2018 MLB Home Run Total Over/Unders and Picks

2018 MLB Home Run Total Over/Unders and Picks article feature image

Derik Hamilton – USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook released a slew of props for the upcoming MLB season including individual home run totals. Chicks dig the long ball and so do I. Let’s take a gander at all 40 names listed and find a few offering value.

Last season, of the 40 players listed at Westgate, 20 went over and 20 went under. Vegas, baby!

This is somewhat surprising considering the number of long dongs hit last season. However, there were many-a-hitter who nobody was expecting to be near the top of the leaderboard: Logan Morrison…Justin Smoak…Aaron Judge!?! Who could have predicted that?

Going to take that and the Anna Vieth/Ester Ledecka Olympic upset to the grave with me.

Anywho…before betting on these, I guess we should probably ask ourselves whether or not hitters will be swatting dingers at historic rates again. There was definitely some questions swirling around “juiced balls”, which I definitely believe was the case in the World Series. I think whatever went down during the regular season will stay the same in 2018. The balls may be juiced, but I think the league was probably happy with the results.

You want those picks, though, don’t you?

Kris Bryant: Over 32.5

It’s tough to call a season with nearly 7 wins above replacement disappointing, but I would consider calling it that for Kris Bryant. The reigning NL MVP had a great all-around season, providing value at the plate, in the field, and on the basepaths, but just 29 home runs? Sort of a let down…

Bryant’s improved walk rate made up for his power shortcomings in terms of value, but there are couple of statistics that I believe he’ll improve on this year.

First and most importantly is the percentage of ground balls he hit. In 2016, he hit grounders just 30.5% of the time, which makes sense given his uppercut swing profile and natural power. Last year, that rose to 37.7%, which is frankly just too high for a guy like him. Someone with his strength should be hitting the ball on the ground as infrequently as possible.

Also, his hard-hit percentage—which was around 39% over his first two seasons—dropped to below 33%. This is likely responsible for his HR/FB dip of nearly 3%.

In summary, hit the ball in the air and hit it hard. Easier said than done, but expect Bryant’s home run numbers to be back into the 30s and potentially 40s for the first time in his career.

Yoenis Cepedes: Under 27.5

Forget all of the fancy-shmancy batted ball stats and whatnot. This guy just can’t stay on the field.

In 2016, Cespedes played in 132 games and hit 31 homers. Last season, he played in just 81 games, exactly half the season, and hit 17 homers. Lingering hamstring and quad injuries are not something a 32-year-old wants to deal with. It also doesn’t help that he plays in the NL and is forced to play the outfield.

Even if he does play the brunt of the season, there’s no guarantee he reaches 28 homers. He’s played six seasons so far and has surpassed this total twice.

Khris Davis: Over 34.5

Khris Davis of the Oakland A’s is the quintessential modern power hitter. He’s also very consistent. He’s hit exactly .247 in each of the past three seasons. He’s struck out between 27% and 30% of the time in each of the past three seasons. He’s hit fly balls between a 40% and 42% rate and homered between 24.5% and 27% of said fly balls in each of the past three seasons.

With that said, I have to imagine he’ll hit at least 35 homers again this year. He’s not the flashiest name out there and some casual fans may not even know there are two people named (k sound)-ris Davis in the MLB, but he’s a safe bet to launch some balls into orbit at the artist formerly known as O. Co.

All advanced statistics provided by Fangraphs.com