Everyone will be interested in this race so I figured it would be nice to jump out and diagnose early on who we could see as the NL Home run champion for 2008. Last year, Prince Fielder took the crown with 50 even, becoming the youngest player to ever reach that milestone. Ryan Howard finished closely behind, even after missing some time to injury with 47. Adam Dunn is the only current player in either league to have hit 40 or more in at least 4 straight seasons.
Those three might be everyone’s favorite as far as picks go; so lets look at some other players that have a shot:
Pujols’ power numbers dipped last season, with him ‘only’ hitting 32 home runs and having 103 RBI. He played on one foot all season long. Bad heal, bad throwing arm, but the guy is still going to hit. This we know, as evidenced by his lifetime .332 batting average and .620 slugging percentage. He’s still the games most dangerous hitter. I think he’ll bring back his power numbers but fall short of winning the crown.
Projected total: 43
How does Braun end up on this list? It’s pretty simple. According to the Bill James guide, Braun is projected to hit 46 home runs this season. In less than 500 at-bats last season he hit an astonishing 34; and we here seem to think he’s going to do more figuring out major league pitching than major league pitching will figure ways to get him out before he reaches 1000 career at-bats. Braun is only 24 to date, and looks to be a rising star. The Hebrew Hammer will not win the title but he will turn some heads by dipping into the 40-home run plateau this season as a sophomore in the league.
Projected total: 41
It seems like every year I find myself proclaiming that ‘this will be the year Adam Dunn hits 50 long ones.’ Every year Dunn goes into a tailspin and what at times seems like a sure thing goes away with me looking like a homer for riding Dunn because he’s my favorite player. This is a big year for Dunn, as some will forget it is basically a contract year. Dunn has a $13 million dollar option for this year that was picked up by the Reds and beyond that he has no contract. He’s extremely durable and at age 28; Dunn is entering his prime years. The park he plays in half of the season in Cincinnati is a launching pad. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dunner is a lock for 40+ home runs, but this will be the year in which Adam Dunn puts it all together. I’m talking all-star appearance (and yes a home run derby), a .270+ average and he’ll top the 50 home run mark for the first time in his career. He’ll do it all without having a steady nucleus of protection in the lineup.
Projected total: 53
This guy has monster power. It’s truly scary what he did last season in limited action. He doesn’t hit cheap homers and he hits them to all fields. Some of his home runs that get out to left center field are absolute shots. If you don’t believe me, look it up. There isn’t a ballpark known to man big enough to hold some of the balls he half-way gets into. I’ve got some concern with his durability. I don’t think he’s a guy who’s going to keep this up forever, and neither do the Phillies with the way they’ve been reluctant to lock him up long-term. He’s still going to have a monster 2008 when discussing home run totals.
Projected total: 51
Last season he almost peaked to the point where he’d win an NL MVP. His 36 home runs and 120 RBI are great numbers, even by Coors Field standards. I think we’ll see more of the same this season from Holliday who is 28 and has now done this for 2 straight years quietly.
Projected total: 38
He’s finally got some stability and should be a Chicago Cub for a long time. Soriano plays in a park where 3 home run ballgames can be frequented by guys who hit strong fly balls. He’ll finish with similar numbers to Holliday, and could slip into the 40-homer club.
Projected total: 39
Big ‘Tex’ is going to have a big season. He was on a tear after being traded to Atlanta, and like Ryan Braun NL pitchers are going to have a hell of a time trying to figure out how to get him out in 2008. He’s still an enigma to them. Missing Andruw Jones will not be an issue; as Atlanta always seems to field a heart of the order with enough pop to protect their biggest slugger. Teixera is that guy.
Projected total: 44
Wright hit 30 homeruns for the first time in his career last season. I see him as a guy who will do this for the next 10 seasons, hardly an average ballplayer. Wright won’t sacrifice his valuable contact and average for power, and he’ll still hit a fair amount of doubles and triples. He’s a Grady Sizemore of the NL from the right side in terms of numbers. He still should reach a career best total in long balls in 2008.
Projected total: 35
Fielder is going to go for broke this season in terms of power. I think Fielder realizes that his best chance at becoming a star in this game is to hit as many home runs as possible at a young age, it’s obvious. People forget he hit .288 last year, which is unreal for a home run hitter. Executives in the inner-workings of Major League front offices don’t think he’ll age well. Thats alright, because he’s only going to be 24 this season. In the land of the home run, Prince is King in 2008. The meats and cheeses will be plentiful.
Projected total: 59
In conclusion, Prince Fielder edges out Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard for the 2008 home run crown. No Bonds on this list. Baseball is distancing itself from the steroids era, and these young men listed above will be huge reasons why. It’s going to be a season of epic proportions in the National League in terms of the hom
e run, and a race that comes down to the final few weeks of the season.