Jose Bautista's 10 Biggest Threats to the A.L Home Run Title

Stephen Brown@@the__ste (Double Underscore)Correspondent IIApril 30, 2013

Jose Bautista's 10 Biggest Threats to the A.L Home Run Title

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    It is impressive to me that Jose Bautista has the most home runs in the American League over the past three seasons all while missing nearly half of last season (70 games). Bautista is definitely the leader among the home run title hopefuls, especially in the American League—but there are some who could challenge Jose for this crown.

    One of his biggest competitors over the past few seasons however has been injured all season and is still weeks away from playing for the New York Yankees. With Curtis Granderson out for the next while, Bautista should have a big enough lead in the home run category that Grandy won't be able to catch up.

    Here are the 10 biggest threats to Jose Bautista recapturing his AL Home Run Title.

Miguel Cabrera

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    The reigning Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera led the American League (in Jose's absence) in home runs last season with 44. It seems that Cabrera really enjoyed hitting in front of Prince Fielder and Cabrera should hit north of 40 home runs once again this season.

    Having Prince Fielder in the lineup definitely improves the quality of pitches that Miggy will see in every at-bat.

Prince Fielder

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    As mentioned with Miggy, Prince Fielder should hit north of 40 home runs this season. He had a 'down' year from his standards in home runs last season (30) in his transition from the NL to AL, but I think we could see him come close to  eclipsing the 50 home run mark this year.

    That being said, he hasn't hit more than 38 since 2009. At the end of the day with Cabrera hitting in front of him, Fielder should be able to hit at least 40 bombs.

Josh Hamilton

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    Like in Detroit, Josh Hamilton has the luxury of hitting behind the best hitter of our generation. In his first season with the Angels he has struggled out of the gate, but we all know he can put numbers up in a hurry as we all remember in the 2008 Home Run Derby.

    Hamilton finished with 43 home runs last year but only had 25 the year before (in 27 less games however).

    If Hamilton can stay healthy, he will have a great chance of hitting 40 or so home runs this season.

Mark Reynolds

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    With what seems like consistent playing time now in Cleveland, Mark Reynolds should have a good shot at being among the league leaders once again in home runs.

    Reynolds is off to a hot start having hit five home runs in the first 11 games. Reynolds didn't play every day last season but still managed to hit 23 home runs. The year before that he hit 37, his career high is 44 in 2009.

    If Reynolds continues on his hot pace for the tribe this year he could easily be in contention with JB come season's end.

Mark Trumbo

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    There could be three Los Angeles Angels who could have a shot at the home run crown but Mark Trumbo might be the biggest hitter of them all.

    Trumbo fared well in the derby last year and showed that he can muscle out many would-be fly balls.

    Trumbo had a disappointing second half last year hitting only 10 home runs post-All-Star break.

    At 6' 4", Trumbo is a large man who can power his way to 40 home runs if he improves as an overall hitter.

    With Pujols and Hamilton hitting in front of him, Trumbo will see many great pitches to hit.

Will Middlebrooks

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    Will Middlebrooks burst on to the scene last season and hit 15 home runs in 75 games. Middlebrooks has excellent power and it was on display against the Blue Jays where he hit three home runs against them on April 7.

    One of the biggest reasons Middlebrooks is on this list is that he plays his home games at Fenway. The short porch in left field will allow Middlebrooks to hit more home runs than most due to the green monster.

    Middlebrooks will need to improve as an overall hitter in his sophomore season as he is currently on a 2/25 skid.

    That being said, Middlebrooks should definitely hit 30+ home runs this season and could surprise many with more.

Michael Morse

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    Coming over from the Washington Nationals, I felt that Morse was an excellent signing by the Mariners and before the Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera I was advising on the Blue Jays signing Morse.

    Morse has been an excellent, reliable power hitter when healthy for the Nationals, and with the fences shortened in Seattle, Morse could definitely hit a career year in home runs (his career high is 31).

    Morse is currently tied for third in the AL home run race with seven.

Chris Davis

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    Many seem to be already anointing Chris Davis with the home run crown in late April.

    Davis is off to a blistering start hitting six jacks through the first 13 games. Davis has raw power and it seems as if he has cemented himself as an everyday player with the Orioles.

    Davis has improved his terrible strikeout rate and is now a very solid all-around player and not just a free-swinging Adam Dunn clone.

    Davis should hit around 40 home runs and be in contention and among the leaders all season.

Edwin Encarnacion

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    Bautista's teammate, Edwin Encarnacion hit 42 home runs last season. It was a big jump from a career high of 26 back in 2008. However, I believe that it wasn't a smokescreen and signs of things to come.

    You could see Encarnacion evolve as a hitter since the second half of 2011. After a dismal start to 2011, EE hit .291 with 11 HR and a 38/34 K/BB ratio (a stark improvement from his pre-all-star game ratio of 39/9). Since then, Edwin has been one of the better hitters in the American League and his power is coming to light especially playing at the Rogers Centre.

    While I don't necessarily believe that Edwin will replicate his total from last year, I do believe he will finish among the top eight in home runs in and around 40.

Bautista's Health

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    Probably the biggest threat to Bautista's home run title hopes is JoeyBats himself.

    If Bautista stays healthy (he missed yesterday's game with back spasms) and his wrist doesn't come back to bother him then he should be fine to hit in the low to mid 40s in home runs.

    Let us hope that he maintains his health and plays in 140+ games. If that is the case I believe that he will reign as the home run leader not only in the AL, but in all of major league baseball.

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