Optimism is in the air on Opening Day. With the 2014 MLB season underway, this might be as good a time as any to make projections.
One of the most discussed topics in the upcoming season might be power hitting. In 2013, home runs didn’t mean much in a team’s quest for the postseason in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals met in the NL Championship Series, yet they finished 24th and 28th, respectively, in the department.
In the American League, it played a much bigger factor. The Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers met in the ALCS, with Boston finishing sixth in home runs, and Detroit seventh.
Power hitters remain a crucial component to a team’s success, aside from their ability to hit the long ball. The Red Sox finished 2013 with the best slugging percentage in the Majors, with the Tigers just behind. The Cardinals ended the season with the 12th best slugging percentage, while the Dodgers finished 15th.
Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis shocked many experts as the only player to hit 50 or more homers in 2013. It was the first time the feat was accomplished since 2010, when Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista hit 54 long balls.
These are players who can be expected to post big home run numbers or a high slugging percentage in 2014.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers - Will go down as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. There are no signs that he is slowing down from his spectacular numbers.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins - Unlimited potential for this 24-year-old. If the 6’6 outfielder plays a full season, 50 homers is a possibility.
3. Bryce Harper, Nationals – Is noticeably bigger than last year, and his numbers could surge in 2014.
4. Chris Davis, Orioles – Must prove that last season was no fluke. More than likely, it wasn’t, since he had a big spring.
5. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks – At 6’3 and 245 pounds, he is a huge kid with huge potential. This season, he will be teamed up with Mark Trumbo, who is no slouch himself.
6. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates – The NL home run title winner strikes out a lot, but power numbers probably aren’t going away anytime soon.
7. Mike Trout, Angels – Already a legitimate superstar at age 22.
8. Jay Bruce, Reds – Six seasons in the Majors, and has never hit less than 21 homers. Expect the smooth swinger to hit over 30 this season.
9. Adam Dunn, White Sox – 75 homers in his last two seasons silenced naysayers that a poor 2011 was a sign that Dunn was “done."
10. David Ortiz, Red Sox – Further proof that some power hitters can still mash into their late 30s, Big Papi finished third in the Majors in slugging percentage (.564) in 2013. Ortiz is just 69 home runs away from 500 in his career.
11. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays – After consecutive seasons of big home run totals, will look to extend that in 2014. What’s amazing is he has only one season of striking out 100 times or more.
12. Prince Fielder, Rangers – Everything is bigger in Texas, and that goes for Fielder’s power-number projections in 2014.
13. Jose Abreu, White Sox – The next great Cuban power hitter. If you haven’t heard of Abreu, you will, as he should live up to lofty expectations in the Windy City.
14. Josh Hamilton, Angels – Back to his old playing weight when he was a superstar, and ready to put last season behind him. The slugger has plenty of protection in the lineup.
15. Albert Pujols, Angels – A legend, who at age 34, is eager to bounce back from a forgettable 2013.
16. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies – Finished the 2013 season with a .540 slugging percentage. Puts up strong numbers not just at Coors Field, but on the road, as well.
17. Evan Longoria, Rays – If he had a better bat behind him he would be further up on this list. Is in the prime of his career, and could be poised for his best season.
18. Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks – The sky is the limit for the 28-year-old. He struck out 184 times last season, but finished tied for sixth in the Majors with 34 homers.
19. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – He’s back and ready to mash. A season of 40 home runs and 25 doubles is not out of the question.
20. Alfonso Soriano, Yankees – The 38-year-old will have a full season in the Bronx where he can be expected to keep his slugging percentage near .500.
21. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers – Seeking a big contract and now healthy after posting MVP-like numbers in 304 at-bats in 2013. Can put up monster stats despite hitting in the pitcher-friendly NL West.
22. Mark Teixeira, Yankees – Looks like he can regain his former home run stats after being sidelined for most of last season.
