are Freddie Freeman, Arenado, Nelson Cruz, Moustakas, and Renfroe. They all project to hit at least 40 home runs.
***Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (back stiffness, second week of September)
***Domingo Santana, Seattle Mariners (elbow inflammation, September return)
***Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins (fractured hand, out for season)
***Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers (oblique strain, return unknown)
Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (Grade 2 hamstring strain, early-September return)
Fernando Tatis, San Diego Padres (stress reaction in lower back, out for season)
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (quad strain, late-August return)
Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (LCL tear, early-September return)
Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals (left wrist strain, late-August return)
Robinson Cano, New York Mets (torn hamstring, return doubtful)
Jay Bruce, Philadelphia Phillies (flexor sprain in left elbow, late-September return)
David Dahl, Colorado Rockies (high ankle sprain, late-September return)
Edwin Encarnacion, New York Yankees (fractured right wrist, return unknown)
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (flexor strain in right arm, early-September return)
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (sprained shoulder, late-August return)
Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics (stress reaction in shin, early-September return)
Dominic Smith, New York Mets (stress reaction in left foot, return unknown)
Luke Voit, New York Yankees (sports hernia, late-August return)
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (broken hamate, questionable late-September return)
Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels (right tibia fracture, shoulder surgery, out for season)
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (shin contusion, quad strain, possible playoff return)
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (shoulder inflammation, late-August return)
Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees (PCL knee strain, mid-September return)
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (ruptured testicle, back strain, September return)
Kendrys Morales, Free Agent (calf strain, return unknown)
Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies (torn ACL, out for season)
Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners (spinal stenosis, out for season)
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (labrum team, out for season)
Greg Bird, New York Yankees (left plantar fascia tear, early-September return)
Steven Souza Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks (multiple knee ligament tears - out for season)
Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (broken ankles, out for season)
Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles (September return)
*** denotes new injury
Five sluggers returned from the injured list, most notably Nelson Cruz and Yoan Moncada. Cruz will play through a torn tendon in his wrist which isn’t actually expected to affect his performance. He’s hit well in four games including four doubles and a homer. Moncada fully rehabbed his hamstring strain and recently returned to the lineup. The Tigers activated Christin Stewart and immediately optioned him to Triple-A. They’re trying to spark a September surge from their underperforming designated hitter. Jedd Gyorko and Derek Dietrich are all back in action.
Four players joined the injured list. Anderson was hit on the hand by a fastball and will miss the remainder of the season. Correa’s ongoing back issues are expected to keep him sidelined until mid-September. This seems to be a proactive injury stint. The Astros have a huge lead in the AL West. It’s to their advantage to evaluate backups to Correa while helping to ensure his health in September. Return dates for Mazara and Santana are up in the air at this time.
A few players received notable updates. Trumbo is now striving to return for the month of September. He’ll likely be too rusty to help fantasy owners. Lowe is now out for the season after sustaining a quad strain while rehabbing. He aims to return during the playoffs. Gallo hinted he would be out for the remainder of the season, although the timing on a typical hamate injury suggests he should get a couple weeks at the end of the year.
Kyle Seager was once one of the steadiest third basemen in the league. During an era in which hitting 25 home runs a year was impressive, Seager was the model of consistency. He slumped through much of 2017 despite posting tolerable season stats. A spike in his strikeout rate during the 2018 campaign led to a career-worst performance.
His struggles continued through the early months of 2019. Through July 21, he was hitting just .186/.260/.331 with six home runs in 192 plate appearances. On a better team than Mariners, he would have disappeared to the bench. Over the last month, he’s turned the corner. In 112 plate appearances, he’s hitting .354/.429/.778 with 11 home runs. His walk and strikeout rates have improved. They're backed by superior plate discipline data and a sharp decrease to his swinging strike rate. Moreover, he’s making frequent hard, fly ball contact.
In short, the month-long outburst has sustainable-looking elements. While it’s correct to note it’s a small sample of success, we can also look back to his peak years and see the current hot-hitting Seager is not unfamiliar. He remains available in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues. His owners may be willing to part with him for a song – perhaps a shaky closer like Brandon Workman or a risky starting pitcher like Mike Fiers. If he continues to perform as he has over the last month, he would project to hit 10 more home runs this season – that’s right up there with Bellinger, Torres, and Alonso.