Last season Nelson Cruz launched a baseball-best 40 home runs in the seats to be the home run champion. This year he’s an afterthought at sportsbooks having moved from Baltimore to Seattle.
Cruz is actually 18th in the current MLB odds to repeat at +4500, taking the better money deal and giving up the shorter power alleys of Camden Yards for the thicker air, deeper fences and wind blowing in at Safeco Field. How crazy do these betting odds actually seem, consider Troy Tulowitzki (+4000), whose not played more than 126 games once since 2009 and Kris Bryant (+3000), who is not even on the Chicago Cubs opening day roster, have lower odds than Cruz. I’m not saying Cruz is a great wager for sports picks either, just keep in mind 25 of 40 long balls were on the road a year ago.
Who are the contenders and pretenders to home run champion in 2015? Here is the breakdown.
The Super Seven Power Hitters (at current odds)
Giancarlo Stanton – Marlins +700
Jose Abreu – White Sox +750
Edwin Encarnacion – Blue Jays +1200
Mike Trout – Angels +1300
Jose Bautista – Blue Jays +1500
Chris Davis – Orioles +1500
Miguel Cabrera - Tigers +1500
This is really a formidable group, but I’ll say Chris Davis is overvalued right off the top until he proves he’s got his hitting stroke back. Cabrera went from back to back 44 home runs seasons to 25 and while injuries played a part, I’m not sure he has another 40+ home run season in him, though close to that number is certainly a possibility.
Between the two Toronto long-ballers, I prefer Encarnacion over Bautista since he’s three years younger. Also, depending on how manager John Gibbons sets the batting order, whoever bats cleanup will a higher rate than expected of fastballs with Josh Donaldson now also in the middle of the Blue Jays batting order.
You certainly cannot go wrong with Stanton just from the raw power perspective, but will he have enough help around him to get the pitches to drive out of the yard.
My favorite choices are Abreu and Trout from this contingent. The White Sox big man was Rookie of the Year, plays in a launching pad known as U.S. Cellular Field and will have a much better feel for the pitchers in his second season. Trout and Abreu both his 36 homers a year ago, but the reigning AL MVP got pull happy and ended up striking out 184 times. The Angels centerfielder is too good a player to do that and has worked on returning to his more natural stroke of power to both alleys and making more contact could well add up to at least four or more shots compared to last year.
Long Shots for Long Balls
Part of the job requirement of being a MLB baseball handicapper is finding value. One rung down from the frontrunners, two names stand out to me, Chris Carter and Anthony Rizzo. Houston’s Carter is another massive player at 6’4 250 pounds and with George Springer now available for a whole season, the Astros DH should surpass the 37 home runs and be an excellent value at +1800 for futures MLB picks.
The Cubs Rizzo is the leader of this up and coming team and he’s still only 25 years old. Last season he clubbed 32 home runs, played injured and will start to have better teammates around him which will allow him to see better pitches. At +2000, a tempting choice indeed.
Here are the three wagers I will be making based on value and talent to be home run champion this upcoming campaign.
MLB Picks 1) Carter 2) Abreu 3) Trout