What at time to be alive. If you like home runs – and who doesn’t? – today’s Major League Baseball is a gold mine for long-balls, dingers, four-baggers or whatever else you want to call them.
The 2016 season saw more baseballs sail over the outfield fence (5,610) across the Majors than any other season in history, except for in 2000, when a record 5,693 home runs were hit in the height of the Steroid Era.
In fact, home runs were up nearly 13 percent in 2016 over 2015, and that jump was actually down from a nearly 15 percent increase in 2015 over the year before that.
While more players are hitting home runs these days than ever before, we can also thank many of the wily old sluggers and their unrelenting propensity to take opposing pitchers deep for the outburst of homers over the past couple of years.
With all that hitting, it may be surprising that in the history of Major League Baseball, only 218 players have reached the 250 home run plateau. Lucky for us, 15 of them are currently active across 12 different teams heading in to the 2017 season. That’s a lot of moon-shot potential for any one period of time.
But while a four-base knock is one of the most exciting parts of America’s pastime, there’s more to being a good player than just powering balls out of the park somewhere between the foul poles. So, let’s take a look at the 15 currently active MLB players with 250 home runs or more and rank them starting from worst to first.
15. Mark Reynolds (251 Home Runs)
OK, so when I say “worst” on this list, it sort of becomes a relative term when you’re one of the 15 active all-time home run leaders in baseball. Nonetheless, Rockies infielder Mark Reynolds gets the unfortunate designation at the bottom.
At 33 years old, Reynolds is one of the younger guys among this group. He’s 10 years into his MLB career, and in 4,571 career at-bats, he’s got 251 homers. Not too shabby. But his .234/.326/.452 slash line and 1,631 strikeouts will tell you what kind of hitter he is. He’s likely either going to strike out or hit a bomb… but most likely strike out.
In case you needed data to back up that point, Reynolds set the all-time record for most strikeouts among batters in a season in 2009 with 223 and had the most strikeouts of anyone four years in a row from 2008 to 2011.
14. Chase Utley (250 Home Runs)
Longtime Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley doesn’t hit home runs at quite the clip that most of the other guys on this list do, but he’s done so often enough throughout his 14 years in MLB that he just does qualifies to appear on this exclusive list, but barely.
Utley has hit 30 or more long balls in just three of his 14 seasons and averages just shy of 18 a year, but what makes him so valuable is his shut-down defense and aggressive base-running.
He’s a six-time All-Star, a four-time recipient of the Silver Slugger award and won the Fielding Bible Award in 2010 as a member of the Phillies. He had the most putouts of any second baseman in the National League in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2014 and was tops in the NL in assists in 2008 with 465 and Defensive WAR at 3.5.
13. Ryan Howard (382 Home Runs)
You might think Ryan Howard would command a higher ranking on this list than third-to-last since he’s fifth all-time among active home run leaders, but despite his numerous accolades, his other numbers aren’t exactly the greatest.
Granted, his slugging figures are fantastic. He hits a home run more often than anyone else on this list, at around one in every 15 at-bats and owns a career .515 slugging percentage. It’s when you get into things like runs scored, batting average, strikeouts and his defensive play that things swing in the wrong direction.
He has led the NL in strikeouts twice – in 2007 and 2014 – and is the all-time leader for active players with 1,843. His .258 career batting average is, well, average at best, and he has four times committed the most errors at first base in the NL.
It’s a matter of extremes for Howard that drops him lower on this list, but that just proves that all it takes to be a three-time All-Star, an NL MVP and the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year is a healthy dose of quality power hitting.
12. Curtis Granderson (293 Home Runs)
I won’t comment on whether 36-year-old Curtis Granderson is worth his four-year $60 million contract that expires after this season, but what I will do is present some numbers and let you do the math.
Granderson is a solid all-around player with a couple of blemishes here and there. The talented outfielder was a third-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2002 and has always been an above-average hitter when he actually connects.
He’s a three-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger Award recipient in 2011 and led the American League in RBI that same year with 119. But his career .255 batting average, sub-1,000 RBI count and high rate of striking out leaves plenty left to be desired.