23. Adrian Beltre, Rangers – Three consecutive seasons of 30 or more homers, and finished 2013 with an .880 OPS.
24. Chris Carter, Astros – Despite a tepid spring, watch out for the 27-year-old this season. He could be due for breakout year.
25. Matt Kemp, Dodgers – Former MVP candidate should bounce back from injuries, but may not be at his best until at least May.
26. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers – Aggressive style could lead to injuries. If he stays healthy, expect big things from Cuban star’s first full season in the Majors.
27. Robinson Cano, Mariners – Numbers will drop off in Seattle after years in the AL East with the Yankees, but will still post strong numbers.
28. Adam Jones, Orioles – Consecutive seasons with over 30 homers, Jones can keep it going in 2014 with Chris Davis or Matt Weiters batting behind him.
29. Brandon Moss, Athletics – Late bloomer must prove that he is capable of posting a similar 2013 when he had a .522 slugging percentage.
30. Mike Napoli, Red Sox – There is no reason to believe he won’t hit 25 homers and 35 doubles this season.
31. Joey Votto, Reds – A very smart hitter, who is brilliant at getting on base. Could easily hit 30 homers this season after combining to only hit 38 the past two seasons. Is capable of leading the National League in doubles.
32. Curtis Granderson, Mets – A fear of a power outage after leaving Yankee Stadium looms for 33-year-old after an injury-plagued 2013.
33. Nelson Cruz, Orioles– Don’t be shocked if he blasts 30 or more homers with his new team to put the Biogenesis saga behind him.
34. Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics – Saw a major drop off from his rookie season in 2012, but he is still a promising talent. The Cuban star wowed people at last year’s Home Run Derby.
35. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers – Home run power has dropped off in recent years, but he seems guaranteed to hit at least bat over .290 with more than 30 doubles.
36. Paul Konerko, White Sox – Slugging percentage plummeted from 2010 (.584) to 2013 (.355), but some power hitters get better when they get older, and that could very well be the case for the 38-year-old in 2014.
37. Andrew McCutcheon, Pirates – MVP season in 2013 proved he deserved the hype as a 22-year-old rookie in 2009. Home run numbers aren’t spectacular, but hits lots of doubles and does so much right.
38. Justin Upton, Braves – Seems to put up big numbers every other year, which doesn’t bode well in 2014 since he had his third best year in his sixth full season. Could reverse the trend should the Braves' bats give him protection.
39. Jayson Werth, Nationals – Bounced back after a disappointing 2012. Finished eighth in slugging percentage in baseball in 2013.
40. Freddie Freeman, Braves – Young star has been very consistent in three full seasons, and may be ready to be more of a slugger in 2014.
41. Carlos Beltran, Yankees – Will see his numbers climb in the AL East, and with strong bats in the lineup.
42. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – Under-rated slugger has put up excellent stats when he gets 500 or more at-bats.
43. Dan Uggla, Braves – After a strong spring, the second baseman may be ready to put a forgettable 2013 behind him. Could be back to his past form of hitting about 32 homers a year.
44. David Wright, Mets – Presence of Granderson might mean bigger power numbers in 2014.
45. Mark Reynolds, Indians – Strikes out a lot, but when he connects, it often goes deep. Could have a bigger year with the Tribe since struggling the past two seasons.
46. Hunter Pence, Giants – Lanky outfielder finds a way to hit about 25 homers every year, and has a strong slugging percentage against both lefties and righties.
47. Ryan Howard, Phillies – Philly fans would be happy if he hits just 25 homers next season, which is what he hit in 2012 and 2013 combined.
48. Matt Weiters, Orioles – Needs to do a better job of getting on base and lifting his batting average, but the power potential is there after 67 homers in three seasons.
49. Domonic Brown, Phillies – Had a breakout 2013 after whispers of being a bust. A major dropoff in 2014 wouldn’t be surprising, but is doubtful.
50. Matt Holliday, Cardinals – Showing few signs of age, the 34-year-old has consistently put up solid numbers the past four seasons.