Top 10 Power-Hitters for 2018

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In a year which saw the single-season total home run record shattered, the new rookie home run record accomplished, and the first true chase to 60 home runs in a few years, 2017 was truly a season defined by power. Whether it was due to “juiced baseballs” or a shift in the dynamic of the sport, the power displayed in 2017 appears to not be going anywhere anytime soon. With that set in stone, the question is not will there be power-hitters, but rather who will rise above the rest and be the power kings of the 2018 season.

There is no exact methodology for determining who is the best power-hitter or if Player A is a better power-hitter than Player B. Hitting more home runs does not mean a player is a better power-hitter. If that was the case, this list would just be the top ten home run hitters from 2017 ranked 10-1. In this list, I will look at age, ballpark, team, individual statistics, contract situation, and career trends when determining my rankings. With there being no shortage of power next season, here are ten honorable mentions and the top ten power-hitters for 2018.

 

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton

 

10) Khris Davis

2018 Fangraphs Projected Home Run Total: 36

Lost in the depths of Oakland Athletic baseball, Davis has been a home run machine since he joined Oakland, despite playing in one of the worst ballparks for offense in Major League Baseball. After putting up modest totals as a Milwaukee Brewer, Davis broke out for 42 home runs in 2016 and then followed that up with 43 in 2017. This past season, Davis was sixth in isolated power and had a .528 slugging percentage to go along with his home run total.

In 2018, expect Davis to mash close to if not more than 40 home runs again. In his age 30 season, Davis should only continue to crush opposing pitchers and continue his upward power trend. With the Athletics on the rise with young talent, Davis could be a prime trade candidate at the deadline for a contender looking for some extra pop. If traded, Davis could see his power numbers rise even further due to more lineup protection, a more hitter-friendly stadium, and meaningful baseball.

 

9) Joey Gallo

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 39

The definition of all or nothing in 2017, Joey Gallo was fifth in the sport with 41 home runs in only 449 at-bats. Given 500-550 at-bats, Gallo would be a legitimate 50 home run threat as he left the ballpark every 11 at-bats. Gallo trailed only Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in isolated power and put the ball in the air a whopping 49.2 percent of the time, the highest mark in the sport. Gallo also led the majors, amongst players who hit at least 15 home runs, in average home run distance with a mark of 421.95 feet.

Entering his age 24 season in the homer-friendly confines of Globe Life Park, it may seem surprising to see Gallo so low on this list. What holds him back is an extremely low contact rate. Gallo was dead last among qualified hitters as his contact rate sat at 56.3 percent. This resulted in constant flirtation with the Mendoza Line all season, and at times it was hard to justify his presence in the Rangers lineup. If given at-bats, Gallo will produce the long ball. However, if he wants to be truly elite, he will need to increase his contact rate.

 

8) Manny Machado

Baseball Reference Projected Home Run Total for 2018: 39

The biggest name on the trade market, since the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Manny Machado has turned himself into a solid middle of the order bat over the past three seasons to go along with his superb defensive play. Machado is in line for one of biggest paydays in recent memory, and his impact as a power bat cannot be understated.

Coming off one his worst season as a major league regular, Machado still managed to hit 33 home runs, 33 doubles, and slug .471. While these are solid stats, they don’t scream “elite power-hitter.” However, numbers do not tell the whole story. Machado being in his walk year is extremely crucial, and is not taken into account on the surface. Machado is playing for a potential monstrous contract and a high home run total from a player who believes he is best suited as a shortstop would be unmatched on the market.

Machado’s midseason splits from last season saw his slugging percentage rise .55 points and his OPS+ rise by 22 points. Machado was not himself in the first half of 2017, and I strongly believe we will see the second half Machado or better in 2018.

Machado is only 25 and odds are that the league has not yet seen his maximum potential.

 

7) Rhys Hoskins

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 36

One of the best stories of 2017 was Philadelphia Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins bursting on the scene with record-breaking home run totals. In only 50 games, he blasted 18 bombs, slugged .618, and accumulated a 165 OPS+. It was no fluke as he demolished pitching in the minors for 38 home runs in 2016 and 29 in Triple-A, prior to his major league promotion.

Hoskins will likely be figured out by opposing pitchers similarly to how Aaron Judge was in the summer of 2017, but Hoskins appears to be a legitimate slugger and will be able to make adjustments of his own with experiences. The 25-year-old will be playing against relatively weak competition in the NL East, which could further enhance his opportunities to crush poor pitching.

Given a full season, there is no reason Hoskins should not be considered a 40-home run threat.

