Most major league teams have played about fifteen regular season games so far. Fifteen games are not enough to tell who is going to have a breakout season, but these games do matter just as much as games in September. Some players have gotten off to hot starts by showing their power as evidence by insane home run totals. Let’s take a look at the MLB home run leaders and see if they will be able to keep it up.
Matt Kemp, Nine Home Runs
Matt Kemp is on a tear through his first fifteen games. He is currently on pace for 97.2 homers if he were to play all 162 games. Last year, Kemp hit thirty-nine homers despite being surrounded by a weak lineup and playing half of his games in the spacious Dodger Stadium. As corny as it sounds, he has told the media that he is motivated by his 2011 NL MVP snub. If that what it takes to get him to play on this level, the Dodgers should pay off writers to not vote for Kemp after this year. In all seriousness, Kemp is going to have another amazing year. As crazy as it might sound, fifty home runs is not out of the question for Kemp in 2012.
Curtis Granderson, Six Home Runs
No player has figured out how to use Yankee Stadium to their advantage as well as Curtis Granderson. For such a small guy, Granderson has a great ability to hit for power. In 2011, the Grandy Man hit forty-one bombs. He’d never hit more than thirty coming into the year so some people were skeptical. For example heading into the year, ZiPS projected him to hit only thirty-one homers. So far, Granderson already has six homers, making him tied for second in all of baseball. If Granderson can stay healthy, there is no reason why he can’t use this early season momentum to hit another forty homers this year.
Josh Hamilton, Six Home Runs
Hamilton’s homer total should not be a surprise for anyone who has watched him this year. In 2012, Hamilton is playing in one of the best hitter’s parks, with one of the best lineups, and he is finally healthy. To go along with his six homers, he also is sporting a .391 AVG, and a .412 OBP. 2012 is Hamilton’s contract year, but he has almost no risk of being traded at the deadline because of the Rangers commitment to win in 2012. Last year, Hamilton had twenty-five homers. Assuming Hamilton can play 130 games this year; I think he is capable of hitting thirty homers. However, there is no way he can keep up at the pace he’s raking at right now.
Mike Napoli, Six Home Runs
Another Texas Ranger superstar hitting for power to start the season. Napoli hit thirty homers in 113 games in 2011, and I think he’ll hit about twenty-eight this year. That kind of production coming from a catcher is extremely impressive no matter what park they play in, or what players hit before or after them.
Carlos Beltran, Five Home Runs
Carlos Beltran was a solid acquisition by the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. He won’t be able to replace Albert Pujols but he can provide some pretty valuable offense to the Cardinals offense. Last season, playing for the Mets and Giants, Beltran hit twenty-two homers. Beltran won’t be able to keep up his current pace. He’s never been an elite power hitter, so why would he start to be a power hitter at the age of 35? I could see Beltran hitting twenty-five homers, but not much more. Also, something to watch is Beltran’s splits against righties and lefties. All five of his homers have come against right-handed pitchers.
Adam Jones, Five Home Runs
Despite popular belief, Adam Jones is not a five-tool player. He plays below-average defense and swings at a ton of pitches. I’m willing to bet that Adam Jones was the one kid who never drew a walk in Little League. Nonetheless, Jones is still a fabulous baseball player. Last year, Jones had his best year as a pro, hitting twenty-five homers with a .280 AVG. This year, Jones has looked even better. He’s hitting the ball to all fields and it has resulted in his best start ever. If Jones can cut down on the walks, he will be one of the premier young players in baseball. If not, he is still an above-average outfielder. With part of the fencing in the Camden Yards right field bleachers being removed and Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold slugging behind him, Adam Jones seems primed for a thirty home run year.
Josh Willingham, Five Home Runs
The Twins have a miniscule chance of contending this year, but Josh Willingham will make games a lot more watchable for Twins fans. The Twins brought in Willingham this offseason on a three-year deal worth $21 million. At the time it was viewed as a decent contract but not much more. Now, Willingham has proven to the Twins that he has the potential to provide power to the middle of the order. Last year, Willingham hit twenty-nine homers despite playing half of his games in the cruel Oakland Coliseum. Target Field isn’t a huge upgrade over Oakland, but Willingham will have a better lineup surrounding him. If everything goes right, Willingham could be a solid bet for thirty homers this year.
Nolan Reimold, Five Home Runs
If you saw Nolan Reimold, and said “wait, who?” you are forgiven. Not very many people outside of Baltimore know about the Orioles twenty-nine year old 6’4” outfielder. However, it is about time the rest of the nation pay attention to this slugging Orioles outfielder. For some reason Buck Showalter has always found a way not to play Reimold. This year, Reimold has to worry about Endy Chavez stealing his playing time which is absolutely insane. Last year, Reimold hit nineteen homers between Triple-A and Baltimore. This year, I see no reason why he can’t hit about twenty-two homers and offer an average around .255 for fantasy owners. However, monitor Reimold’s issues with neck spasms (he missed Saturday’s game due to this) very closely.
Matt Wieters, Five Home Runs
Yet another Baltimore Oriole in the top ten. What has gotten into the Fighting Showalter’s? Matt Wieters was the Orioles best player last year, and he will be the Orioles best player in 2012. Wieters, once thought of as a can’t miss All-Star, has “disappointed” in his first couple MLB seasons. However, he has been an above-average catcher every year since his major league promotion. Last year, Wieters truly became the player most of us expected him to be, but because of the two seasons it took him to develop, some people already had determined him a bust. I’m sure that 2012 is going to be the year when Wieters becomes the best all-around catcher in the American League, and maybe in all of baseball.
Chris Young, Five Home Runs
Chris Young is on pretty much every fantasy team I have ever managed. Every year, I’m drawn to his power/speed combo. Last year, Young hit 20 homers and stole twenty-two bases. He never hits for average but he does draw a fair amount of walks. In just eleven games, Young has already hit five homers. However, a couple of days ago, the D-Backs placed on the Disabled List with a tear in the joint in his shoulder that connects the collarbone and shoulder. Unfortunately for Arizona (and my fantasy teams), Young should miss at least a couple of weeks.
Even though we are only a couple of weeks into the season, the top ten MLB home run leaders have all showed above-average power in their career. These guys all should hit at least twenty homers this year. Fifteen games don’t mean much, but if you ask the players lucky enough to play with these ten guys, they probably have a pretty strong impression of these power hitter’s abilities.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter. (@RJA206)***
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