No products in the cart.
When I asked the same question posed in the headline last year, Jose Abreu and Daniel Palka were tied with 22 homers apiece, with Matt Davidson lurking two behind. A plurality of participants settled on the right answer with Palka at 43.2 percent, and it would’ve been higher had the 40.5 percent of Abreu voters known he was going to a battle another intimate injury that ended his season in mid-September.
Abreu is once again atop this year’s list, but unlike last season, the guys you most want to see challenging Abreu for dinger supremacy are hot on his six. Nothing against Palka, whose 2018 season was as fun as his 2019 season isn’t, but it’s often a little troubling when a guy who wasn’t in any plans leads the team in such an important category — especially when his total is the lowest to lead a White Sox team since 1992.
Setting aside a super-sluggish start to the second half, the context here seems a lot more encouraging. The current leaderboard:
- Jose Abreu, 21
- Eloy Jiménez, 17
- Yoan Moncada, 16
- Tim Anderson, 11
- James McCann, 10
Anderson’s injury took him out of the running in multiple senses of the phrase, leaving this a three-horse race.
Jose Abreu, 21 homers
Case for: He’s got the longest track record in terms of performance and health, and if last year’s injuries turn out to be chronic, he’s cursed. He’s strong in the underlying Statcast categories — exit velocity, barrel rate, launch angle, hard-hit rate — and loses the fewest plate appearances to strikeouts of the three.
Case against: Even in a typical Abreu season, he can suffer prolonged homer outages because he doesn’t really hunt for them. This isn’t a typical Abreu season, as it seems like his eye — or eye-hand coordination — isn’t allowing him to reach his usual levels from his unusual recipe for success. The grounders have been trending upward recently, and he’s been having a tough time against righties. He could see his playing time cut into come September if he reaches milestones and the Sox want to start addressing their cluster of first basemen/DH types.
Eloy Jiménez, 17 homers
Case for: He has both the most power on the club, as evidenced by multiple batter’s-eye clearing homers, and one that even climbed stairs. He also has the easiest power, and can leave the yard to all fields. He’s in the running despite a subpar first half, and with his walk rate improving, he’s getting himself out far less frequently. His playing time shouldn’t be threatened whatsoever, and watching him go about his business, it seems like only a matter of time before he figures out lift, and, with it, lift-off.
Case against: His grounder rate is over 50 percent — only slightly, but even 49.9 percent would be far too high. That could be a season-long project. During his minor-league career, he had the tendency to miss a week or two here and there with various injuries. His career high in games is 112, which he achieved back in 2016. He’s not throwing his body around as recklessly in left as he was over the first two months of the season, but his lack of coordination remains a low-level threat, and perhaps the long season could wear on him, too.
Yoan Moncada, 16 homers
Case for: He’s having the best season of the three at the plate, hitting .305/.363/.500. His average exit velocity is in the top 2 percent, and he hits the fewest grounders of the three. It seems like his K rate has found an acceptable balancing point at 27-28 percent. His left-handed swing is that typical, beautiful lefty power stroke, and while his performance against lefties seemed to limit his overall power output, he’s dramatically improved in that category throughout the season, and now has an .803 OPS from his weak side. Nobody figures to bleed at-bats from him in September, unless the Sox add Danny Mendick to the 40-man roster and want to see him and Jose Rondón go head-to-head in the same games. That doesn’t sound that fun.
Case against: He’ll likely whiff more often than the other two candidates from here on out, and he runs the risk of battling the strikeout spasms of old. Even though he’s improved against lefties, 13 of his 16 homers have come from the left side, and the right-handed swing doesn’t have that same uppercut. Majors or minors, his single-season career high in homers in 17, and while that’s not necessarily a strike against, his track record paints a less clear picture of how high he can go.