These players will lead MLB in HRs this season

March 15th, 2020

There are a lot of big-time sluggers across MLB today, but that doesn't mean the home run race for any given season is easy to forecast.

At this time a year ago, was a highly regarded but unproven prospect. Look at him now, the reigning home run king and MLB's only 50-home run hitter of 2019. , who followed Alonso with 49 home runs, set a career best by a margin of 15. ’s American League-leading 48 more than doubled his previous career total.

But a little unpredictability won't stop us. enlisted five writers to pick a total of 10 contenders to be the 2020 Major League home run king. You might think of some as favorites; others might be under the radar -- for now.

Health is of course a big factor if you want to outhomer the rest of baseball. So even though we don’t know exactly when the regular season will begin, you'll see players dealing with injuries like and absent from the list despite their prodigious power.

Here are the picks.

Mike Trout, Angels
2019 HR total: 45

He has to do it eventually, right? Right. is the best player in the world. He might end up the best player of all time. But he's … never led the league in home runs? How? Well, now's the time. Trout almost did it last year, when he was neck and neck with Alonso & Co. and on a near-55 homer pace before a neuroma in his right foot cost him the stretch run. He still set a career high in long balls and finished fifth in the MLB race. Trout is only getting more dangerous as a hitter. Scary.

Trout's home run total has increased three straight times, from 29 in 2016 to 33 in '17 to 39 in '18 to 45 in '19. He hit one homer every 10.4 at-bats last season, the best rate of any qualified hitter. Trout's contact quality was the best it's ever been. He barreled the ball more than he ever has, his .669 expected slugging percentage led MLB (his real .645 slugging percentage, a career high, ranked second to Christian Yelich), and he drove the ball in the air more often than any other hitter. Trout crushes homers as hard as anybody (17 hit 110-plus mph) and as far as anybody (six hit 450-plus feet). And he's Mike Trout. If there's something he hasn't done, he will. -- David Adler

Pete Alonso, Mets
2019 HR total: 53

Alonso might be the game's next 60-homer bat. The guy who popped 53 over 161 games as a rookie is as good a pick as any. Alonso wasn't even guaranteed a spot on the big league roster when Spring Training began last year, but he made the club and took the league by storm, leading all MLB players in the home run department and setting a new rookie record, surpassing Judge's monster 52-homer 2017 on the second-to-last day of the year.

Unsurprisingly, the Polar Bear also ranked among the MLB leaders in producing barrels, tying Trout and Ronald Acuña Jr. for second in that category with 66. The 25-year-old could benefit from a reduced ground-ball rate (40.8% in 2019), which would give him more chances to hit the ball out of the park. But even if nothing changes from last year, Alonso will have a good shot to become MLB’s first back-to-back leader since José Bautista from 2010-11. -- Thomas Harrigan

Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
2019 HR total: 47

We’d already seen 's penchant for homers in his rookie year in 2017, when he set a National League rookie record with 39 (since broken by Alonso). But in 2019, Bellinger was on another level, knocking 47 home runs, the third-most by a Dodgers player in a single season. His total was fourth in the Majors behind only Alonso, Suárez and Soler.

Bellinger has made a habit of being in the Dodgers’ lineup pretty much daily, playing in 156 games last year and 162 in 2018, after making an in-season debut in '17. That gives him a great chance to hit a home run any day, again making it likely he will hit many of them.

His expected slugging percentage of .638 in 2019 was third among qualified hitters behind only Trout and Nelson Cruz, which tells us that the contact he makes is not to be ignored. -- Sarah Langs

Joey Gallo, Rangers
2019 HR total: 22

always had the capacity to deep, but he didn’t do enough of anything else to consistently succeed. Then, last year, Gallo seemed to put it all together -- chasing less pitches, walking more, ignoring the shift and lowering his launch angle, just a bit -- and made himself an AL MVP candidate before an oblique strain and a broken right hamate bone cut his season short.

So, if Gallo puts a full season together and continues to make gains with his approach -- look out. This guy has averaged one homer for every 12 at-bats across a career that might still be peaking (Gallo is only 26), and that’s a McGwire-esque, Ruthian pace. Gallo barrels the ball more than anyone, and he rips his fly balls and line drives harder than anyone (he averaged a 101.2 mph exit velocity on those air balls in 2019). That’s a great recipe. -- Matt Kelly

Jorge Soler, Royals
2019 HR total: 48

This list would seem incomplete without last year’s AL home run king. Soler entered 2019 with a disappointing total of 38 career big flies in 307 games over parts of five seasons, but he finally stayed healthy, playing in all 162 games, and shattered the franchise single-season record. While that feels like a best-case-scenario sort of year, Soler’s power is legit.