11. Adrian Gonzalez (308 Home Runs)
With 308 home runs at the age of 34, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is on track to join the 400 Home Run Club if he can stay healthy and keep playing into his late 30s. He’s a good hitter, no doubt. He owns a career .290 batting average and is nearly automatic when it comes to batting in runners.
He led the National League in 2014 with 116 RBIs and has finished in the top-10 in that category six times. For his troubles, he’s earned five trips to the All-Star Game and has two Silver Slugger Awards.
On the defensive side of things, he’s nearly just as good. He’s won four Golden Gloves and finished first in the NL in putouts both in 2007 and 2014. His quick glove at first base netted him the best fielding percentage in 2016 with a .998 percentage, and he has finished in the top-3 in that category five different times.
10. Jose Bautista (308 Home Runs)
As one of just 27 players in MLB history to reach the 50 home run mark in a single season, you had to know Blue Jays utility player Jose Bautista would be among the top active home run hitters.
He was selected in the 20th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000 and eventually landed with his current team in 2008. He led the majors in home runs in both 2010 and 2011 with 54 and 43 dingers respectively, and between 2010 and 2015, he hit more home runs than any other player.
He is a six-time All-Star and has won three Silver Sluger Awards. Since 2010, he has swatted at least 20 home runs each season, including 35 or more four times and has four times both scored and batted in 100 runs in a single season.
9. Nelson Cruz (284 Home Runs)
Don’t let Nelson Cruz’s involvement in the 2013 biogenesis scandal sway you. He doesn’t need PEDs to rake. In fact, in 2014, the year after he was suspended 50 games for doping, the outfielder from the Dominican Republic notched an AL-best and career-high 40 homers as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The next season, with the Seattle Mariners, he bested that mark by four and last year blasted 43 balls over the fence.
He’s a four-time All-Star and was the 2011 ALCS MVP when the Rangers beat the Tigers in six games to earn their second-straight trip to the World Series. His career.275 batting average and 795 RBIs are good – not great – but what puts Cruz almost halfway up this list is his high slugging percentage of well over.500 and his quality postseason experience.
8. Edwin Encarnacion (310 Home Runs)
He’s trending up – in the home run department, anyways. Edwin Encarnacion, who has been a part-time designated hitter and part-time first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2009, has improved his home run output two year straight and last season matched a career-high 42. He also led the American League a season ago with 127 RBIs.
Currently, he’s hitting four-baggers at a clip of about one per 17 at-bats, even though his batting average has never approached .300 in a single season, but his slugging percentage is consistently inside the top-10 in baseball, along with his OPS.
He’s serviceable on defense but not great, which is why his big bat is used mainly in the DH spot, but the Indians have themselves a big, new bat to play with beginning in 2017 after his longtime stint in Canada.
7. Ryan Braun (285 Home Runs)
At just 33 years old, longtime Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is on pace to approach the uber exclusive 500 Home Run Club, but he’s a lot more than a big bat.
Braun is easily a five-tool player. He’s got the natural ability to not only hit for power but also for average, has lightning-fast base-running speed, impeccable fielding abilities and very solid arm-strength.
Braun made his talents known early, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2007, while belting 34 home runs and 97 RBIs. His slugging percentage was tops in the league that year at .634.
Since then, he has twice led the league in OPS, had the most hits in 2009, the best slugging percentage again in 2011 and the most homers in 2012. He’s a six-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger Award recipient and has turned in the best fielding percentage for National League left fielders on three separate occasions.
6. Robinson Cano (278 Home Runs)
The Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Cano is an interesting case. He actually hits dingers at the slowest pace of anybody on this list at nearly 26 at-bats per home run, but he also has one of the highest career batting averages on this list as well.
His batting numbers (.307/.355/.498) will tell you that, while he’s currently 13th in all-time home runs among active players with 278, he records far more hits that stay inside the park than not. His left-handed bat has scorched 1,420 singles and 479 doubles in addition to his home run numbers, in all sending home 1,086 base runners in the process. And he’s only 34.
