Ranking the Best Home Run Hitters Since 2000

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2021

Ranking the Best Home Run Hitters Since 2000

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    David Ortiz
    David OrtizGreg M. Cooper/Associated Press

    No matter how Major League Baseball evolves, home runs will remain one of the most entertaining parts of the game.

    Players can be signed and re-signed solely because of their long-ball power. There simply is no substitute for driving home yourselfand everyone else on base.

    In the past 20 years, exactly 20 MLB players have swatted 350-plus homers. Most of these playersAlbert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz among themare considered legends of the sport. And we're highlighting the best of the group.

    The order is based on a combination of volume (total home runs) and efficiency (home runs per plate appearance).

10. Manny Ramirez

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    Because the list is limited to post-1999 production, 198 of Manny Ramirez's 555 career home runs are not included. Still, he had a spectacular run in the first decade of the millennium.

    Ramirez tallied 38 during his final season with Cleveland before joining the Boston Red Sox in 2001. Over the next six years, he sent no fewer than 33 out of the park each season. Ramirez topped out at 45 in 2005 after leading the American League with 43 the year before. Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought in 2004, too.

    From 2000-10, Ramirez (357) trailed only A-Rod (465), Pujols (408) and Jim Thome (393) in home runs.

9. Ryan Howard

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    Based on efficiency alone, Ryan Howard would be even higher.

    During his 13-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the first baseman launched a home run every 17.1 plate appearances. Among the 20 eligible players on the list, Howard is tied for second with Rodriguez behind Thome (15.7).

    Plus, only Barry Bands and A-Rod had more 45-homer seasons than Howard. He accomplished that in four straight years (2006-09) while hitting a league-high 58 in 2006 and 48 in 2008. Howard won the Home Run Derby in 2006, too.

    Injuries plagued Howard late in the 2010s, holding him to 25 or fewer in his last five seasons. Nevertheless, he launched 382 for his career—the 14th-highest total since 2000.

8. Miguel Cabrera

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    In all likelihood, Miguel Cabrera will cross the 500-homer mark sometime during the 2021 season. It'll be a well-deserved accomplishment for the future Hall of Famer.

    Cabrera made his MLB debut with the Florida Marlins in 2003. He crushed 33 home runs in his first two full seasons and finished with 138 in his five. Florida dealt him to the Detroit Tigers in December 2007, and Cabrera only improved his totals.

    He led the AL with 37 homers in 2008 and hit 34, 38 and 30 in the next three seasons. Cabrera smacked 44 in both 2012 and 2013, winning the AL MVP both years and the 2012 Triple Crown.

    In the past two decades, Pujols and Rodriguez are the only players with more 30-homer seasons than Cabrera.

7. Edwin Encarnacion

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    Through the first seven years of his career, Edwin Encarnacion averaged a modest 17 homers per season. Beginning in 2012, however, he began mashing the ball.

    He belted a personal-best 42 homers that season, and he matched the total in 2016. Every year until the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Encarnacionprimarily a designated hitter and first basemantopped the 30-homer mark.

    Not only did Encarnacion end the 2020 season with 424 career home runs, but he'd also averaged one per 19.2 plate appearanceswell above Cabrera's clip of one per 21.5.

6. Adam Dunn

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    Adam Dunn struck out a lot. Like, a lot a lot. The powerful left-hander also obliterated his fair share of baseballs.

    "I would always get myself in holes. I would be 0-2 a lot, and obviously, it's hard to hit 0-2," Dunn told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick of his approach at the plate. "But right or wrong, I had a plan, and I would try to stick to it the entire game and not get away from it."

    Most impressively, he launched 40-plus homers in every year from 2004 to '08. Dunn totaled six such seasons in a 14-year career, which is the second-most behind Pujols since 2000.

    Other than his 66-game rookie year and in 2011, Dunn crossed the 20-homer mark. He retired with 462, hitting one per 18 trips to the batter's box.

5. Nelson Cruz

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    Though he debuted in 2005 with the Milwaukee Brewers, Nelson Cruz managed only 611 plate appearances through 2008. He didn't become a full-time big leaguer until his age-28 season.

    He became a full-time pain-in-the-butt for pitchers too.

    Cruz smashed 33 homers in 2009 and totaled 102 over the next four seasons. And then he unlocked a new level of power. He paced MLB with 40 home runs in 2014, which kicked off a six-year streak of 37-plus homers.

    Entering the 2021 season, Cruz had 417 career homers with a longball every 17.1 plate appearances.

4. Jim Thome

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    Jim Thome spent the first 12 years of his career in Cleveland, but only the last three are considered here. However, he still crushed 416 of his 612 after the turn of the millennium.

    And nobody combined volume with efficiency quite like Thome.

    For his career, Thome hit a homer per 16.9 plate appearances. During the post-2000 stretch, the number dropped to 15.7.

    In 2001 and 2002 with Cleveland, he tallied 49 and 52. While on the Phillies, Thome led MLB with 47 in 2003, He added two seasons of 42 in 2004 and 2006 for Philadelphia and the Chicago White Sox, respectively.

3. David Ortiz

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    Somewhat similarly to Cruz, David Ortiz had a slow build to his reputation. He debuted with the Minnesota Twins in 1997 but didn't reach the 20-homer mark until 2002.

    That ended up as Ortiz's final season in Minnesota, which released him because of the raise he would've been due. Instead, he signed with Boston and developed into a franchise cornerstone who, along with Ramirez, helped end the World Series drought in 2004.

    Ortiz cranked 31, 41, 47 and an AL-high 54 homers (2006) in his first four seasons with the Red Sox. Ortiz, the Home Run Derby champion in 2010, then averaged 31 homers from 2007 to '16.

    With a homer per 18.2 plate appearances and 531 total in 2000 or later, Ortiz has a special blend of rate and volume.

2. Alex Rodriguez

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    The qualifier is necessary: Alex Rodriguez later admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs for three years beginning in 2001 and steroids. You can evaluate that reality in whatever way is right for you.

    Still need to hit the ball, though.

    Rodriguez ranks fourth in MLB history with 696 home runs, and 548 of them happened in 2000 or later. A-Rod led the American League in homers five times (and MLB three times), belting 50-plus in three seasons. Additionally, he posted 14 years of 30-plus home runs.

    Again, consider the context in your own way. The numbers show Rodriguez was an elite home run hitter.

1. Albert Pujols

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    Name the volume category, and Albert Pujols probably leads it.

    From 2000 to today, he's No. 1 in total home runs (663) and leads the second-place hitter, Rodriguez (548), by 115. He boasts the most seasons with 20, 30 and 40 homers, tallying 17, 14 and seven such years so far, respectively.

    Pujols, who's playing his age-41 season in 2021, is nearing the end of his career. But a major milestone might keep him around.

    "If I'm close to it, why not?" he told USA Today Sports of playing beyond 2021. "I don't try to chase numbers, but 700 is a big number."

    Either way, Pujols will retire as MLB's premier home run hitter of the first two decades in this millennium.