Nobody in the Majors barreled the ball more times than Soler (70), who also hit the most homers that would have gone out at any of the 30 ballparks, per Statcast. That’s an important feat for a player who calls spacious Kauffman Stadium home, and Soler has the thunder in his bat to make 2019 just the beginning, as suggested by his second-half explosion (1.076 OPS, 25 homers). -- Andrew Simon

Miguel Sanó, Twins
2019 HR total: 34

set a career high last season and still only hit 34, tying for 29th in MLB. So what suggests he can jump all the way to first? Simply put, the 26-year-old destroys baseballs like few others. Of the more than 300 players to put at least 200 balls in play last season, Sanó ranked first in hard-hit rate (57.2%), barrel rate (21.2%), average exit velocity on fly balls (100 mph), and average distance on fly balls (367 feet).

Among those with at least 400 plate appearances in 2019, only teammate Nelson Cruz homered in a higher percentage of those chances than Sanó (7.7%). What Sanó needs now is more of those chances. Injuries have held him under 500 PA in each of the four full seasons since his July 2015 debut. If Sanó can finally stay in the lineup all year -- and perhaps trim one of the game’s highest K-rates just a bit -- the sky’s the limit. -- Simon

Matt Olson, Athletics
2019 HR total: 36

Be sure to check out Mr. Harrigan's detailed breakdown of ' slugging ability, too, but I'll start with a very simple reason to pick him as the home run king: Olson’s left-handed swing is beautiful, and it’s made to crush. Every time Olson’s swing sweeps a ball to the pull side, it looks like automatic damage (his expected slugging bears that out), and he did that way more in 2019. Olson has always ranked among baseball’s leaders in hard-hit rate and exit velocity, plus his strikeout rate continues to hover around a moderate 25%. Once he came back from a fractured hamate bone and got things going with his first homer on May 12 last year, Olson dingered roughly once every 13 at-bats -- not far removed from his career 14.1 AB/HR rate.

Last year’s injury seemed more like an aberration than a trend, and Olson has been durable since his days in the Minors. If he gets in a groove with that lovely pull swing, I like his chances as much as anyone. -- Kelly

Franmil Reyes, Indians
2019 HR total: 37

You often hear ’ name in the same sentence with the word "Statcast" for a reason: he hits the ball very hard. In 2019, he had a 51% hard-hit rate, which ranked third among 225 players with at least 250 batted balls. His 93.3 mph average exit velocity ranked second among that same group. Hitting the ball hard isn’t the only requirement for a home run, but it certainly helps.

After a 2018 debut season in which he played in 87 games, Reyes played in 150 games in ‘19 and mashed 37 homers. With how hard he hits the ball, there’s plenty of reason to believe there are many more home runs waiting in that bat. Last year, 14.8% of his batted balls were barreled, tied for the 10th-highest such rate in the Majors (min 250 batted balls). Barrels typically result in extra-base hits, and that high rate bodes well for Reyes’ chances at leading the league. -- Langs

Eloy Jiménez, White Sox
2019 HR total: 31

While ' rookie numbers (31 homers, .828 OPS) suggest he made a quick transition to the Majors, the youngster actually took some time to get going. In fact, he hit just .235/.291/.446 over his first 79 games, as a ground-ball rate north of 50% offset his solid 43.2% hard-hit rate.

Something clicked late in the year, however, as Jiménez not only increased his hard-hit rate, but also began to elevate the ball more. From Aug. 10 through season's end, Jiménez led the Majors in barrels (23) while slashing .322/.359/.626 with 13 homers in that span. At 23 years old, the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is only beginning to tap into his immense power. -- Harrigan

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
2019 HR total: 15

It's only a matter of time until takes his light-tower power Home Run Derby display to the regular-season diamond. All he needs to do is get the ball off the ground. OK, maybe that's easier said than done. But this is what you should focus on: young Vlad has a home run ceiling like almost nobody else in the league. He hits the ball at the absolute extreme end of exit velocity. That is a rare skill. You can learn how to hit the ball in the air. You can't learn how to hit the ball 120 mph.

Three of the top five hardest-hit balls of the 2019 MLB season came off the bat of Vlad Jr., the leaderboard alternating between him and Giancarlo Stanton. Those balls were all hit harder than 118 mph, something only three Major League hitters have done in a single season since Statcast began tracking five years ago: Stanton, Aaron Judge and Vlad Jr. It's not coincidence that Vladito is on a short list with the most recent slugger to chase 60 homers and another who smashed 50 that same year. To join them, Vladito just needs to elevate and celebrate. -- Adler