Spring Training games are well underway in Florida and Arizona, and the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins four weeks from Sunday with Houston’s debut in the American League against Texas. Thus, the books are starting to really roll out the player props for the season.
I already examined the overall major-league home-run leader for 2013. I originally liked the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson, but changed that to Detroit’s Prince Fielder when Granderson went down with a broken forearm. Now let’s look at head-to-head home-run props courtesy of BookMaker. Here are my Top 9 betting options (nine hitting slots in an AL lineup) in no particular order with my recommendations.
Mike Trout -2.5 (-105) vs. Bryce Harper +2.5 (+135): A fitting head-to-head between the reigning Rookies of the Year. Trout hit 30 bombs in 559 at-bats following his call-up last year, and Harper had 22 dingers in 533 at-bats. I actually love Harper here. Yes, Trout has an incredible lineup behind him, but he’s way more well-rounded than Harper. I don’t see Trout going all-out on his swings as he is so fast he will be hitting plenty of gappers. Harper is pretty much solely a power hitter, and Nationals Park was easier to homer in than Angels Stadium. I would take Harper straight up, much less getting 2.5.
Albert Pujols -2 (-115) vs. Joey Votto +2 (-125): Votto has surpassed Pujols as a pure hitter, but Votto’s career-high for dingers is only 37 (14 last year in 111 games). He has had a few injury problems as well. Pujols is declining, no question, with a career-low 30 homers last year. However, I could see him adding at least a few more now that he’s familiar with AL pitchers. I don’t see Votto hitting more than 30. Take Pujols.
Prince Fielder -8.5 (-115) vs. Paul Goldschmidt +8.5 (-125): I believe Fielder hits at least 40 this year because he, like Pujols, will be more comfortable in his second AL season. Goldschmidt came mostly out of nowhere last season with 20 homers. However, that Arizona lineup scares no one, and the youngster hasn’t proven he’s a true power hitter yet. Love Fielder here.
Paul Konerko -1 (-120) vs. Adrian Gonzalez +1 (-120): Could this be the final season for Konerko? He hasn’t committed to playing after this season and will be a free agent. The White Sox think so highly of him that they considered making Konerko a player-manager before hiring Robin Ventura. I’d bet anything Konerko does manage the team in the future. Konerko hit 26 homers last year and plays in one of the majors’ best hitting parks. Gonzalez’s power numbers have decreased each of the past three seasons, and he had just 18 homers in 159 combined games for the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2012. I don’t see him hitting more than 25 (but he could win the batting title), while Konerko should reach 30.
Robinson Cano -6.5 (even money) vs. Aaron Hill +6.5 (-140): The Diamondbacks’ Hill is one of the majors’ best power-hitting second basemen when he’s on. Last year he was, with 26 dingers. However, he has exceeded that total just once and has a handful of seasons with single-digits. Cano is in a contract year and hasn’t hit less than 28 homers in the past three seasons, topped by last year’s 33. Take Cano.
Giancarlo Stanton -1 (even) vs. Miguel Cabrera +1 (-140): Of course, Cabrera led the majors in homers last year with a career-high 44. I see him taking a bit of a step back to the norm, around 37 homers. Stanton hit 37 last year, seven home runs off Cabrera’s league-high and four off the National League lead despite playing 31 games fewer than those respective leaders. My worry with him is Miami’s ultra-weak lineup and that Marlins Park is very pitcher-friendly. Take Cabrera.
Adrian Beltre -1.5 (-120) vs. Evan Longoria +1.5 (-120): Beltre’s home run totals have risen each of the past three years, capped by last season’s 36. He will definitely miss having Josh Hamilton in that Texas lineup, but Beltre gets to rake for 81 games in homer-happy Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He has 34 combined dingers there the past two seasons. Longoria is a future AL MVP if he can stay healthy. He has yet to prove that consistently and was limited to 74 games last year, hitting 17 homers. I love Beltre.
Josh Hamilton -3.5 (-140) vs. Matt Kemp +3.5 (even): My worry about Kemp is that he’s coming off major shoulder surgery in October. He was on pace for a huge 2012 season before a hamstring injury wrecked his year. Hamilton is also a major injury risk, plus you have the added worry he might relapse with his addiction problem. I lean toward Hamilton only because the team can hide him at DH sometimes, while the Dodgers can only do that with Kemp in interleague games. Plus, Kemp has to play center field (Hamilton in right), which is the most physically demanding position in baseball other than catcher.
Jose Bautista -2.5 (-145) vs. Ryan Braun +2.5 (+105): Most projections I see have Braun finishing around 33 homers and Bautista at 37. I certainly like the Jays’ lineup much better than Milwaukee’s, which boosts Bautista. But Miller Park was the easiest park to homer in last year. : From Sept. 1, 2009, through July 16, 2012, Bautista hit a major league-leading 134 home runs, 34 more than anyone else. He hurt his wrist on July 16 of last year, and he eventually had surgery. His average is slipping, but Bautista is still homering at a terrific pace (27 in 332 at-bats last season). He’s the choice over Braun, whom I believe MLB is aching to suspend for his latest alleged ties to PED use.