It feels like the 2017 MLB season just ended, but the 2018 campaign is about to get underway. We’re just a few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, even though a number of high-profile free agents are still without a team. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, JD Martinez and Eric Hosmer, among others, will find new homes eventually.
While regular season games don’t start until April, it’s never too early to get in on some MLB betting action. In fact, there are already prop posted regarding the upcoming season. If you’re so inclined, you can already wager on which player will lead the majors in homers in 2018.
It’s a long list, but here are a few of the favorites:
- Giancarlo Stanton (NYY) +500
- Aaron Judge (NYY) +700
- Bryce Harper (WAS) +1400
- JD Martinez (free agent) +2000
- Manny Machado (BAL) +2000
- Mike Trout (LAA) +2000
- Cody Bellinger (LAD) +2000
- Joey Gallo (TEX) +2500
- Freddie Freeman (ATL) +2500
- Kris Bryant (CHC) +2500
- Nolan Arenado (COL) +2500
- Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) +2500
- Miguel Sano (MIN) +2500
- Chris Davis (BAL) +2800
- Josh Donaldson (TOR) +2800
- Nelson Cruz (SEA) +2800
- Khris Davis (OAK) +2800
The list goes on forever, but these are probably the names you need to know. It’s easy to forget that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are on the same team now, but you can bet that opposing American League pitching staffs are keenly aware. Having those two in the same outfield will be quite the sight, indeed.
So, will Stanton repeat as champion after his 59-homer rampage last season? Will Judge overtake his new teammate? Or will a new name enter the fray?
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (NYY) +500, +700
We may as well discuss these two in the same blurb because they’re essentially twins. Stanton smashed 59 homers last year despite playing in one of the worst power parks in baseball down in Miami. Judge, meanwhile, slugged 52 of his own during his Rookie of the Year campaign.
Most will tell you that Judge is due for some regression heading into his sophomore campaign. He was never considered to be a can’t-miss type of prospect, and nobody saw his outrageous rookie year coming. While you obviously don’t have to be a top prospect to succeed, there are some obvious holes in his swing that good pitchers can exploit until he readjusts.
We saw those problems during the Yankees’ playoff run. While Judge still cranked 4 home runs through the ALDS and ALCS, he also struck out a record 27 times in those 13 games. Strikeouts are always going to be a big part of Judge’s game, but seeing him endure a bit of a slump this season would not be a surprise. Of course, even if he slumps, he’s still plenty capable of leading the league in dingers.
The smarter bet looks to be his newest teammate at +500. Stanton made an adjustment to his stance midway through last season, and the results were drastic. From the time he made his adjustment on, Stanton hit at a 74-homer pace. If you extrapolate his performance over the span of the full 162-game schedule, he would’ve broken the all-time single-season home run record. It was a staggering power display.
Now that he’s taken his talents from South Beach to the Bronx, there’s no reason to expect the power numbers to dwindle. Hitting 59 is certainly no lock, but Yankee Stadium is one of the most homer-happy ballparks in all of baseball. There was an average of 1.28 home runs hit per game at Yankee Stadium last season, which ranked second in the majors behind Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.
Marlins Park was way down at 25th, with 0.83 home runs per game. Stanton, who hit 31 homers in his former home yard, accounted for plenty of those. We can expect Marlins Park to drop even further on the list now that he and Marcell Ozuna have both left town.
Judge is more of a secondary play that I wouldn’t prioritize due to his potential volatility.
Bryce Harper (WAS) +1400
We’re still about a year from the 2018 MLB offseason, but early indications are that, despite having taken on Stanton’s massive contract, the Yankees may still sniff around regarding the possibility of luring Bryce Harper to town once he hits the open market. The Nationals don’t seem fully committed to paying him the monstrous deal he’s going to get, but we know the Yankees’ pockets are deep enough to do it. That would be terrifying.
Of course, that’s a discussion for another day. Harper is still under contract with the Nationals for the upcoming season. Following a sluggish 2016 campaign that saw him hampered by a nagging injury, Bryce returned to form last season. Harper, who still won’t turn 26 until next October, slashed .319/.413/.595 with 29 homers and 87 runs batted in in 111 games last year. He was on pace to eclipse the 40-homer mark before suffering a brutal knee injury in August that essentially cost him the last 2 months of the year.
Had he stayed healthy, Harper may have won his second NL MVP in 3 years. Assuming he can stay healthy in 2018, he has a legitimate chance at leading the league in homers. There aren’t many players on the planet with more raw power these days.
Unlike Judge, Stanton and a few other players in the running, Harper doesn’t play his home games in very favorable conditions. Nationals Park isn’t the cavernous dungeon that Marlins Park is, but it’s a middle-of-the-road park for power. 1.04 homers were hit per game in DC last season, which ranked 13th of the 30 stadiums.
Harper makes for a very strong value here, but it’s tough to bank on him playing a full season’s worth of games.
JD Martinez (free agent) +2000
As mentioned previously, Martinez doesn’t have a team as of the time of this writing. As a result, it’s almost impossible to analyze his viability here. If he signs with a team like the Giants, who play in the worst power park in baseball, his chances of leading the league in dongs takes a huge hit. Wait and see where Martinez lands before considering him as an option.
Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger (LAA and LAD) +2000
The state of baseball in Southern California is doing just fine these days. The Angels and Dodgers are each expected to be in the thick of the playoff race this season, and both teams come loaded with talent. The Angels have been the splashiest team this offseason, adding the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are among the World Series favorites after coming up just short in ‘17.
Trout is the face of baseball right now, and with good reason. He’s the best player on the planet by a mile. He puts up gaudy stats on a regular basis despite playing in a home park that typically suppresses home run totals. Trout has already won 2 AL MVP awards and he’s been the runner-up another 3 times. Despite missing a number of games with a thumb injury last year, the New Jersey native still finished with 33 homers.
Trout’s career high for longballs is 41, set in 2015. His power hasn’t always been consistent, as he typically hovers between 27 and 36. The 41 looks like an outlier at this point, but there’s no questioning that Trout’s power is legitimate. He gets hurt by playing half of his games at Angel Stadium, but he’s obviously capable of hitting them out anywhere.
Trout doesn’t look like a guy with 50-homer upside, though, which he may need if he wants to lead the league in bombs. As a result, he falls by the wayside a bit here.
Bellinger, though, certainly has 50-homer upside. Like Judge, Bellinger took the league by storm last season as a rookie. After he was called up from the minors for the first time in late-April, Bellinger went on to lead the Dodgers on a historically torrid stretch. He wrapped up his rookie campaign having slugged 37 homers in just 132 games.
Dodger Stadium is another park that isn’t particularly friendly to sluggers, but Bellinger made it look awfully small at times last season. He’s also reportedly bulked up during the offseason, so he could be in store for yet another power barrage in ‘18.
As is the case with Judge, though, there are concerns that a sophomore slump could be coming. Bellinger struck out 29 times during the Dodgers’ 15-game playoff run, including an insane 14 whiffs in L.A.’s World Series loss to the Astros. He has a beautiful swing, but there is clearly a way to exploit it.
The power will be there for Bellinger, but we don’t have a large enough history with him to know how he’s going to fare now that pitchers have a book on him. He’s still a good bet to lead his team in home runs, but it may not be enough to lead all of baseball.
As mentioned earlier, Stanton is the clear favorite here at +500, and with good reason. He finally lived up to his massive potential last season, and he has big things in store for New York. Judge is the next best bet at +700, followed by Bellinger (+2000), Harper (+1400) and Trout (+2000).