Brewers: Candidates for the 20-Home Run Club this Season
By Tyler Koerth
With the 2020 MLB season shrinking to 60 games, many are wondering what kind of stats are attainable in that short a season. Could any Brewers break the 20-homer milestone this year?
It’s hard to say what will be considered a “good season” when it comes to the cumulative MLB statistics. But with home runs, many seem to agree that 20 would be a pretty good milestone to reach in just a 60-game season.
In this article we are going to examine the home run statistic and look at which Brewers stand a chance at hitting 20 home runs in 60 games. How many Milwaukee players actually have a chance to hit the mark?
Very good chance: Christian Yelich
Yelich is the only player with a very good chance to hit 20 home runs this season and his track record backs him up. In 2019, Yelich mashed 25 home runs in his first 60 games. A hot start to the season, one that included a home run in each of the first four games, certainly propelled Yelich to achieve 25 total home runs.
Like most great power hitters, Yelich hit his home runs in bunches during the first 60 games of the 2019 season. After his four quick home runs, he would go five games without a dinger, and then another six after that before going superhuman again.
I say superhuman because in a six game stretch from April 15-April 20, Yelich would hit 8 more home runs! This included two multi-home run games. One game was a 3-home run game vs the Cardinals and the other was a 2-home run game vs the Dodgers. At that point in the season in 2019, the Brewers were 22 games in and Yelich had 13 home runs!
When all was said and done, Yelich finished 2019 with 44 home runs that included a league best HR/AB ratio of 11.1. In other words, he averaged a home run every 11 at bats. Given what Yelich has done in the home run category as a Brewer, he stands a very good chance to hit at least 20 home runs this 2020 MLB season.
Decent Chance: Keston Hiura
2019 was Hiura’s first season in the majors and it wasn’t even a full season. Despite being shuttled between the Brewers and the Triple-A Missions, in his first 60 professional major league games he still managed to hit 14 home runs! He would end the season with 19 total home runs.
One reason Hiura was unable to crack the 20 home run mark last season was due to injury. An end of August hamstring strain caused Hiura to miss around two weeks of game play before re-joining the team in mid September. Had Hiura stayed healthy, he would have added to his 2019 home run count.
Expectations are high for Hiura in 2020. The slugging second basemen is expected to get a ton of playing time this season and the addition of the DH should be of benefit to him as well. Given how Hiura performed in his initial 60 game stretch last season, I am giving him a decent chance to crack the 20 home run club this year.
These players fall into my honorable mention category because during their professional careers, they have never hit more than 20 home runs in the first 60 games of a season before, but are still power threats today.
The closest Ryan Braun has ever come to hitting 20 home runs in the first 60 games of a season was in 2012. That year he hit 17. However, in game 61 of 2012 he had a multi home run game (2), so it is worth noting that he hit 19 home runs in his first 61 games that year.
Otherwise, Ryan Braun had consistently been a 12-13 home run player in the first 60 games of a season during his prime. In 2011 and 2015 he had 13 home runs and in 2016 he had 12. Last year Braun hit 10 home runs in the first 60 games.
Given the drop off in home runs that Ryan Braun has been able to produce over the past couple of seasons, it seems unlikely he would be able to join the 20-home run club this year. However, with the addition of the DH, Braun is likely to get more at bats. With the season starting in mid-summer and the ball likely carrying more, maybe he can string together enough home runs to do it.
Narvaez set a career high in home runs in 2019 with 22. He did this in just 428 at bats, which is good enough for a home run every 19.5 at bats. If you factor in these numbers into a 60 game season it would put Narvaez around the low to mid teens in terms of home runs.
Narvaez certainly has the power and ability to hit 20 home runs this season. The limiting factor for him may be playing time. Narvaez has below average pitch framing and blocking abilities as a catcher and doesn’t hit left-handed throwers all that well. How the Brewers utilize Narvaez will impact how many at bats he gets this season, thus impacting his chances on entering the 20 home run club.
In 2017 Justin Smoak crushed 38 baseballs over the wall, his career best. In the first 60 games of that season he had 17 home runs. Smoak was dialed in that 2017 season and has not had the same amount of success since. In 2018 Smoak hit 9 home runs in the first 60 games and in 2019 he hit 12.
Smoak is entering the season with his sights set on being the every day first basemen. His competition at first base will likely be Ryan Braun and Logan Morrison. Like Narvaez, playing time may be a factor for Smoak and getting off to a good start of the season will be crucial.
Similar to Smoak, “Lo-Mo” had his best season in 2017 when he, too, hit 38 home runs. Coincidentally, he also hit 17 home runs in his first 60 games. Besides 2017, Morrison has only eclipsed the 20 home run mark one other season, which was 2011.
Despite not having a great track record of being a consistent power hitter, I wanted to throw Lo-Mo in this group because he had a tremendous spring training for the Brewers and is entering summer camp in the best shape of his life. If he can manage to stay hot/dialed in and carve out a role in the starting lineup consistently, you could see Morrison get close to 20 home runs. The odds seem unlikely, but this is baseball and you never know what may happen.
As Brewers Summer Camp continues and we inch closer to opening day on July 24th vs the Cubs, we may start to find out how Craig Counsell plans on initially using some of these players. That could give us a better idea of who might hit 20 homers or more.