MLB Predictions 2011: 7 Hitters Most Likely to Make a Run at 50 Home Runs
In 2010, Jose Bautista became the first player since 2006 to hit at least 50 homers in a season, hitting a total of 54. Bautista became the breakout star of the year and has so far played even better in 2011, making the Blue Jays' decision to give him a nice extension look even better.
This year there are a good number of players that are on pace to hit 50, but in this article I'll take a look at guys, both fast and slow starters so far, that I think will have the best chance to top the mark in 2011.
While there has been a more recent focus on defense and speed, the home run is still the sexiest thing in baseball. Not only is it a moneymaking factor, but it more importantly is instant offense for your team and gives you a better chance to win.
So without anymore talk, let's get down to the list.
This list of players will include guys I thought may contend for this number at the beginning of the year and some that have gotten off to great starts this season. I don't think any of these guys will come that close to hitting 50 homers, but anywhere in the 30-40 range is very possible for these guys.
Dunn would have easily been one of my favorites to hit 50 home runs heading into the season, but the slugger has yet to do anything well this season. So far he is only hitting .172 with two homers.
I believe I saw during the last Yankees game on ESPN that Granderson is tied for second for the most home runs since September 1, 2010. He finished last season with nine homers in September and has hit seven so far this season. While he is currently on pace for 54 home runs, I think he ends up in the mid-30s. But who knows?
While Beltre's average has taken a significant drop (.321 to .253 so far this season), he has hit seven homers. This puts him on pace to hit 47, but I think Beltre cools off a bit and ends up in the high 30s with possibly his second career 40-homer season.
Since last September, Tulowitzki has hit 22 homers and knocked in 57 RBI, making him the most prolific run producer during that time. His seven homers thus far in the season have him on pace to hit 49. However, the grind of playing shortstop will cause the total to drop. That said, Tulowitzki is my current favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award, and I think he'll end up in the mid 30s in home runs.
As far as pure hitters go, Cabrera (five homers) has to be in everyone's top five list for current players. He has posted a career average of .314 and is currently hitting .329 on this young season. He has already hit five homers, but Cabrera has never hit more than 38 homers in a season. So while he has had a fabulous career and season so far, I don't think he will cross even the 40-homer mark.
I put Posada here because he is currently on pace to hit 46 home runs, though that number is starting to drop drastically. He is only hitting .138 on the season, so I doubt his early homer success continues enough for him to even clear the fence 25 times, if he even reaches 20.
One of the most controversial superstars of this generation, A-Rod has seemingly turned back the clock after a few "down" years. After posting a slash line of "just" .270/.341/.506 with 30 homers last year, A-Rod has gotten off to a hot start in 2011. He is currently hitting .317/.442/.667 with five homers.
While he is currently on a bit of a slide, Rodriguez has proven that he can still hit at an extremely high level. While I certainly wouldn't put money on a 50-homer season, I can see Alex putting up his ninth 40-homer season. With that said, a 14th consecutive 30-homer season almost seems automatic.
The young stud recently signed an enormous extension that will keep him a Milwaukee Brewer until 2020 and also got proposed to over the past week. Braun has proven himself as one of the best players in the game, particularly with the bat in his hands.
This is proven by a career average of .309 and the fact that he has never hit fewer than 25 homers in a season.
Braun is currently hitting homers (nine, leading all of baseball) at a frantic pace (while keeping an average of .356) and is on pace for 61 big flies.
Braun's career high for homers is 37 in 2008, and in that year he hit four homers in April. He's already more than doubled that this year. I don't think Braun will clear the fence 50 times, but he has as good a shot as any, and he will, in my opinion, experience his first 40-homer season.
While the slugger has only hit four home runs to this point, there is no doubt that he still has a ton of pop in his bat. Howard is a former 58-home run hitter that can get in a groove and hit 10 to 15 in a month, and he will likely have to have a month like that to put himself in contention for 50.
Phillies fans should be very excited about what they see from Howard though, as he is hitting .293 and slugging .522. Howard seems a safe bet to me to hit at least 35, and I think he will get back to 40 after a slightly down 2010 year.
After a slow start to the season, "The Machine" decided it was time to stop playing around and has been on a tear recently, hitting homers at a pace we are more used to seeing from one of the all-time greats.
Pujols, for all that he has accomplished, has never hit 50 homers in a season. His closest season was 2006, when he hit 49. Surprisingly, he played the fewest games of his career last year.
I think this is the year that Pujols cranks out 50. His seven homers right now have him on pace for 47, but Pujols has just recently started to heat up (as evidenced by his .250 season average). A nice couple of weeks from him will only raise his chances of putting up another statistic in his incredible career.
Prince Fielder has been huge for the Brewers this year so far, hitting at an extremely high rate in his contract year. Fielder has already put up a 50-homer season—he hit exactly that many in 2007.
He currently sits at four homers, but his .326 average leads me to believe that an explosion of big flies is coming. If he keeps up this pace and doesn't hit 50, he will at least end up being pretty close.
After winning the 2010 National League MVP, it seemed that things could only get worse for the first baseman, but he has been incredible again in 2011.
After hitting 37 homers last year, Votto has surpassed his current pace to this point in the season with five homers. Votto is continuing to progress as a hitter every year, as shown by his current slash line of .379/.509/.655.
Votto's progression should also translate to him hitting more homers, and I think he will surpass 40 homers this season, though ending up in the upper 30s again would be just fine with Cincinnati Reds fans.
After having a 2010 season that most people wanted to call a fluke, Jose Bautista is not only showing it wasn't a fluke, but currently is surpassing his numbers and is on pace for an MVP-caliber season.
Bautista may be the league's most dangerous hitter. Need evidence? Check out this article by David Schoenfield.
Want to hear something a little bit crazier for the one-time journeyman? Last year, he hit four homers in April. He's already hit eight this season, putting him on pace to smash 54 again. When you add in his current slash line of .356/.515/.767, you could question whether or not we are seeing a guy that is not only capable of 50 homers but perhaps even 60.
If Bautista continues to hit at this level, or even two notches lower, then it is at least going to be fun to watch the Toronto Blue Jays for one reason.
Bautista is currently, in my opinion, the best hitter in baseball. While you can expect his average to drop a good bit, don't let it affect what you are seeing. Bautista, in the age of strict drug testing, has made adjustments to his swing that have made him one of the best players in baseball.
I think he will join Pujols as the two 50-homer players we see this year.