Predicting 2019's Home Run Leaders

March 22, 2019

Last year, I took my first stab at using advanced metrics to predict MLB Home Run Leaders. The predictions were all right but this year I think I can do better.

Instead of looking at a combination of the previous year's exit velocities, fly ball rates, and home runs per fly ball, like last year, this year I'm simplifying. Revisiting 2018, I believe barrels divided by batted ball event (Brls/BBE%) may be the best advanced metric for predicting home run leaders. You can find Brls/BBE% at MLB Savant (Visit for a definition of barrel).

I've used Brls/BBE%, in concert with 3-year home run averages to assemble the list below. Also considered were age, park factors, injury risk, and contact rates. Here's what I came up with:

SBD says odds favor the Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton (+700) and Aaron Judge (+1000) leading the majors in homers. The trends certainly point to an AL slugger. The only NL player to lead the majors in the last eight years was Stanton in 2017 when he was still a Marlin. But both he and Judge have a history of injuries, whereas Oakland's Khris Davis (+2000) led the MLB last year with 48, was third the year before with 43, and has played in at least 150 games each of the last three years. He plays in a pitcher friendly park, but it's not like his bombs are just scraping over the wall. He’s much better value at +2000.

A healthy Judge or Stanton could approach or pass 50 home runs this season. With an injury to one of them, Joey Gallo, Davis, and J.D. Martinez would be the front runners to win the 2019 MLB Home Run Crown. Don't sleep on Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto, though. They're both young enough to take a step forward in their sophomore years.

Let me know what you think of the Brls/BBE% approach and the list above on Twitter at @adamwfoster.