Thursday, December 23, 2010

Popping Your 20 HR Cherry

In the past week, I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Bracco and Greg Kelly at separate occasions.  They were both very nice, even after I may have allegedly ganked Lorraine Bracco's seat at Diane von Furstenberg's holiday party.

We live in exciting times.

A couple of days ago, we asked a riddle and received some beloved and colorful responses.

What do Jose Bautista, John Buck, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Gonzalez, Kelly Johnson, Casey McGehee, Colby Rasmus, Mike Stanton, Drew Stubbs, Rickie Weeks, and Delmon Young have in common?

At the risk of being pitifully anticlimactic, the trivially correct answer is that they all hit 20, or more, Homeruns last season for the first time in their careers.

Through some research on Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, we selected a group of candidates who could potentially create their own 20+ HR club during the 2011 season.

This can be beneficial to us during bar stool conversation as well as finding up-and-coming sluggers for rotisserie baseball.

First, a few notes on the 20+ HR class of 2010.

  • The average Minor League PA/HR ratio for the eleven players, from Bautista to Young, is 33 plate appearances per Homerun. (Best: Mike Stanton 15.7 and Delmon Young 26.3 PA/HR, Worst: Drew Stubbs 66 and Rickie Weeks 44.6 PA/HR)
  • Best Minor League OPS: Mike Stanton .939, Rickie Weeks .897
  • Lowest Minor League OPS: Casey McGehee .741, and Drew Stubbs .765
  • Mike Stanton and Tyler Colvin were the only players who debuted in 2010.
  • Jose Bautista and Carlos Gonzalez joined the first-time 30+ HR club with Corey Hart and Joey Votto.  Bautista, of course, would have a table for one at any 2010 parties for the first-time 40+ or 50+ celebrations.
  • Rickie Weeks just needed to stay healthy to reach 20 HR's.  He hit 29.
  • Drew Stubbs entered the year with 8 career HR's from 2009.  He hit 22.
  • Everyone on the list, besides Stanton, Colvin, and Stubbs had hit at least 13 HR's in a season before.

Now, onto our suggestions for players likely to look towards for 20+ HR power next season.  We have spent a few days simply trying to figure out how to present this group.  Would we do a straight up ranking based on who we feel is most likely to crack 20 HR's (Buster Posey), but we're sick of boring ranked lists.  We thought of dividing them up by position, but it's mostly first basemen anyway.  I was pretty sure we were going to place them in groups, but here were too many overlapping classifications, so I decided to list a team of guys, by position, and then rank/group the other guys later.  Hang on, let's see how this goes.

Statistics used to compile these rankings include:

Minor Leagues: PA/HR, K/BB ratio, and OPS
Major Leagues: PA/HR, K/BB, OPS+ and wRC+
Bill James 2011 Projections: PA/HR and OPS

Here's our take on who we think will hit 20+ Homeruns next season for the first time in their careers:

Buster Posey is most
likely to succeed.
C: Buster Posey, Giants
1b: Ike Davis, Mets
2b: Neil Walker, Pirates
SS: Reid Brignac, Padres
3b: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
CI: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
MI: Sean Rodriguez, Rays
OF: Alex Gordon, Royals
OF: Adam Jones, Orioles
OF: Carl Crawford, Red Sox
DH: Kila Ka'aihue, Royals

The middle infield is a bit iffy on this team.  We don't really expect Reid Brignac to hit 20 homeruns next seasons, but out of any shortstop who has yet to do so, he has the best chance.  Starlin Castro is certainly a few years away, if he ever gets there.  Barring injury, everyone on this team is at least guaranteed playing time, aside from maybe the Royals.  It's very difficult to predict what Ned Yost will do with the cards he's dealt.  (I don't think that's a compliment in this case although, at times, it can be.)

2011 could be the
Year of LaPorta
The Other Guys...

