With another 223 home runs over the last calendar week, the leaguewide home run record continues to climb. We’re up to 6,437 for the year – a pace of 6,780 home runs. Another nine days are left in the regular season schedule. You’ve likely noticed the downright execrable quality of the daily pitcher slates. For every Walker Buehler, there are multiple fodder-quality arms like Chi Chi Gonzalez. However, we’ve also lost quite a few major power hitters to season-ending injuries. The missing big bats mixed with cooler weather might lead to slightly fewer home runs than expected over the final stretch.
Shall we dive right in?
Miguel Sano, 4 HR
Randal Grichuk, 4 HR
15 others, 3 HR
This wasn’t the spiciest week from an individual perspective. Only Sano and Grichuk set themselves apart from the crowd. Included among the three-homer performances were top sluggers Eugenio Suarez, Pete Alonso, Alex Bregman, and Nelson Cruz. Suarez has now hit 14 home runs over his last 100 plate appearances in his quest for the home run crown. Sam Hilliard, Kyle Lewis, Tommy Edman, and Brett Gardner are probably the most surprising inclusions on the power list. Hilliard was recently featured in the Power Spotlight.
It’s a bit of a shock that Grichuk wasn’t able to make more of this juicy-balled season. Sure, his 30 home runs are a career high, but he needed 600 plate appearances to get there. By comparison, the 25 home runs he hit in 462 plate appearances last season featured a better pace. All told, his .233/.282/.458 batting line represents one of the worst 30-homer seasons on record.
As for Sano, he’s also crossed the 30-homer plateau. He needed only 415 plate appearances to get there. It’s a shame he missed a big chunk of the early season. He would have been among the league leaders if he had managed a full campaign.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
The battle for supremacy continues. Over a month ago, I warned readers to not discount Alonso’s chances of winning the home run crown. Sure enough, he’s in the lead with a two-homer cushion. Back then, nobody could have predicted Suarez to be the only legitimate threat to Alonso’s victory. Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Cody Bellinger had a firm grip on the top three spots at the time. Now two of them are done for the season.
At the nether reaches of the Top 10, Cruz and Bregman unseated Freddie Freeman and Josh Bell from the ninth and tenth spots. The ascendant sluggers both hammered three home runs in the last week while Freeman and Bell failed to launch a single deep fly. Bell is currently sidelined with a minor groin strain.
***Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (toe surgery, out for season)
***Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels (patellar tendinitis, out for season)
***Corey Dickerson, Philadelphia Phillies (broken foot, out for season)
***Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (groin strain, TBD)
***J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox (groin tightness, TBD)
***Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds (partial labrum tear, out for season)
Matt Adams, Washington Nationals (sprained shoulder, TBD)
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (fractured knee, out for season)
Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres (ankle soreness, possibly out for season)
Edwin Encarnacion, New York Yankees (oblique strain, out for season)
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (groin strain, late-September return)
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (thumb fracture, available only to pinch run)
Hunter Pence, Texas Rangers (lower back strain, TBD)
Stephen Piscotty, Oakland Athletics (right ankle sprain, late-September return)
David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (shoulder surgery, out for season)
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (broken right hamate, late-September)
Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins (fractured hand, out for season)
Fernando Tatis, San Diego Padres (stress reaction in lower back, out for season)
David Dahl, Colorado Rockies (high ankle sprain, out for season)
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (flexor strain in right arm, out for season)
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (sprained shoulder with setback, out for season)
Dominic Smith, New York Mets (stress reaction in left foot, late-September return)
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (broken hamate, late-September return)
Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels (right tibia fracture, shoulder surgery, return doubtful)
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (shin contusion, quad strain, possible playoff return)
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (shoulder inflammation, out for season)
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (ruptured testicle, back strain, out for season)
Kendrys Morales, Free Agent (calf strain, return unknown)
Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies (torn ACL, out for season)
Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners (spinal stenosis, out for season)
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (labrum team, out for season)
Greg Bird, New York Yankees (left plantar fascia tear, out for season)
Steven Souza Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks (multiple knee ligament tears - out for season)
Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (broken ankles, out for season)
*** denotes new injury
Five players returned from the injured list in the last week while a few others received encouraging updates. Ramirez is trying hard to recover from his broken hamate in time to impact the Wild Card race. Alas, this particular injury stunts power and bat control. He’s unlikely to provide much of an upgrade to Yu Chang. Baez might also make it back in time for some important plate appearances. He’s currently cleared to pinch run. Giancarlo Stanton is set to play six innings for the Yankees today. Carlos Correa is also playing partial games with the Astros. Domingo Santana, Lourdes Gurriel, and Gio Urshela returned to action without restrictions.
That’s the good news. Unfortunately, these returning players were more than offset by a slew of key injuries. I know losing Trout and Marte will probably cost me more than one league. Bell and Martinez could return from their groin issues, although I wouldn’t bet on it since neither team has a reason to risk their star sluggers.
We typically don’t invest much time on ground ball hitters in this column – especially when they’ve managed just 16 home runs in this power-fueled environment. However, Rays cleanup hitter and first baseman Ji-Man Choi is amazingly hot and under five percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. This is your best bet to nab a combination of power, average, OBP, and run production in one player.
How hot is Choi? Since late-August, he’s batting .303/.417/.621 with five home runs and 10 extra base hits in 84 plate appearances. He’s always exhibited quality plate discipline. Most notably, Choi is squaring up everything. During this streak, over half of his contact is classified as “hard,” and he’s whittled down his ground ball rate to 30 percent.
Down the stretch, Choi and the Rays will face the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays. All three teams will use exploitable pitchers. The Yankees are the only club with any definitively major league-quality starters (Boston’s David Price is out for the season), and those will be treated with kid gloves as the club sets itself up for the postseason. The Boston and New York series will be played at Tropicana Field which remains one of the most pitcher friendly venues in the league. Choi will end the season at the power-friendly Rogers Centre.