With one-third of the season in the books, 42 players have belted 10 or more home runs. Nobody has crossed the 20 home run plateau, but we’re likely to get there sometime in the next week. J.D. Martinez currently leads the league with 19 home runs. Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and Bryce Harper are in close pursuit with 18 big flies. Shockingly, Giancarlo Stanton has only 11 homers, tying him for 24th best.
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Week Nine Leaders
Jose Ramirez: 4 HR
Brandon Nimmo: 4 HR
Edwin Encarnacion: 4 HR
Matt Olson: 4 HR
Evan Gattis: 4 HR
Five sluggers fired off four home runs in the last week. Only one of the names really stands out as unusual. Let’s discuss him first. As recently as last season, I was convinced Nimmo was an uninteresting fourth outfielder. His vaunted plate discipline crossed the line to passivity – leading to a high strikeout rate despite decent contact skills. He lacked any track record of power or speed. The Mets also had a crowded outfield. Personally, I just didn’t see much hope for fantasy utility.
What a difference a year can make. He’s become more aggressive at the plate without sacrificing his elite discipline. After a long minor career as a ground ball hitter, he’s flipped the switch. To this point, he’s hit 48 percent fly balls with a 44 percent hard contact rate. Although we can safely assume he won’t continue to hit for this much power, he’s now an easy 20 to 25 home run threat. In fact, he’s emerged as the best hitter on the Mets – injured Yoenis Cespedes included. With New York struggling to keep pace in a surprisingly competitive NL East, Nimmo’s hot bat should remain in the lineup for the rest of the season. He’s earned an everyday role.
In recent weeks, Ramirez has done his best Mookie Betts impression. He’s now projected for over 40 home runs this season. Encarnacion is a perennial 40 home run threat. Negative changes to his walk and strikeout rates have me worried about his ability to maintain a 42 homer pace. Olson may be recapturing the insane hot streak he launched late last season. Over his last 74 plate appearances, he’s batting .288/.365/.682 with seven home runs and five doubles. Gattis’ big week was well timed too. His job security was on shaky ground. Even though he’s hit .346/.438/.846 over the last week, his season line still sits at a dowdy .236/.307/.453.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: 19 HR, 47 HR projected
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 18 HR, 45 HR projected
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: 17 HR, 43 HR projected
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians: 18 HR, 42 HR projected
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: 18 HR, 41 HR projected
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees: 16 HR, 41 HR projected
Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics: 13 HR, 41 HR projected
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers: 15 HR, 41 HR projected
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: 17 HR, 40 HR projected
Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: 11 HR, 38 HR projected
As a reminder, the arrows now represent changes to the projected end-of-season home run total. The process I use is intentionally simplistic. I estimate remaining balls in play, multiply by projected fly ball rate. Multiply again by HR/FB ratio. And viola – rest of season home run projections.
The projection for Martinez surged by five home runs due to a couple small input changes. The largest of those is recognition of his extreme hard contact rate. He’s averaged 50 percent hard contact for over a season now. Nobody does that. As such, his ridiculous 35 percent HR/FB ratio feels a little less fluky. I now project him for 28 percent HR/FB going forward. I’ve also added more plate appearances to his projection.
On the other side of the spectrum, Gallo’s projection dropped precipitously. The only change is to his projected plate appearances. The Rangers seem more willing to bench him against tough left-handed pitchers. Betts is only expected to miss another week with a minor core injury. Beware, these things can linger longer than the initial diagnosis.
I ran updated projections for a number of players around the fringes of the list. The only guy with a strong case to belong is Encarnacion. He projects to finish the season with 38 home runs. Other notable names atop the current leaderboard have closer to a 35 home run projection.