I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I like to look at when reviewing the most recent (or past) seasons is who the MLB home run leaders are for each year.
We’re going to be working our way back as far as possible to honor each of them, but for now, we need to start small by reviewing the powerful seasons that took place between 2013 and 2022. Looking for the AL and NL home run leaders prior to 2013? Check out this full list from Baseball Almanac.
MLB Home Run Leaders
Who Lead MLB in Home Runs in 2013?
National League: Pedro Álvarez and Paul Goldschmidt, 36 Home Runs
Pedro Álvarez enjoyed four different seasons with at least 20 home runs. However, no two consecutive years of his big-league career were more powerful than what he did from 2012-13.
He enjoyed two straight years of clobbering 30-plus dingers, with 2013 being the culmination of it all. He not only shared the NL lead for homers, but he also went to his only All-Star Game and won his only Silver Slugger award. This campaign was also the lone time he collected at least 100 RBI, which is a number he hit right on the dot in 614 plate appearances.
The majority of his work came before the All-Star break (24 of his 36 homers), but July easily stands out as his most successful. His 10 homers and 24 RBI were the most of any month that year. It was also the only time his monthly OPS was above .800 (it was 1.060).
The 2013 campaign was a certified breakout for Paul Goldschmidt. He slashed .302/.401/.551 with 36 home runs and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS (.952), OPS+ (160), and total bases (332). The first baseman won his first Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award, along with reaching his first All-Star Game and finishing second in NL MVP voting.
Although he’s never won MVP honors, Goldschmidt has compiled five top-10 finishes, with three of them being in the top three. The 6.0 fWAR he produced in 2013 is the second-highest single-season total of his career and one of four times he’s gotten it above 5.0.
American League: Chris Davis, 53 Home Runs
We talk a little about Chris Davis’ 2013 season below, but it’s worth discussing one more time because it was pretty ridiculous. The slugging first baseman slashed a very healthy .286/.370/.634 line while leading the league in homers, RBI (138), and total bases (370). That was made possible because he added 42 doubles and one triple to his extra-base hit ledger.
While he had about 100 more plate appearances in the first half than the second half, Davis did most of his work prior to the All-Star Game. He hit .315/.392/.717 with 37 homers and 93 RBI through his first 393 plate appearances. That first-half power display is among the best in history. In his final 280 trips to the plate, Davis slashed .245/.339/.515 with 16 homers and 45 RBI.
2014 MLB Home Run Leaders
National League: Giancarlo Stanton, 37 Home Runs
Although Giancarlo Stanton played in at least 100 games six times over his first seven years, we were still waiting for him to stay healthy consistently. Of those occurrences, he appeared in 140-plus games just twice. The 2014 season was one of those times, as he tied his career-high in homers with 37 bombs. It was his third season of at least 30 taters, but the first time he led the league in this category.
Stanton also paired this with a career-high 105 RBI for the Marlins along with leading the league in slugging percentage (.555) and total bases (299). He won his first Silver Slugger Award and placed second in NL MVP voting to Clayton Kershaw. The outfielder never hit more than eight homers in a single month, but he reached that number three separate times (April, May, August). He also hit the majority of his homers (24, to be exact) in the not-so-hitter-friendly confines of Marlins Park.
American League: Nelson Cruz, 40 Home Runs
Nelson Cruz spent just one year with the Baltimore Orioles, but he sure made it count. He also turned his performance into a nice four-year, $57 million deal with the Seattle Mariners that ended up being a great investment for them.
When he joined Baltimore on a one-year, $8 million deal, Cruz had a streak to keep going, but he actually started a new one. He entered 2014 with five straight years of at least 20-plus homers, but only one with more than 30 (33 in 2009). Cruz’s 40-homer performance was his first of three straight years with 40-plus dingers and six straight with at least 30.
And after not getting a chance to keep the streak alive in 2020 because of the pandemic-shortened season, he surpassed the 30-homer mark again in 2021 with 32.
Cruz hit two dingers for the Orioles in October during this year, which has helped him be on our most postseason home runs in MLB history leaderboard for the time being. Did you also know that one of his first career dingers was an inside the park home run? He clearly got the hang of things along the way.
Who Hit the Most Home Runs in 2015?
National League: Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper, 42 Home Runs
With someone who is just so good on defense – his nine straight Gold Gloves at third base are proof of that – it’s easy to forget just how good Nolan Arenado is at the dish, too. This article will shed some light on that during his days with the Rockies, with this being the first example.
Arenado’s 2015 season was the first true offensive breakout. Through his first two years with the Rockies, he hit 28 home runs and collected 113 RBI in 981 plate appearances, which resulted in a combined fWAR of 4.4. In 2015, he out-performed all those metrics in just 665 plate appearances, slugging those 42 homers with 130 RBI while compiling 4.5 fWAR. It was his first of three straight seasons with 130-plus RBI.
May and June were particularly powerful for Arenado, slugging exactly half of his season-long total (21 homers), but it was September that put him over the edge. He entered the month having already hit 30 home runs in the five months prior yet proceeded to hit another 12 while slashing .336/.364/.703, which was good for a 166 wRC+.
Speaking of breakouts, the 2015 campaign also served as that for a 22-year-old Bryce Harper, as he won his first National League MVP award. Through his first three seasons in the big leagues for the Washington Nationals, he hit a very respectable .272/.351/.465 with 55 home runs and 149 RBI in 1,489 plate appearances – especially considering these were his age-19 through age-21 seasons.
In the 654 plate appearances that followed this three-year stretch, Harper hit the above 42 homers and paired it with 99 RBI, 118 runs scored, and a .330/.460/.649 line. Although he’s had some excellent years since this breakout, the 197 wRC+ and 9.3 fWAR he posted are still the best numbers he’s produced as a big leaguer.
