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2013 MLB Predictions: Home Run Leader Odds and Betting Picks
by - 2/25/2013

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Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I was 0-for-2 in picking the 2012 home run leader in Major League Baseball. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera led MLB with 44 dingers on the way to the first Triple Crown in the sport in 45 years. In my spring home run leader story, I wrote that while Cabrera was going to see more pitches with Prince Fielder hitting behind him, Comerica Park hurt Cabrera’s chances a bit and that because Miggy was such a high average hitter that he wouldn’t be swinging for the fences as much as other sluggers.

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At the all-star break Cabrera had only 18 homers and didn’t look like a threat to lead the league. During the break and with updated HR odds, I leaned toward Chicago’s Adam Dunn, who had 25 homers at the break. All Dunn does is swing for the fences (or strike out), and he plays at homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago’s South Side. Dunn would hit just 16 homers after the break, while Cabrera smashed 26 to edge Texas’ Josh Hamilton and the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson by one for the league lead. Cabrera was red hot to end the season and had 10 dingers in September, his best month. His previous career-high had been 38 homers overall. It was the second time Cabrera lead the American League (37 in 2008) and the first time a Tiger led all of baseball since Prince’s pop Cecil tied Oakland’s Jose Canseco with 44 in 1991, Fielder’s second straight HR title.

Last spring, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton was the betting favorite. He is again now at +800 on Sportsbook.ag with Toronto’s Jose Bautista. The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Stanton has more pure power than any other hitter, hands down. He was very streaky a season ago, with one homer in April (and July but he missed most of that month) but 12 in May and 10 in August to finish with a career-high 37 in just 123 games. His 13.54 plate appearances per home run number was much better than Cabrera’s.

I see two problems with recommending Stanton, however. First, have you seen the Marlins’ everyday lineup? It’s pretty sad. Logan Morrison, who hit .230 with 11 homers and 36 RBI in 93 games last year will be Stanton’s protection. He simply won’t be seeing many good pitches to hit. Second, Marlins Park has proven to be pitcher-friendly. It was the fifth-toughest park to homer in last year, leading some to call for the fences to be moved in. The team declined. A total of 16 of Stanton’s 37 dingers were at home in 2012.

Bautista was gunning for his third straight home run crown last year and was well on his way with 27 homers at the break, tied with Hamilton for the most. However, Bautista was limited to just 17 post-break at-bats with a wrist injury. He’s fully recovered now and has good protection behind him in Edwin Encarnacion, who finished fourth in the AL with a career-high 42 homers. Toronto’s lineup should be better overall with the additions of Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, so that can only help Bautista. Toronto’s Rogers Centre ranked No. 15 in home run rate.

Cabrera is +900 to repeat, but I still say those 44 dingers were a bit of a fluke. I don’t expect him to top 40 this year. The only other “player” under +1000 is the field, also at +900.

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is at +2000, which seems like rather long odds. He led the National League with 41 dingers in 2012, a jump of eight from his 2011 MVP season. Miller Park ranked as the top homer park in the majors last year. But National League players always worry me because they can’t take the occasional day off from the field and play DH. Plus, maybe Braun gets suspended for his link to the PED clinic in Miami.

AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout is +1200 after hitting 30 long balls despite not being called up until late April. You can’t argue with that Angels lineup, that’s for sure, with the addition of Hamilton (+2000) to Albert Pujols (+1000) and Mark Trumbo (+2000). Trout has bulked up this offseason, but I don’t really see him as a 40-homer guy. I don’t like Hamilton at all as he leaves the cozy comforts of Rangers Ballpark at Arlington for the tougher Angel Stadium of Anaheim.  And he’s going to get hurt because he usually does. I also don’t like Pujols as his best days are behind him. He hit a career-low 30 last year (with a career-low .285 average), the fourth straight season his homer total has declined. I might throw a few dollars at Trumbo (32 homers in 2012).

When I first wrote this story, my top value pick was Granderson at +2000. I liked him because Granderson is in a contract year and his left-handed swing is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Granderson’s 84 total homers the past two years are the most in baseball by a wide margin. I also liked that he might move to left field from center, which is a more physically demanding position. However, Granderson fractured his right forearm on the first pitch he saw in Spring Training and is out until May. Thus, his odds have risen appreciably to +6000.

Now I lean toward Fielder at +1000. As good as Cabrera is, he’s likely to be pitched around more often than not, and that means teams will have to pitch to Fielder if Cabrera is on first base. Plus, Fielder should be used to the AL pitchers and Comerica Park after his first season in the Junior Circuit. Fielder hit 30 last season, and I could see him adding at least 10 in 2013.

Here’s the entire list at Sportsbook.ag, alphabetically:
Adam Dunn +2000
Adam Jones +7000
Adam LaRoche +10000
Adrian Beltre +6000
Adrian Gonzalez +5000
Albert Pujols +1000
Andrew McCutchen +10000
Anthony Rizzo +10000
BJ Upton +10000
Billy Butler +10000
Bryce Harper +4000
Buster Posey +10000
Carlos Beltran +10000
Carlos Gonzalez +5000
Carlos Quentin +10000
Chase Headley +10000
Curtis Granderson +6000
Dan Uggla +10000
David Ortiz +10000
David Wright +10000
Edwin Encarnacion +2500
Evan Longoria +4000
Field (Any Other Player) +900
Giancarlo Stanton +800
Hanley Ramirez +10000
Jason Heyward +3000
Jay Bruce +2500
Joey Votto +3000
Jose Bautista +800
Josh Hamilton +2000
Josh Willingham +10000
Justin Upton +4000
Mark Reynolds +6000
Mark Teixeira +4000
Matt Holliday +10000
Matt Kemp +1200
Miguel Cabrera +900
Mike Morse +10000
Mike Trout +1200
Mike Trumbo +2000
Nelson Cruz +10000
Pablo Sandoval +10000
Pedro Alvarez +5000
Prince Fielder +1000
Robinson Cano +4000
Ryan Braun +2000
Ryan Howard +2000
Ryan Zimmerman +10000
Troy Tulowitzki +5000
Yoenis Cespedes+6000

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