2019 MLB Prop Bets: 10 Home Run Over/Under Picks

2019 MLB Prop Bets: 10 Home Run Over/Under Picks article feature image
Credit:

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: J.D. Martinez.

  • Last year, 89 out of 129 MLB home run over/unders went under.
  • These totals are beginning to hit the market for the 2019 season, and I've already hit 10 unders.
  • Included are several of last year's hottest players and breakout stars, but there are reasons why each of them won't be able to go over their posted total this year.

If you like betting on MLB props and like nerdy statistics, than this article is for you! Prepare yourself for nearly 1,400 words of baseball dorkiness that will put a normal person to sleep.

With home run totals hitting the market, I am very excited. I spent some time perusing the list today and bet on ten myself — all unders. Yup, that’s right. If you like rooting for overs, this article isn’t for you. Last year, of 129 home run totals that were posted, just 40 went over. Injuries, overreactions from the previous season and lofty expectations all lead to value being on the under in a big way. I may hit a couple overs at a later date, but for now, here are the 10 unders that I bet right away.

J.D. Martinez Under 38.5

J.D. Martinez wowed in his first season with the Red Sox. He actually wowed in that half season with the Diamondbacks, too, so he’s on a nice little stretch of wowing.

Last year, I vividly recall scrolling through all of the player props seeing which juices had changed the most. In other words, which ones were being hit the hardest. Martinez’s home run total was 38.5 last year, and the juice on the under was all the way up to like -170 or -180 … I guess my memory isn’t wicked vivid.

Anywho, he went over. The bettors were wrong.

Martinez hit 43 home runs in 649 plate apperances over 150 games. For the second straight year, his HR/FB rate hovered right around 30% — a damn high number. His three full seasons with the Tigers all featured HR/FB rates right around 20%.

With Martinez not being too much of a fly ball hitter, I expect his home run total to drop. I’d be surprised if he was able to post another staggeringly high HR/FB ratio for a third consecutive season, and you also have to account for the fact that he essentially played a full season last year, which isn’t a given every year.

Trevor Story Under 35.5

Trevor Story is coming off the best season of his career, which will be a running trend in this article. You know what they say — buy low, sell high. I didn’t follow that age-old adage with crypto, but I do with baseball investing.

Story stayed healthy last year, playing 157 games and getting to the plate over 650 times. The 37 home runs he produced weren’t that crazy considering his high fly ball rate and decently but not overly high HR/FB ratio.

However, after striking out nearly 35% in 2017, he struck out just 25.6% last year. I’d expect that to be closer to his career average of 30%, and certainly like the under once you take into account his very high number of plate appearances.

Eugenio Suarez Under 32.5

The Reds’ third baseman bopped 34 homers last year and quietly put up one of the better offensive performances in the league last year.

His fly ball numbers have been very consistent — between 37.1% and 38.4% in each of the past four seasons. His HR/FB rate has been spiking, though:

Obviously, getting older and stronger helps with that, but at this point, I think it’s a safe bet he’s reached his power ceiling.

The Reds could also take some of the load off his plate, as they’ll be juggling playing time between a bunch of players. Top prospect Nick Senzel, who came up as a third baseman and is preparing to play center field, will likely get some starts at the hot corner.

Christian Yelich Under 31.5

The MVP. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I did advise folks to pick this fella to win the MVP at 200-1 last year. I’ll be putting that on my grave, but now that he’s at his hottest, I’m advising to fade him.

Yelich, a man whose ground-ball rate has never been below 50% in a season, was perhaps the luckiest man on earth last year. Move over Lou Gehrig.

His HR/FB rate of 35% was the third highest Fangraphs has ever tracked for a qualified hitter in a single season dating back to 2002, and easily the highest of anyone who didn’t weigh about 250 pounds or take steroids.

Since Yelich doesn’t hit fly balls often, and his HR/FB rate is guaranteed to drop, you can be sure his home run total will fall. Also, pitchers may be more afraid of him then they used to be, which should lead to more walks and less batted ball events.

