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Projecting HRs: Who will hit the most?

5/29/2013

It might seem crazy to bet against Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera leading the majors in pretty much whatever he wants to, but when predicting the final home run leaders for 2013, based on what we know so far and what I think will happen, I'm going with Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. That's not exactly going out on some limb, not like projecting Freddy Galvis to bash 40 home runs, but it does mean I don't expect another Triple Crown this season.

Encarnacion accomplished much in terms of power last season, and while it appears he's off to a slow start in a few categories, I look at him as legit and about to really get going. The man who used to be known as E5 for his defensive, um, prowess is hitting enough home runs, drawing enough walks, hitting enough fly balls, and oh, that BABIP is awfully low, enough to believe the very best is yet to come.

This final week of May in the KaraBlog, I'll be predicting the final leaders in several fantasy categories, and Encarnacion is my choice to finish the 2013 season leading the big leagues in home runs. You might disagree, which is good and worthy of debate, but isn't it just so incredibly easy to pick the obvious guy? Hopefully, the names below will help you to evaluate potential trades or make you feel better about the players you own, or maybe it's just a fun venture with little consequence. Regardless, here are the 10 guys I predict to hit the most home runs for the entirety of 2013, and how many they will hit.

1. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays (44 home runs): Legit slugger makes it consecutive 40-homer campaigns, but there is some bad news. He's probably not good for 12 stolen bases again!

2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers (41): He probably ends up fantasy's top player when he leads with a .354 batting average and 143 RBIs, though. I'd call that a pretty nice season!

3. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays (39): If the Blue Jays finish in last place with this offensive firepower, that's quite the feat. Hey, Joey Bats is back.

4. Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Cleveland Indians (39): You know what? He's not on pace for 200-plus strikeouts. The power has always been there, so give him credit for bouncing back nicely.

5. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles (38): Give him credit, too. I wouldn't say I thought his fine 2012 campaign would be a career year, but to be hitting .341 the final week of May is quite a feat.

6. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers (36): Dependable and often overlooked. He hit 36 homers last year, too. Look at his walks and strikeouts. He basically just hits the ball all the time.

7. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (35): He's so good he increases his home run total from his rookie season. And he steals 34 bases. And bats .294. And helps old ladies cross the street. And wins the WAR title, so to speak. But Cabrera wins MVP again.

8. (tie) Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics (34): A sleeper pick of sorts, he's off to a tough start, except he's hitting a ton of fly balls. Well, some fly balls do tend to leave stadiums.

8. (tie) Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (34): Hopefully he's durable, but he's so good at age 20 that it's hard to fathom how great he'll be in two or three seasons. Oh, and I say he takes home NL MVP honors as the Nationals make the postseason.

8. (tie) Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (34): First-rounder in all fantasy leagues rarely gets discussed as a potential No. 1 pick, but check the Player Rater. He's right there as the best NL fantasy option.

11. (bonus!) Josh Willingham, OF, Minnesota Twins (33): Not a sleeper pick since he did it last season, but a reminder to see if he's out there or in your league. He's taking more walks and hitting many fly balls.

Best of the rest: The above list is mostly American League sluggers, but then again, of last season's top 10 home run hitters, only three were National Leaguers (Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Jay Bruce). I see the two healthy ones from that group (Braun, Bruce) reaching 30 home runs still, though there's some concern with strikeout-machine Bruce. … Stanton will play roughly enough to hit a total 21 home runs. … The top middle infielder for power will be Robinson Cano, of course, but Troy Tulowitzki will stay healthy and reach 30 for the third time. Dan Uggla will get there as well for the sixth time in seven seasons. And don't be shocked when Kelly Johnson, of all people, hits a career-high 30 home runs. He's a Tampa Bay Ray. Crazy rejuvenation happens there. … No Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets or St. Louis Cardinals hit 25 home runs, for those thinking of buying low on Matt Kemp, Ike Davis or Allen Craig, among others. … Others I see hitting 30 home runs include Mark Trumbo, Adam Dunn and Evan Longoria. Notably missing from the list is Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton. Yes, he hit 12 long balls in April, but he has slowed down considerably since. He ends up at only 29. Still a great season for a playoff team, though.

Up Wednesday, the stolen base leaderboard!