 

6) Cody Bellinger

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 37

The National League Rookie of the Year blasted, pun definitely intended, onto the scene in 2017 with his sweet left-handed stroke, which led him to 39 homers in only 132 games. Bellinger was fifth in all of baseball in isolated power and eighth in slugging percentage. Bellinger was so solid in 2017 that the Dodgers essentially kicked veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the curb in favor of the young slugger.

Bellinger will be only 22-years-old in 2018 and will only continue to crush the baseball moving forward. His left-handed uppercut swing was designed for the long ball and with a full season and World Series appearance under his belt, Bellinger does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

 

5) Mike Trout

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 39

Mike Trout was well on his way to his third AL MVP award before a torn ligament in his left thumb sidelined him for several weeks. Nevertheless, Trout was still able to slug 33 home runs, lead the American League in slugging and OPS+, and have the fourth highest isolated power in the majors.

With age, Mike Trout’s already solid power numbers have only increased and odds are that he would have surpassed his career-high of 41, if he had stayed healthy. Surrounded by more talent this season than he ever has been in his career, Mike Trout’s numbers should only get better, which seems unfair considering he is the most complete player in the sport. All signs are pointing towards Trout passing his personal best for long balls in 2018.

 

4) J.D. Martinez

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 37

JD Martinez should not be without a uniform for 2018 for much longer given his immense power hitting ability. Already a thumper in the middle of the Detroit Tigers’ lineup, his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks resulted in him becoming unbelievably dangerous to opposing pitchers.

Martinez hit 29 home runs in only 62 games with the Diamondbacks, which led to him sending one out of the park every eight at-bats. Overall, Martinez slugged .690, which was first in all of Major League Baseball. He hit 45 long balls, 26 doubles and three triples and was ninth amongst qualified hitters in average home run distance.

Chase Field was a huge boost to his skill-set and given the opportunity to play for a solid team in a hitter-friendly ballpark Martinez should be all but guaranteed 40-50 home runs. Martinez will have a nice hefty contract to his name by the time the season starts and mashing the baseball will be a more than acceptable way to back up his payday.

 

3) Aaron Judge

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 37

The rookie phenomenon from the Bronx, Aaron Judge set the all-time rookie record for home runs in a season with 52 bombs. He awed viewers with how far he hit the baseball on a nightly basis and burst onto the scene as a face of baseball in 2017. Judge slugged .627 with a 171 OPS+. He also was second to only his newly acquired teammate, who may or may not be on this list, in isolated power, and he was sixth in the sport in average home run distance.

It is a general consensus that it is extremely unlikely that Judge replicates his 2017 numbers, but it is foolish to think he will completely fall off. Along with a year of experience, comes a full season of Greg Bird and Giancarlo Stanton added in as extra protection to a stacked lineup. Judge had a horrible slump following the All-Star Break, so if he wants to continue being a spectacle for all baseball fans he will need to make the adjustments that saw him comeback for a strong push in September.

 

2) Bryce Harper

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 37

Similar to Trout, Harper was on his way to shattering his home run career high of 42 bombs before a freak injury occurred while he was running through first base. In 111 games, the Nationals’ animated right fielder slugged 29 home runs, with a .595 SLG. 2016 saw his numbers decline from his 2015 MVP season, but increases in every major category in 2017 proves that his offense in 2015 is more reflective of the player he is. With Giancarlo Stanton out of the National League, it is very possible that Harper is the early favorite for the NL home run crown.

Just like Manny Machado, Harper is playing for a record contract, and when he stays healthy he is as dangerous as it gets at the dish. Harper will be playing under a new manager, with a solid lineup around him. Entering his seventh major league season at only 25-years old, Harper is due for a season for the ages. The number one key for Harper is not his ability or talent, but his health. Nevertheless, expect many bat flips out of the Nationals’ young stud in 2018.

 

1) Giancarlo Stanton

2018 Fangraphs Home Run Projection: 55

The National League MVP, MLB home run champion, and newest New York Yankee is a no-brainer for the best power-hitter title for 2018. Stanton led the National League with a .631 SLG, 59 home runs, and a whopping .350 isolated power. His HR/FB rate was the best amongst all hitters, he had the second highest average distance for his home runs, and he was among baseball’s best in exit velocity.

To go along with Stanton’s exceptional hitting, he is now going to be playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium on a team where he will be surrounded by protection. Pitchers will be forced to give Stanton good pitches to hit and the distractions that burdened him in Miami involving ownership and trade rumors will be gone. It will be must see television every time Stanton steps into the batter’s box.

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