We are in a bit of a grand period when it comes to home runs in Major League Baseball. There were more hit last year than any time since 2000. With so many exciting young players, and so many old veterans who can still mash, this year again promises to be a very exciting year packed with home run trots. For bettors, the biggest question is obvious - who will hit the most home runs? BetOnline offers the odds , and I throw in the analysis:
Kris Bryant, Cubs (+800): In two years in the league he has already been rookie of the year and MVP. The guy is good. He's also only 25 years old. There is always a risk of a hangover after last year's season, but the Cubs are as talented and deep as ever, so I don't fear that too much. Bryant had 39 home runs last year while still hitting .292. That indicates to me that there is still plenty of room for more home runs - a guy who connects as often as he does and is still maturing and getting stronger will likely hit more deeper. The biggest reason to be concerned is if he gets pitched around too much, but with what the Cubs have to offer that shouldn't be a major concern. He's a very deserving favorite.
Chris Davis, Orioles (+800): He has been tops in home runs over the last five seasons, so he's consistent. He plays much older than his 30 years, though, and was hampered badly last year by a thumb injury. Even if he stays healthy this year, though, I'm very skeptical at this price.
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (+800): I was honestly shocked when I looked at Stanton's stats and see that he is just 27. It seems like he has been around forever. His power is impressive - as good as anyone in baseball can offer. The massive issue, though, is that he is made of glass - he has missed nearly a quarter of all games the Marlins have played since he became a regular. At his best for a full season he'd be very tough to beat, but this price doesn't provide incentive enough to bet that he'll stay healthy.
Edwin Encarnacion, Indians (+1200): Encarnacion has hit the second most home runs in the majors over the last five years behind Davis. In moving from Toronto to Cleveland, though, he is in a less hitter-friendly park for half his games. He's 34, so age could catch up to him at some point, though only rarely playing in the field helps. I like the guy a lot but don't see a lot of value here.
Mark Trumbo, Orioles (+1200): Trumbo was the surprising home run king last year. He had 47 last year after a previous career high of 34 in 2013 for the Angels. He tried to cash in with a big free agent contract, but like other power hitters he found it tough to do, so he's back in Baltimore at a fairly reasonable rate. The park suits him, and the team sure likes the long ball. He's so dependent on the inside pitch, though, that it seems like he could be vulnerable to starting pitching this year. I am always skeptical when an established veteran has a major breakout year. I wouldn't dream of touching this price.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies (+1200): You always have to consider a guy with power who hits in the thin air of Denver. Geography is far from the only reason to like this guy, though. He has 40+ home runs and 130+ RBIs in each of the last two seasons, and he hits .294. Plus, he'll only turn 26 a couple of weeks into the season, so it's not like he is past his prime. The guy is a machine, and there is major value in this price.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners (+1400): Cruz has had at least 40 three years in a row. He's very impressive, and I am high on the Mariners this year. Still, it's hard to believe a guy who turns 37 in July has major upside, and it's going to take, I suspect, most of 50 home runs to come out on top this year. He'll be solid as usual, but just not quite good enough.
Manny Machado, Orioles (+1400): Machado is another youngster - he turns 25 in July. He's also another of just eight players who have had at least 35 home runs each of the last two years. He had just 37 last year, though, and given his frame I question how much more upside there is. I can see him getting 42 or so, but that won't be enough. I'll pass at this price.
Bryce Harper, Nationals (+1400): He was MVP in 2015 and was a mess last year. He was banged up all year, but his massive home run in his first spring training at-bat was a positive sign. If he can stay healthy then he's a contender, and he is still just 24. The price is about right. It's for you to decide if about right is worth a bet.
Mike Trout, Angels (+1600): Trout is the best player in the game, but his team is just awful. That means he won't get as many at-bats, and he won't see as many good pitches when he does get to the plate. He's in an unfair fight right now, and you can't justify betting on him.
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (+5000): You need a long shot, and this is as good as any. Bautista boldly set out to earn a nine-figure payday at the start of last season, and it was a disaster. He was hurt a lot and wasn't particularly effective when he was playing. He was badly humbled, and wound up in Toronto on a one-year deal again when no one else was interested. If he keeps his head down and does his job, and stays healthy, he should have a rebound year. His career best is 54 home runs, so he has plenty of power. I'm not saying it's likely he wins, but it's more likely than the price suggests.
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