Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part One)

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The 2019 MLB season is quickly nearing and that means it is season long player prop time! For the 2018 season, I logged winners on 44 out of 67 (66%) season long player prop bets on their over/under marks in statistical categories. Those bets are undocumented outside of my own records, but those who know me well know I am an honest gentleman, and they also know I have a bit of a knack on this baseball thing.

Laying down some of that hard-earned cheddar to have to wait over six months to see any potential return on these season long props can be quite a drawn out process, but hey, baseball is a drawn out sport that is not for the impatient or for the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies. So if you are one that can truly appreciate the thought, deliberation, skill, and strategy that goes into this game that most grown men can only dream of playing for a living, then you should have no problem waiting the six plus months to see your bankroll additions! But if you are one that thinks baseball is “boring,” a.) I don’t necessarily blame you and b.) then you can still read the analysis below, bet it and forget it, don’t watch a single at-bat all season, then login to your account on September 30 for a pleasant monetary surprise.

These picks are based off my personal hand-crafted statistical player projections. ***Unless noted otherwise, all lines are from MyBookie.

The largest percentage of my player prop picks are on home runs, so the home runs category is going to be broken up into two parts. This post will focus on all picks that have a home run over/under of 24.5 or greater.

So let’s get caught looking at these props!

LIKES

Aaron Judge: Over 39.5 home runs (+105) – I am not too sure why we are getting plus odds here, but we will most certainly accept it. Last year, your honor was not quite on pace to repeat his monstrous 52 HR rookie season, but he did pop 26 HR in the Yankees’ first 100 games before getting plunked with a fractured wrist in the 101st game. That only equates to a 42 HR pace before the injury, but that still would have eclipsed this 39.5 home run line. The drop in pace was also a byproduct of his flyball% dropping from 43.2% to 35.0%. He is still young and growing as a hitter, so I move for him to gain back some of those flyballs and I think Judge will oblige and grant the motion. The Backwards K projection: 43 home runs

Khris Davis: Over 39.5 home runs (-125) – The man they call “Khrush” ((not to be confused with former WWF wrestler “Crush” AKA Brian Adams (R.I.P.)) (not to be confused with Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams who sings “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack) (not to be confused with the 1993 spoof film Robin Hood: Men In Tights)), has logged HR totals of 42, 43, and 48 in sequential order from 2016-2018. So getting his line at 39.5 here is seeming like a steal given his consistency. And if we want to talk about his consistency even further, the man has recorded a batting average of .247 in each of the last four seasons. Like…what the what? It’s almost blasphemy that my projection spreadsheet spat out a .253 batting average for him this season. Adding more fuel to this is he has increased his flyball% in each of the last two seasons from 40.2% to 42.3% and then from 42.3% to 48.8%. Khrush seems to outperform his expected HR/flyball% each year, which is probably a product of a higher percentage of his home runs being no doubters and that mitigates the low home run park factor for righties in Oakland. In fact, over the last three seasons, he has 68 HR at home and 65 HR on the road. The Backwards K Projection: 43 home runs

Mike Trout: Over 38.5 home runs (-115) – Trout has hit the DL the last two seasons, so I hope he’s not becoming too fragile. Yes, I know it’s called the IL (injured list) now, but the last two seasons it was still called the DL — and kudos to MLB for the politically correct change. But even with last year’s DL stint, in 140 games he did just barely best this 38.5 home run mark with 39. Looking at Trout’s season more carefully though, we can see that something in the latter half looked much more different than the first. His flyball% in the first half was 42.1%, but in the second half he upped it to a Troutrageous mark of 53.6%. In total, out of the six month season, he logged four full separate months of at least a 50% flyball%. For some perspective, Rhys Hoskins was the only player last season to have a season long flyball% over 50% (51.7%). With the greater frequency of flyballs, Trout also was able to hold steady with his hard% barely moving from 44.5% to 44.3% between season halves. For the 2019 season, I think this is all adding up to the culmination of the best Trout we have ever seen, especially in the power department. The Backwards K projection: 46 home runs

Joey Gallo: Over 37.5 home runs (-125) – So with a K% of 36% Gallo sure is not much more than a .200 hitter, but if 40% of his total hits leave the yard then we should be fine here. For his career, exactly 40% of his hits have indeed been homers and he notched totals of 41 and 40 in 2017 and 2018 since he became a fixture for the Rangers. Assuming full health, Gallo should also collect more plate appearances this year as we factor in the retirement of Adrian Beltre. And if by the mercy of the skin on his tree trunk thighs he could trim his K% a few points, then we are looking at a potential 50 home run season given his raw power and extreme flyball tendencies. The Backwards K projection: 43 home runs

