Let’s take a look at the ZiPS projections from FanGraphs to see the projected home run leaders on the Twins. For this, we will use the 10 players I expect to get the most playing time.
- Sano, 34
- Cruz, 32
- Kepler, 27
- Donaldson, 22
- Buxton, 21
- Rooker, 19
- Kirilloff, 18
- Polanco, 17
- Garver, 17
- Simmons, 7
The obvious four players with the potential to lead the team in homers are Sano, Cruz, Donaldson and Kepler. Those four are not surprisingly also the projected leaders. Who has the best chance to take home the home run crown?
The power hitting first baseman has as good a chance as anyone because home runs are his game. He is arguably becoming the standard strikeout or home run hitter and it’s alright to have one of those in your lineup. He is likely going to have another solid season where he will go on two week stretches of elite play and then slow down for two weeks. If he can get back to hitting fastballs like he was in 2019 then he should be the favorite to take home the crown. In 2019 when he was hitting well he led the Twins in HR/FB% at 36.6% so he just needs to get the ball in the air.
The ageless wonder will return for yet another season and he isn’t slowing down yet. At nearly 41 years old, Cruz is projected to hit 32 bombs and it doesn’t feel like a stretch at all. It almost feels like a given that if he stays healthy then 30+ home runs won’t be a problem. Of course, father time is undefeated so perhaps this is the year that Cruz falls off and only hits like 25 homers. He finished just behind Sano in exit velocity and hard hit% in 2019.
Kepler is one of the more interesting players on this list. It feels like he could either go for 20 homers or 40. Neither would be a huge surprise to me after the excellent 2019 followed by the disappointing 2020 season. Max has felt like a player primed for a breakout for a few years now and we just keep waiting for the huge season. He has even been compared to Christian Yelich at times. It’s hard to take anything away from 2020, but his .211 ISO and .760 OPS aren’t exactly comforting.
Entering the second year of his four year, $92 million contract, Donaldson has something to prove. His 2020 season was about as disappointing as it gets with him playing just 28 of the 60 games while dealing with a lingering calf injury. That injury isn’t one that just goes away and we will likely see it play a role in 2021, we just don’t know how big. Donaldson is now 35 and nobody aged like Cruz so age may be a concern. The Twins went all in on the third baseman last offseason so 2021 needs to be a big year for the team to get their money's worth. If injuries aren’t a concern, watch out.
With Eddie Rosario gone, the fifth projected spot is intriguing. Buxton leads the group, but if Rooker plays 120 games or so then I would bet on him. If nothing else, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Kirilloff could have the best season, but that may not lead to big power numbers. Then there's Buxton who is in a similar boat to Kepler. We keep waiting for the huge breakout season and if he gets it then 21 homers could be a bargain. Overall this outfield trio is going to be exciting to watch no matter what happens.
If I was a betting man (I’m not, I’m terrible at it) then I would pick Cruz to lead the club. I would take the over on Donaldson and the under on Sano. Do the opposite if you like betting and not losing money.
Who do you think will lead the club? Leave your comments below!
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