Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez were near-equally spectacular in 2020. They were first and third, respectively, among American League hitters in slugging percentage. Abreu recorded a 166 OPS+ while Ramirez was right behind him at 163. Abreu won the AL MVP Award while Ramirez finished second in the voting.
Abreu also topped Ramirez in home runs last season, 19-17, while playing in two more games. But it’s Ramirez who is the betting favorite to hit more homers in 2021. Let’s discuss this head-to-head battle below.
MLB HR Battle: Jose Abreu (+100) vs. Jose Ramirez (-124)
Both men were on pace to blow away their previous season-high in home runs during last year’s 60-game slate. Ramirez was on track for 47 HRs while Abreu was on an incredible 51-homer pace. That would have bested his career-high by 15. Abreu hasn’t reached 36 homers since his 2014 rookie year, but he has been reliable for 25-30 HRs year after year when healthy.
Ramirez’s power developed in a flash a few years ago. After never hitting more than 11 home runs in any of his first six years of pro ball, Ramirez went from 11 homers to 29 in 2017, and then 29 to 39 in 2018. He changed his swing path and, in the process, basically flipped his fly ball and ground ball rates from a few years ago. Ramirez’s hard-hit percentage and exit velocity are below average compared to the rest of the league, but he achieved career-best numbers in both categories last year.
Abreu, conversely, stung the ball constantly in 2020. Only nine players had a better hard-hit percentage and only three recorded more barrels. Two of Abreu’s best power seasons have come in the past two years, but it is OK to be a little skeptical about his 2020 HR output since he still hits the ball on the ground a lot, and his 32.8% home run-to-fly ball rate looks pretty fluky.
But for this prop, I would rather bet on the 34-year-old Abreu, who is six years older than Ramirez. The Indians All-Star is a better fantasy baseball commodity since he has the ability to put up a 30-30 season; that’s why he often doesn’t make it past the first round in drafts. But I would trust Abreu’s barrel skills to keep his HR count higher. Plus, I worry about pitchers actively avoiding Ramirez this season following the trade of Francisco Lindor. The Indians’ lineup behind their star third baseman contains Eddie Rosario and Franmil Reyes. Both are quality power hitters, but they aren’t on the same level as a player as Ramirez. Meanwhile, Abreu is surrounded in Chicago’s lineup by stars such as Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.
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