He’s also stingy on defense. In 2007, he had the AL’s best defensive WAR at 2.7, had the most assists league-wide in 2008 with 482 and has six times led American League second baseman with putouts. He’s won two Gold Glove Awards, earned seven trips to the All-Star Game and was a member of the 2009 World Series champion Yankees. Not bad, eh?
5. Matt Holliday (295 Home Runs)
Matt Holliday can do it all: run, hit, play defense – you name it. The 37-year-old outfielder who just signed a shiny new contract with the New York Yankees is currently 11th all-time among active players with a .303 batting average, seventh in on-base percentage, sixth in RBIs and second in put-outs as a left fielder.
He won the 2007 NL batting title, the same year he helped the Rockies to their one and only World Series appearance, was named that season’s NLCS MVP, is a seven-time All-Star, and has been awarded four Silver Slugger Awards. In 2006, he became just the 19th player ever to reach 195 hits, 30 home runs, 45 doubles 115 runs scored and 110 RBIs in a single season.
4. Adrian Beltre (445 Home Runs)
With 19 years in the Majors under his belt, the Texas Rangers’ Adrian Beltre has more games played, and more at-bats than anyone else in Major League Baseball today and is second among active players in hits with 2,942. He is one of the most all-around accomplished players in history, and as he turns 38 on April 7 of this year, he is the all-time hits leader among Dominican-born players with two more years left on his contract.
Beltre is just the fifth player to hit at least 100 home runs for three separate teams, and he’s topped the 20 home run mark in 12 different seasons. On top of that, he’s a four-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award recipient, a five-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time Platinum Glover.
3. Carlos Beltran (421 Home Runs)
Like Beltre, 39-year-old Houston Astro Carlos Beltran is entering his 20th big league season in 2017, and while their offensive numbers are fairly comparable, Beltran has the one-up on Beltre in a few different categories that place him a spot higher on this list.
Beltran’s career bagtting average of .281 is slightly lower than Beltre’s, but his .492 slugging percentage and .354 on-base percentage is a shade better. Perhaps the biggest advantage Beltran has, though, is his base-running capabilities. Beltran has 1,522 runs scored, the second-most on this list, and is tops with 312 stolen bases – third best among active players.
He’s a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner and won the American League Rookie of the Year when he made his debut in 1999. Beltran’s only real downfall is his propensity to strike out, which he has done 1,693 times in 9,301 career at-bats. But when you’re well over 400 home runs, I think that’s somewhat acceptable.
2. Miguel Cabrera (446 Home Runs)
Miguel Cabrera is perhaps the purest hitter in the game today and easily one of the best players in his era. There’s no pitch Cabrera can’t hit, and there’s no part of the field he won’t hit to.
His career .321 batting average is tops among active players, and he has two American League triple crowns to prove it. He has great power, a high walk rate and rarely strikes out. Having Cabrera in your Major League lineup? That’s the dream.
If 11 All-Star Games, two AL MVP Awards, seven Silver Slugger Awards four AL batting titles and the two-time AL home run and RBI leader weren’t enough to convince you of that, let me just remind you that he’s only 33 years old, is signed through 2023 and is on pace to top well over 600 homers by the time his contract expires.
1. Albert Pujols (591 Home Runs)
Remember that ESPN commercial that likened Albert Pujols to a machine? Well, that still holds water, because the way he plays the game of baseball, I won’t accept the fact that he’s a human just like me. Pujols is the best player in the game today and could easily find himself on the Mt. Rushmore of Major League Baseball by the time he decides to hang ‘em up.
He went surprisingly late, in the 13th round, in the 1999 draft, but he won the 2001 National League Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote, which set off an illustrious career that isn’t ending any time soon.
Pujols is a three-time NL MVP, a 10-time All-Star, a six-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award, has finished first in basically every single offensive category at least once and has won two Golden Gloves to top it all off.
At 591 home runs, he if first among active players and ninth all-time, just 18 short of Sammy Sosa for eighth.
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