Second Tier Candidates
Salvador Perez—Salvador Perez has the power to hit more than 30 home runs. His biggest problem is his lack of plate discipline. If he learns to become more selective at the plate and forces pitchers to throw strikes his home run total can zoom. The other issue is getting enough at bats. As a catcher, manager Ned Yost might decide to rest him more than in the past.
Of course, Yost would use him as a DH if he’s swinging a hot bat as long as the KC Royals don’t acquire a dedicated DH this winter. He’ll play at 27 this season, so he’s right in range for a career year.
Jorge Soler—Scouts rated Soler as a guy with 70 grade power as a prospect. He might have most raw thump of any Kansas City Royals player since Bo Jackson. Unfortunately, Soler hasn’t blossomed yet as a major leaguer. A big reason for his failure to develop is he’s never gotten more than 366 at bats in a single season.
Consequently, he also has never hit more than 12 home runs in one year. However, Soler figures to get regular playing time with the KC Royals after they traded closer Wade Davis to get him. He also will turn 25 years old in 2017. He should be coming into his full power the next few seasons.
Soler is a guy who hits the ball a long way when he barrels the ball. I think Soler might have the best shot over his career, but not in 2017.
The Long Shots
Alex Gordon hit 23 home runs in 2011, but he has only reached the 20 dinger barrier once since (2013). I would be very surprised if Gordon were to suddenly surpass his career high by 14 at age 33. But, he’s strong enough. Stranger things have happened.
Prospect Hunter Dozier is a big, strong guy. But, he’s more of an up-the-middle line-drive hitter than a guy who will put the ball over the fence. In fact, he wallowed for two lost seasons at AA trying to hit for more power. I highly doubt he suddenly puts balls in the fountains at age 25. He’d also have to win regular playing time with the KC Royals, which appears doubtful coming into spring training.
I wouldn’t say it’s more likely than not that someone breaks Balboni’s home run record. But, I think there’s as much as a one in five chance that it happens this season. I’m presuming, of course, that the home run environment remaining favorable in 2017. Between power hitters like Moose and Hoz both hitting their prime seasons and entering contract years, I think the chances are better than they’ve been in years.