Best Bets
Carlos Santana, Indians
Matt LaPorta, Indians
Justin Smoak, Mariners
Brett Wallace, Astros

Barring injury, the four fellows above are locks for playing time and have shown enough power in the minor leagues, at least, to be expected to produce 20+ HR's.  Santana is coming off a knee injury, which makes him the riskiest of this group.  We're still optimistic because he had such a fabulous debut last year, and reports are that he'll be ready for Opening Day.  LaPorta is also someone we are very high on, as his Minor League PA/HR was the highest of everyone we studied: 18.5.

Good Chance
Mitch Moreland, Rangers
Chris Iannetta, Rockies
Freddie Freeman, Braves

As long as the Rangers, Rockies, and Braves do not add any significant competition for these players, they should make it over 20 HR's.  Mitch Moreland has not been a homerun monster to this point, but his ballpark and quality lineup protection really helps.

Question Marks
The World Champions
are waiting on B. Belt.
Chris Johnson, Astros
Brandon Belt, Giants
Gordon Beckham, White Sox
Brandon Allen, Diamondbacks

Brandon Belt is a very big question mark on the playing time issue, but his Minor League numbers are close to the best in the business.  Out of the 34 players considered, he ranked 8th in PA/HR (25.9), 7th in K/BB ratio (1.06), and 1st in OPS (1.075).

Brandon Allen would be higher on the list, if I hadn't heard rumors of a platoon with Juan Miranda.  That would not be very exciting for me, if I were a Diamondbacks fan.  Let Brandon Allen Play!

Toolsy Longshots
Travis Snider, Blue Jays

These guys were big time prospects who have yet to really take their Major League game to thrilling levels.  We give them a chance, though, because they have the tools, are still young enough, and their managers will probably be giving them some at bats.

Need Playing Time
We're all waiting for big
Chris Carter to get his shot.
Chris Carter, A's
Dayan Viciedo, White Sox
Tyler Flowers, White Sox
Yonder Alonso, Reds

There should be no doubting the hitting ability and/or power of the players listed above.  They just are not guaranteed playing time on their current big league clubs.  A trade could open the door to playing time, especially for Viciedo, Flowers, and Alonso.  The A's seem content allowing Chris Carter to season a bit longer in the Sacramento River Cats' dutch oven while attempting to win now with guys like David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, and Josh Willingham.

The White Sox also may choose to play Brett Morel at 3rd base more often than Dayan Viciedo because of his better defense.  They signed Dunn and brought back Konerko, so the 1st base/DH options for Viciedo vanished.  Tyler Flowers is someone who was supposed to take A.J. Pierzynski's spot by now, but Pierzynski just reupped for another 2 years, where he'll be making 6 million dollars in 2012.  If anyone needs a young catcher with power, they should give Kenny Williams a call.

Baby Steps
Umm, I think that's LoMo.
Chris Coghlan, Marlins
Logan Morrison, Marlins

We are big fans of both of these guys in rotisserie baseball and real life, for their abilities to avoid outs and show some versatility.  Their penalized because of their ballpark, still relative inexperience, and low Major League power numbers.  Both players will likely make it into this club some day, but 2011 seems more like a year for baby steps into the teens in Homeruns.  Coghlan has hit 14 Major League HR's in 965 plate appearances (68.9 PA/HR), and Morrison hit just 2 in an otherwise wonderful 287 plate appearances last season.  As for Minor League numbers, Morrison showed much more power than Coghlan 36.3 PA/HR and 59.1 PA/HR, respectively.  Bill James projects that they will each hit 9 HR's next season.

Not Bloody Likely
Jose Tabata, Pirates
Charles Blackmon, Colorado
Starlin Castro, Cubs
Dustin Ackley, Mariners

We considered these guys because every year someone seems to come out of nowhere.  Tabata will have the opportunity, but very little power.  Blackmon will probably not play much in Denver this season.  Castro and Ackley were fruitless searches for potentially powerful middle infielders, at least for the next couple of years.


  1. you forgot Jason Heyward

  2. This is the 2nd time this year, I've forgetten Jason Heyward, and he's one of my favorite players. He hit 18 HR's last year and is basically a lock for 20+. He'd go on the team, instead of Alex Gordon or Carl Crawford. Sorry, J-Hey. Did we miss on anyone else?