Javier Baez Under 30.5

The MVP runner-up, Baez easily had the best season of his career. Though he still strikes out often and rarely walks, Baez posted a career-high 34 jacks.

The diminutive slugger posted a career low fly ball rate of just 32.3%, but career high HR/FB rate of 24.3% — about 5% higher than his previous career high.

Seeing as it took him 160 games to get to 34 homers, I think he’s due for a dip.

Jesus Aguilar Under 30.5

Jesus Aguilar was really a nobody until last season. The former Indian prospect went from 16 home runs in 2017 to 35 home runs last year. At 6’3″ 250, he’s got the power, but I’m not certain he’s guaranteed to get the playing time he’ll need to get to 31 this year.

In the first half, Aguilar hit 24 homers with a wRC+ of 160. The second half saw him drop back to a league-average hitter with just 11 home runs.

If that continues, he’s not going to be an every day player. The Brewers have Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun all capable of starting first base. They also have a great second base prospect, Keston Hiura, ready to debut this year. Depending on who’s performing well and who isn’t, Hiura could shift Mike Moustakas from second to third base and send Travis Shaw back over to first.

Given Aguilar’s lack of a track record, the under is a no brainer for me.

Daniel Palka Under 24.5

Speaking of playing time, here’s Chicago White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka. The 2018 rookie hit 27 home runs in just 449 plate appearances — an admirable feat. Guess what I’m going to bring up, though? Yup, you guessed it, his HR/FB rate.

At 27%, Palka’s balls were leaving the yard even more than any season he had in the minors. That’s not all. He struck out a ton (34.1%) and always has. Can’t hit homers if you don’t hit the ball.

You also can’t if you don’t play all the time. Eloy Jimenez will hit the major leagues early in the season and join an outfield that already contains Palka, Adam Engel, Jon Jay, Leury Garcia and Nicky Delmonico. Though Palka can also DH, the White Sox also acquired Yonder Alonso this offseason, who is set to get plenty of at-bats in that role.

Given his incredibly high strikeout rate and competition for playing time, I don’t see him reaching 25 jacks.

Ozzie Albies Under 22.5

Ronald Acuna Jr. ended up taking over the spotlight, but Ozzie Albies had a great season last year, including 24 home runs.

The second-year switch-hitting second baseman has never been known for his power, but managed to hit more jacks than he had in his entire professional career up until that point, which was 22 in 1,988 minor and major league plate appearances.

Speaking of plate appearances, Albies managed nearly 700 last year. With Josh Donaldson in town, the Braves are converting Johan Camargo into a Marwin Gonzalez-esque super utility man. That means less ABs for basically everyone, and with that said, I highly doubt Albies will get to 23 homers.

A.J. Pollock Under 20.5

The new Dodgers center fielder will also be dealing with some playing time concerns in a crowded outfield.

Everyone on the Dodgers basically plays everywhere, as we saw last year in the World Series. Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, Chris Taylor and Andrew Toles will all likely see some outfield playing time.

Pollock, who hit a career high 21 home runs in 113 games last year, has also been injury-prone throughout his career.

Those two factors, combined with a new pitcher-friendly home field, should limit Pollock to 20 homers or fewer.

Eric Hosmer Under 20.5

Eric Hosmer is kind of like Christian Yelich — they both love ground balls. Excluding his rookie year, he’s posted a ground-ball rate of 50% or higher in every season, including a career-high 60.4% last year.

About 20% of fly balls have been hit for homers in each of his past three seasons, which is probably sustainable, but not a given, as his career average is just 15%. There’s a reason Hosmer has gone over this total just twice in eight seasons.

The Padres could also be dealing with some playing time woes, and Hosmer, who’s played at least 157 games in four straight seasons, may not be a lock to log a full season in 2019.

With Manny Machado at third and a glut of outfielders, look for Wil Myers to get the occasional start at first base, where he almost exclusively played in 2016 and 2017.

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