One of my favorite futures to consider is the Home Run King prop. To my recollection, winner Peter Alonso wasn’t even listed anywhere before the season. You could find Eugenio Suarez at 80/1 and he finished second. Jorge Soler was third and also not listed.
It seems unlikely that somebody so far off the radar could win it this season, but you never know. The really unfortunate thing for readers of the guide is that it came out so early this season that a lot of sportsbooks either didn’t have odds up or didn’t have a big collection of players listed. There were 162 players listed last year at BetOnline when I wrote up the article. This year, there are 29. At time of writing, Bovada had 25. It is a real bummer that we cannot go far enough down the rabbit hole to look at some extreme long shots.
The BetOnline prices range from +1000 to +6600 and the Bovada numbers range from +800 to +5000. We’ll make the most of it, but I’ll try to throw in some other names that I may like from a long shot standpoint.
Before we get into the odds, let’s get into a few things to help narrow down the field. First, I need guys that hit fly balls. Ten players hit at least 40 homers last season – Alonso, Suarez, Soler, Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Nelson Cruz. Trout was 2nd in FB%. Bregman was 8th. Arenado was 12th. Bellinger was 22nd. Suarez was 23rd. Alonso was 29th. Soler was 31st. Cruz was 38th. Acuna was 60th. Yelich was 74th. All of those are out of 135 qualified hitters.
Ideally, I would like guys that pull the ball. Suarez was 3rd, Bellinger was 16th. Soler was 21st. Alonso was 25th. Bregman was 29th. Arenado was 54th, but his ballpark renders that less important. It isn’t a be-all, end-all since so many of these guys have elite power to all fields, but it does matter to me.
Extreme strikeout rates are typically bad. Suarez was the only player with a K% in the bottom 10 to hit at least 40 homers. Alonso was 15th, with Acuna Jr. 16th and Soler 17th. Walks seem to be less detrimental, as Trout was 1st in BB%, Bregman was 3rd, Bellinger was 11th, and Yelich was 13th.
I’m looking for guys that have elite contact quality metrics, put a good number of balls in play in the air, and pull the ball more often than anything else.
With that in mind, here are the players listed and the odds from BetOnline Sportsbook as of February 21, 2020:
|Ronald Acuna Jr||+1200|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr||+3300|
Because home runs are a counting stat, we have to be really careful with guys that have major injury issues or are coming off of procedures. To me, that would actually eliminate Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Eugenio Suarez, and even Joey Gallo. Gallo is also moving to a different park and an environment that will suppress power when the roof is closed. The hot, open air of Globe Life Park will be missed by the power hitters.
Any one of those four guys could win the Home Run King crown, but they are not worth my money because of those concerns.
Who is on my list? First, Yordan Alvarez at +1400. Alvarez hit 50 home runs between Triple-A and the Major Leagues last season with prolific power. I mentioned that Alvarez is actually a guy I like for the MVP at 100/1, even though he will predominantly play DH and the voters may hold that against him. Alvarez showcased violent contact quality and didn’t even carry all that high of a FB%. He also used the whole field with his power. As the Astros work with him to get out in front of the ball more, he is likely to elevate and pull, which is likely to increase his home run total.
Alvarez was 7th in Barrels/PA%, which is a very good indicator of elite power and contact quality. Among those in contention here, Nelson Cruz was 1st, Mike Trout was 3rd, Miguel Sano was 4th, and Aaron Judge was 7th. The difference for Alvarez was either a lower launch angle and lower Hard Hit% relative to the other guys. As he sees pitchers around the league again, I fully expect those areas to improve.
Another guy I like at +2500 is Franmil Reyes of the Indians. Reyes goes from the marine air of Petco Park to Progressive Field for the full season. Cleveland’s ballpark does play better for left-handed batters with the 19-foot wall in left field to punish righties, but Reyes does have immense power to all fields. He was 14th in Barrel% last season, but his 51% Hard Hit% ranked in the 98th percentile and his exit velocity was in the 99th percentile.
Reyes does strike out a lot, but he doesn’t walk as much as several of the other hitters on this list. That should give him something of an advantage by having more opportunities to put balls in play. The one big area of concern for Reyes is his lower launch angle, but the Indians have morphed several of their players into launch angle disciples, like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
Lindor’s launch angle went from 7.7 degrees in 2016 to 13.6 degrees in 2017 and peaked at 14.5 degrees in 2018. Ramirez went from 9.4 degrees in 2015 to 12.9 in 2016 to 14.8 in 2017 to 18.8 in 2018 and then 19.8 last season.
Now that the Indians have Reyes, they can look to unlock his power potential even further. With his violent contact quality, don’t be surprised if he flirts with 50 homers this season.
Lastly, at +4000, Miguel Sano’s value is too good to pass up. Sano was 4th in Barrels/PA% last season and had the highest Hard Hit% in all of baseball at 57.2%. That means that 57.2% of Sano’s balls in play were hit at 95+ mph. Sano hit 34 home runs in only 439 plate appearances. His exit velocity and Hard Hit% were both in the 100th percentile. He, too, increased his launch angle last season. After coming in at 13.2 in 2017 and 12.9 in 2018, his launch angle skyrocketed to 15.9 degrees in 2019. The high K% is a concern here with Sano, but the contact quality metrics are exceptional for hitting for power. He’s always hit the ball violently and his average exit velocity was just about 7 mph higher than league average.
The +4000 price tag is a disservice to his power.
My three picks for Home Run King are Yordan Alvarez, Franmil Reyes, and Miguel Sano.