Rhys Hoskins: Over 34.5 home runs (-135) – Good ol’ Rhys Lightning didn’t let me down last year when I nabbed the overs on his home runs at 28.5. By the time the season started, the line got bet up to 31.5 or 32.5 in some places, so it was good to be ahead of the game; however, with his 34 home run total, anyone who bet his overs should have won but with just a bit more of a sweat. I will go back to him here as his batted ball profile indicates that he should get this, and his HR/flyball% last year at 16.0% was probably a bit more unlucky and should have been more around 18.0%. With the Phillies bringing in four different players that can hit in the top half of the order (Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto), Hoskins will end up seeing a slight drop in his plate appearances per game as there’s zero chance that he repeats collecting 73.8% of his plate appearances out of the 2-hole this season, but that’s nothing he shouldn’t be able to overcome with positive regression in his HR/flyball%. Given he is launching the ball in the air half the time (51.7% last season to be exact, which was the highest flyball% in the league), an uptick in HR/flyball% can go a long way. The Backwards K projection: 40 home runs

Manny Machado: Over 32.5 home runs (-115) – The home park switch from Camden Yards (plus Dodger Stadium for a couple months) to Petco Park is obviously not ideal, especially when you see Machado’s career home/road splits as 106 HR at home and 69 HR on the road, but at least Petco Park has played more as a neutral home run park in recent years after some structural changes. But what the X-factor for Machado is lies in his consistency, and the fact that he has been so consistent in these areas at his young age. 2019 is only going to be Machado’s age 26 season and here he is with home run totals of 35, 37, 33, and 37 in the last four years. So yes, he has cleared this line of 32.5 home runs in all of his age 22-25 seasons and he still has more room for growth. In 2016, he was able to begin to lift the ball more and his flyball% has held steadily between 42.1%-42.7% in the last three seasons, which once again speaks to his consistency. Excluding the situation of an injury, 33 home runs seems like the worst case scenario, and at 26 years old he could easily improve to push for 40 home runs for the first time despite the scenery change. The Backwards K projection: 36 home runs

Trevor Story: Over 31.5 home runs (-125) – The story so far for the Rockies shortstop has been one of success, then disappointment, then failure, and then rebirth. He came on as a rookie in 2016 to pop 27 longballs in 97 games played before a season-ending thumb injury. In 2017, he faced Major League pitching making adjustments against him which resulted in only 24 home runs in 145 games played. Last year was then Story’s turn to make the adjustments back, leading to a rather remarkable offensive performance. The key adjustment that Story made was being more aggressive on pitches inside the strike zone as he upped his contact% on those pitches to 87.2% from 79.9% the previous season. This led to a big reduction in his strikeout rate as well as better quality contact. Now, it’s possible that Major League pitchers counter back in this game of chess to gain the upper hand again, but this looks like an improved hitter with tangible changes that I believe can have some stick. The Backwards K projection: 37 home runs

Javier Baez: Over 27.5 home runs (-125) – It is fitting that Baez falls after Story on this list. Were they not essentially the same player last year or what? Baez has some free swinging ways, as he had the 2nd highest swing% in the Majors last year at 57.7%, but when he makes contact he can hit some boomers. Maybe even more important than his performance breakout last year is that while he still manned three different positions, he shed the “super utility” role from a games started standpoint by being penciled in on the lineup card for 145 games after starting in 127 games in 2017. What’s rather crazy though is that Baez’ home run player prop last season was also at 27.5 when his path to playing time was cloudy (granted the odds on the overs were better). Now that he seems to have established himself as a feared hitter in addition to already having some fancy glovework, you would think that this line would have increased from last year, so I think there is definitely some value in this. The Backwards K projection: 34 home runs

Matt Carpenter: Over 26.5 home runs (-115) – One of the most patient hitters in the league, Carpenter really found a groove last year to smash his previous career high in home runs (28 in 2015) with 36 round trippers. It was seemingly a three-year process for Carpenter to evolve into the home run hitter that he became as he executed one element at a time per year. In 2016 it was posting a 48.1% pull% when his previous career high was 39.3%. In 2017 it was posting a 50.2% flyball% when his previous career high was 43.2%. In 2018 it was posting a 49.0% hard% when his previous career high was 42.2%. His overall 2018 season ranks in these categories were 8th in pull%, 1st in hard%, and 5th in flyball%, and he was the only player to rank in the top 10 in all three areas. I am more of a believer in a repeat than not. The Backwards K projection: 34 home runs

Travis Shaw: Over 26.5 home runs (-105) – Whether he actually deserves the nickname “The Mayor of Ding Dong City” or not, back-to-back 30 home run seasons is at least providing some validation and as long as he is calling Miller Park home for 2019, he should be ding donging his way to another 30. Since coming to the Brewers, Shaw has embraced a better understanding of the strike zone, and a sizable jump in pull% to 45.8% last season is important considering that Miller Park is a top 3 ballpark for left-handed home runs. As a Brewer, Shaw has 28 home runs at Miller Park and 35 from the road, but his pull% on the road during that time has inexplicably been much higher, which should probably just be chalked up to variance. If that difference normalizes, then we may have to anoint Shaw as “The Governor of Ding Dong State.” The Backwards K projection: 32 home runs

