There were an historic number of home runs in 2019 across Major League Baseball. The number of dingers was so anomalous that scientific researchers like Dr. Meredith Wills started looking at the ball and drag coefficients by the middle of the season. MLB released their own report on the ball at Winter Meetings. Numerous clubs demolished their franchise records for home runs, including the Cubs, who set their new mark on September 14 in a 14-1 drubbing of the Pirates.
Today, on the 11th day of Cubsmas, let’s look at the 11 Cubs who hit at least 10 home runs in 2019 to help contributed to that new record.
Kyle Schwarber - 38
One of my predictions for 2019 was that Kyle Schwarber would hit 40 home runs, the Cubs masher came up just short at 38. Schwarber played in 155 games in 2019. He had 610 plate appearances and while his power was pretty evenly distributed between the first and second half of the season (he had 18 in the first half and 20 in the second) his approach clearly improved in the second half in 2019. In the first half Schwarber slashed .227/.320/.457. In the second half that improved to .280/.366/.631. Here’s hoping we see more of second half Schwarber in a Cubs uniform in 2020. He practically broke Twitter with this 473-foot grand slam in July:
Kyle Schwarber: 473-foot grand slam— David Adler (@_dadler) July 28, 2019
It's the Cubs' longest HR this year.
And the longest grand slam in MLB since Statcast's intro in 2015. pic.twitter.com/xJ2erWkEw8
Let’s look at it again [VIDEO]!
Kris Bryant - 31
It seems weird to say that a player who won the Rookie of the Year and an MVP award could be underrated, but I feel like Kris Bryant isn’t appreciated enough by Cubs fans. Even in a season where he was dealing with a bit of a knee injury he was the Cubs fWAR leader. The Cubs haven’t had such a consistent offensive presence at third base since Aramis Ramirez and in KB’s “down” 2019 he slashed .282/.382/.581 while mashing 31 home runs, including this walk off gem on May 7 against the Marlins [VIDEO].
Javier Báez - 29
Javy finished up 2019 as a pinch runner while he was rehabbing a hairline fracture in his thumb, but the outstanding shortstop who goes by El Mago was quietly putting together a season that was just shy of his 2018 MVP campaign before he was hurt. Prior to missing the last month of the season Báez accumulated 4.4 fWAR in about 80 fewer plate appearances than his 5.3 fWAR 2018 campaign. He was slashing .281/.316/.531 with 29 home runs. In addition to continuing to mash home runs, Javy also continued a trend that started in 2018, hitting home runs to all fields. Check out his 2019 home run spray chart below:
On June 23 he hit his 100th career home run to give the Cubs a lead against the Mets [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo - 27
The only lefthanded hitter in Cubs history with more home runs for the Chicago Cubs than Anthony Rizzo is Billy Williams. Rizzo has 217 dingers in his Cubs career and penciling him in for about 30 home runs a year is one of the safest bets in baseball. In 2019 he slashed .293/.405/.520 across 613 plate appearances. On May 22 he cranked a mammoth home run to right field that broke the “d” in the Budweiser sign [VIDEO].
Willson Contreras - 24
Willson Contreras hit 24 home runs in 2019 in just 409 plate appearances. He was tied for the fifth-most home runs among catchers despite having substantially fewer plate appearances than a couple of the people ahead of him (I’m looking at you J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal). More impressive than his spot on the overall catcher home run leaders, however, is that Contreras’ 24 home runs as a catcher ranked higher than the team totals at the position for half the league. Fifteen teams in MLB had 24 or fewer home runs from their catcher position all year. He slashed .272/.355/.533 for the season and on September 3 he announced his return from the injured list with this 450 foot bomb off of Félix Hernández [VIDEO].
Jason Heyward - 21
Jason Heyward has two 20+ home run seasons. He hit 27 in 2012 with the Braves and 21 in 2019 with the Cubs. While he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of his contract in 2016 there has been clear and steady improvement in his approach at the plate. You can see that easiest in his wRC+ by season which was 101 in 2019, up from 99 in 2018, 89 in 2017 and 72 in 2016. On May 8 he hit this opposite field walk off home run against the Marlins [VIDEO].
Nicholas Castellanos - 16
The Cubs’ premier trade deadline acquisition in 2019 was better than advertised. He hit 16 home runs for the Cubs in 225 at bats putting together a whopping 154 wRC+ on the North Side of Chicago. He just seemed to fit in right field at Wrigley and it was pretty clear he was having a blast with the Cubs. He also hit a lot of blasts while slashing .321/.356/.646 for his new team, including this one against the Mariners on September 3 [VIDEO].
Albert Almora Jr. - 12
Almora struggled with the Cubs in 2019 and of the players on this list he and Heyward are the two I’m most skeptical of repeating their home run numbers in 2020 given the changing nature of the baseball. That said, he hit a career high 12 home runs off of 363 at bats while slashing .236/.271/.381, including his first career grand slam against the Phillies on May 23. This home run to straight away center is worth watching again [VIDEO].
David Bote - 11
Bote has made the most of his opportunity with the Cubs since being called up in 2018 and he improved in 2019. Bote played mostly a platoon role as a utility infielder and slashed .257/.362/.422 across 356 plate appearances. He hit 11 home runs for the Cubs, including two against the Diamondbacks on April 27. His first in that game went 469 feet and just missed landing in the upper deck at Chase Field [VIDEO].
Ian Happ - 11
It’s still not entirely clear to me what got Ian Happ exiled to Iowa until late July. Don’t get me wrong, Happ definitely had WAY too many strikeouts in 2018 and I certainly understood why the Cubs wanted him to retool his swing in Triple-A, it just felt like there were times before late July where he would have been an improvement over some of the constantly changing players at second base. Whatever he was working on in Iowa seems to have been successful. He had just 156 plate appearances in 2019 but slashed .264/.333/.564 across them, and his BABIP of .286 indicates he might have gotten a tad unlucky there. He also improved his K% by over 11 percent off his 2018 numbers, and hit 11 home runs, including this one that went 474 feet on August 5. It was the longest home run by a Cub in 2019 and tied for 11th longest in MLB [VIDEO].
Victor Caratini - 11
The Cubs are blessed with two catchers who can hit, which is an advantage very few other teams in baseball can boast. When Willson Contreras hit the injury list after the All-Star Break Caratini didn’t miss a beat filling in, and while he doesn’t have the consistent power that Willson does, his .268/.348/.447 slash line is above average at the position every three or four games. On August 29 at Citi Field he put on a show against Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. Check out Caratini’s two home-run game against one of the best pitchers on the planet [VIDEO].
On the 11th day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me: 11 Cubs with at least 10 homers, 10 walk off losses, nine different starting pitchers, eight saves from non-closers, seven epic bat flips, six walk off wins, five games out of the playoffs, four Alec Mills starts, three Nico homers, two fWAR from Castellanos and a David Ross for manager.