MLB Home Run King Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Here's some breaking news for you - the kind of biting insight you can only get here. The New York Yankees are going to hit a lot of home runs. What am I basing this bold claim on? Well, you take the American League home run leader and give him another year of experience. Then you add the overall home run leader and best power hitter in the game, and you put him in a very favorable park - both overall and compared to where he came from. Then you consider that Gary Sanchez had 33 runs last year, and Didi Gregorius had 25, and that both have plenty of upside yet to be tapped - especially Sanchez. Things could get crazy.
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It seems so likely that it is almost certain that a Yankee will lead the league in home runs. But which one? And who else has a shot at beating them? Here's a look at the home run race, with odds from BetOnline :
Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (+375): Stanton had 59 home runs last year, which was the most since 2001 and presumably the most without steroids since well before that. And he did that playing in Miami, which is only the 24th-best stadium for right-handed power. Now he moves to Yankee Stadium, which sits third in that category. There is plenty of upside. If he replicated his play from last year he could hit 60 or more. Remember, as great as he is he's still only 28, so he's in the heart of his prime.
There are, though, a few reasons to be somewhat cautious. For starters, he has been playing in front of 12 people per game in Miami for his whole career, and now he will be playing and living in the biggest fish bowl in the league. He'll face pressure like he has never seen - especially if he hits a rough patch. We won't know how he can handle that until he has to. He'll also be facing much more American League pitching than he is used to, and he will have to adjust and learn. That could go well, or it could be a setback. And his health is always a concern, too. He played 159 games last year but had averaged just 96 the previous two years. He's the clear and obvious favorite, but I don't see much value at this price.
Aaron Judge, Yankees (+650): Judge came from nowhere last year to rock the world and run away with the AL home run crown - he had a nine-homer lead on Khris Davis. It was very impressive, and he did it despite hitting a rough patch post-All Star game. His ability to shake that off and get back on track showed a whole lot and made it easier to believe that he had staying power and wasn't just a freakish flash in the pan. He knows what playing in New York and being a megastar is like, so that shouldn't be a concern. Opposing teams will have seen him more and know how to get him to strike out - not that that is hard. But having Stanton along with Sanchez and the rest in the lineup with him make it tougher for opponents to pitch around Judge or get too tricky in trying to deal with him. A while ago I would have argued that a sophomore slump is a concern, but guys like Trout and Bryant have shown that freaks are just freakish. I think Stanton will beat Judge, but given the relative prices I'd be willing to argue that the value sits here.
Bryce Harper, Nationals (+1400): Harper just isn't really a home run guy. He had 42 in 2015, but aside from that he has never topped 30. That's a good thing - after a rough 2016 year he showed last season that he can be devastating at the plate in so many different ways, so he doesn't just need to go deep to do damage. He hit 29 home runs but was a threat in so many different ways. I get the argument that Harper should be very motivated as he plays for a ridiculously huge contract next year, but having him as the third choice just doesn't make much sense from a betting perspective.
J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (+2000): It's going to be an interesting experiment for Martinez in Boston. He had 45 round-trippers with two teams last year, and now he joins a team that was led by Mookie Betts who had just 24 home runs. This has not been a power team, and it's not the most power-friendly setting. Will Martinez thrive under much more pressure and stand alone as the power threat on this team? Or will opposing teams find ways to deal with him and limit him? I am not particularly bullish at this price.
Manny Machado, Orioles (+2000): Machado could play on my team any day. But having him at this price only tells us how uncompetitive this race appears right now. Machado had 33 home runs last year, and he has a career high of 37. He'd likely have to improve his best by at least 20 just to be competitive, and he'll have to do it on a team that is likely to be profoundly bad. Not worth betting on - at all.
Mike Trout, Angels (+2000): Trout is the best player in the game, but he doesn't have to lead the league in home runs to be effective. He likely wouldn't want to - at least not in an arms race like this year is likely to be up top. He has a career best of 41 home runs, and that's largely because he makes you hurt in so many different ways that the four-base jog is just one arrow in his quiver.
Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (+2000): Bellinger had 39 home runs last year - tied for sixth in baseball. Sometimes you have to trust your gut, though. My gut tells me that while Judge is a youngster who can sustain, Bellinger is a guy who was playing at the highest end of his range last year and really can't be trusted to make the improvement he would need to make to contend here.
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