Cody Bellinger: Over 25.5 home runs (-125) – Bellinger ripped apart Major League pitching as a rookie in 2017 on his way to clubbing 39 home runs in only 132 regular season games, but his postseason foes then unlocked the cheat code against him for the rest of the league and the viewing public to learn. So predictably, his overall 2018 offensive performance was a letdown with only 25 Belli-bombs despite playing in all 162 games (143 starts), which was a far cry from his player prop line of 37.5 home runs. Not that it necessarily has any correlation, but this feels very reminiscent of Trevor Story’s path where he burst onto the scene as a rookie, pitchers adjusted to put him in his place for the good ol’ sophomore slump, and then Story made his own adjustments and became awesome again as a 3rd year player. I am surely not expecting a revert to his 2016 form, but I think Bellinger’s talent will triumph here for the overs. The Backwards K projection: 30 home runs

Mike Moustakas: Over 24.5 home runs (-125) – Moustakas had 38 home runs as a Royal in 2017 and then 28 home runs in 2018 splitting time with the Royals and Brewers (but 65.6% of his plate appearances as a Royal). His home run player prop for 2017 was 27.5, which he cleared, but his player prop for this season has dropped to 24.5 despite now set to play his home games in one of the best home run parks for lefties after spending years in a bad one at Kaufmann Stadium. Sure he didn’t really take advantage of Miller Park after being traded to the Brewers last year, but that’s also an incredibly small sample. I do see some caveats as he’s clearly better against right-handed pitching, yet he’s not necessarily bad enough against lefties to be in a full platoon, but the Brewers have right-handed hitting utility man Hernan Perez if they did want to platoon. Also, I suppose Moustakas’ defense also may not be able to hold up at his new position of second base, which in case any of Perez, Corey Spangenberg, or even top prospect Keston Hiura could step in if things get way ugly since Moustakas is only on a one-year deal. I just think this line is too low even taking into account these possible scenarios. My projection on him bakes in a semi-platoon and he’s still clearing this total pretty handily as a fly-ball hitting lefty in a great home park. The Backwards K projection: 32 home runs

Josh Donaldson: Over 24.5 home runs (-115) – Donaldson has dealt with calf injuries in each of the last two seasons. 2017 was his right calf and 2018 was his left calf. So unless he is the proud owner of a baby cow, then he doesn’t have any more calves to injure. And if he does own a baby cow and does injure that calf, then that’s a horse of a different story that’s going to have PETA involved. The skills are still there for Donaldson to reprise as a 30 home run hitter, and set to man the 2-hole for the Braves, he will have a great supporting cast behind him to offer up some protection where pitchers may be put into situations to not having the luxury to pitch around him. I have him down for playing in 133 games, so I am factoring in at least a 2-week IL stint, but by my projected rates for him, he could miss a full month or so and still eek out a cover on the 24.5 overs. The Backwards K projection: 29 home runs

LEANS

Here are some leans with quick blurbs. At this time, I am not betting the leans, but I may make any of them official plays later on.

Jose Abreu: Under 29.5 home runs (-140) – I tend to believe he will be on the decline, but if he is healthy enough I do see a pathway for him to go over 29.5, which only makes this a lean for me. The Backwards K projection: 24 home runs

Max Muncy: Over 29.5 home runs (+105) – My projection indicates the overs, but there’s going to be a loss of skills and/or pitchers adjusting to him, which scares me off. The Backwards K projection: 33 home runs

Gary Sanchez: Over 27.5 home runs (-105) – The margin between my projection from the line would normally indicate a bet, but I will stay away from a catcher coming off an injury plagued season. The Backwards K projection: 32 home runs

Justin Upton: Over 27.5 home runs (-115) – Upton has been pretty consistent and I believe that he will get there and could even survive a short IL stint and still get there, but the margin between my projection and the line is not large enough for me to justify a bet. The Backwards K projection: 30 home runs

Freddie Freeman: Over 24.5 home runs (-115) – The margin between my projection from the line should definitely call for a bet instead of a lean, but as great of a hitter that Freeman is, he is not consistent with the type of hitter he is from year to year and I will choose to get my exposure to him on a different stat category. The Backwards K projection: 31 home runs

Hunter Renfroe: Over 24.5 home runs (-125) – Renfroe has cleared this line in the last two seasons at 26 in each and he went on a second half home run binge last year. The factor that gives pause to only deem this a lean is a playing time question. With Wil Myers and Franmil Reyes also deserving to be starting corner outfielders and none of the three being an option for center field, the leash on Renfroe could be short. The Backwards K projection: 27 home runs

3 thoughts on “Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part One)

  1. Pingback: Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – RBI | The Backwards K

  2. Pingback: Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Runs | The Backwards K

  3. Pingback: Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Awards | The Backwards K

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