What’s interesting here is he absolutely pummeled every single pitch thrown his way. Of pitches he saw 50-plus times during this season (splitter, cutter, curveball, changeup, slider, sinker, four-seamer), he didn’t post a wRC+ lower than 137 against any and got up over 200 against three (four-seamers, sinkers, splitters). His ISO only dipped below .200 against one pitch, as well (.194 vs. changeups).
American League: Chris Davis: 47 Home Runs
By the time 2015 rolled around, Chris Davis had already experienced his breakout, which came in 2013 for the Baltimore Orioles. He placed third in American League MVP voting that year off the strength of leading the league in homers (53) and RBI (138). The 2015 campaign acted as more of a bounce-back for the left-handed slugger. His 2014 season included 26 home runs and 72 RBI in 525 plate appearances, which isn’t bad, but his .196/.300/.404 line wasn’t that great.
He rebounded to capture his second and final single-season home run crown with those 47 dingers while also collecting 117 RBI, 100 runs scored, and a much more palatable .262/.361/.562 triple slash along the way. The two seasons mentioned here were quite easily the best of his MLB career. Davis compiled a total of 12.0 fWAR throughout his 13 years in the big leagues, and he combined for 12.5 fWAR between 2013 and 2015 alone.
No, that’s not a typo. As many know, he had some quite terrible years to finish out his career, but we won’t talk about those today. What Davis did in 2015, though, was hit a second gear in August in September, hitting 22 of his 47 home runs during those two months, hitting .288/.415/.665 with a 15.5% walk rate and 31.0% strikeout rate in the process. All that production led to an eye-popping 190 wRC+.
Who Led MLB in Home Runs in 2016?
National League: Nolan Arenado and Chris Carter, 41 Home Runs
Well, here’s that Arenado guy again. Remember when I said his 2015 campaign began a streak of three straight seasons with 130-plus RBI for the Colorado Rockies? That year and 2016 were a little extra special because he also enjoyed consecutive 40-homer performances. And while he came within one homer of his single-season career-high, his 133 RBI surpassed what he did the year prior.
But for the second straight year, he led the league in both categories.
Although some of his performances with Colorado didn’t include a huge discrepancy between his home and road splits, this year was not one of them. With an equal number of plate appearances in each situation, Arenado’s performance at Coors (25 home runs, 85 RBI, 1.030 OPS) far outweighed his production on the road (16 home runs, 48 RBI, .832 OPS).
This is not saying he was only that good because of Coors. His 2021 with St. Louis proved that’s not the case for any doubters. But man, he took advantage at the situation handed to him, that’s for sure.
How can we be sure that Chris Carter’s calling card was hitting tanks? Well, he’s one of those ultimate examples of three true outcomes, as he slugged 158 home runs over eight years, along with producing an 11.5% walk rate and 33.3% strikeout rate.
His 2016 season for the Milwaukee Brewers was also interesting because although he led the league with 41 homers, it led to a wRC+ of just 113 and 1.0 fWAR. As we’ve seen several times already, it was a strong finish to the season that sealed the deal for Carter. He entered September with his second career season of 30-plus homers already intact, but then he hit 11 home runs to push himself past the 40-homer plateau.
Carter didn’t make a ton of contact throughout his career, but he did a good job of maximizing the contact that did take place. He had a lifetime hard-hit rate of 37.3%, along with a 30.1% ground-ball rate and 49.4% fly-ball rate. Seriously, though, how often do you see someone lead their respective league in homers one year, only to be out of the big leagues within two seasons?
That’s what happened to Carter, as he latched on with the New York Yankees for a short time in 2017, and he hasn’t made it back to the big leagues since. He spent time in Triple-A for the Angels and Twins in 2018 but then moved to the Mexican League in 2019, where he slugged 49 home runs in just 120 games played. As of this original writing, he didn’t play anywhere in 2020 before returning to the Mexican League in 2021, although he appeared in just 26 games.
American League: Mark Trumbo, 47 Home Runs
The Orioles spent quite a bit of time in the 2010s watching some of their sluggers blast 40-plus homers in a season. Mark Trumbo was just the latest example at this point, and while he did have a couple of years with at least 30 home runs under his belt (2012-13), it had been a little while since he reached that number again.
It was a career year for Trumbo in many aspects – he earned his second All-Star Game selection and first Silver Slugger award. He also set single-season career-high marks for homers, RBI (108), runs scored (94), OPS (.850), and wRC+ (125). Like his counterpart in Chris Davis, this was also the last above-average year Trumbo enjoyed in the big leagues.
During his final three seasons in Baltimore following this huge performance, Trumbo combined for just 40 home runs, 109 RBI, and -1.3 fWAR through 992 plate appearances.
2017 MLB Home Run Leaders
National League: Giancarlo Stanton, 59 Home Runs
One of my most common thoughts over the years after watching Giancarlo Stanton debut for the Marlins in 2010 was, “Man, I wonder how many home runs this dude can hit in a full season in his prime.” Unless he turns around and has another insane year like his 2017 campaign while in his 30s, it turns out it’s 59 dingers, which he did as a 27-year-old.
He won the NL MVP that year, and rightfully so. Whenever I think about this season from Stanton, I can’t help but immediately want to look at the numbers he put up following the All-Star break because they were insane. Prior to the midsummer classic, he slugged 26 homers with 58 RBI and 60 runs scored in 369 plate appearances. In 323 trips to the plate in the second half, he accumulated 33 home runs, 74 RBI, and 63 runs scored.
That’s impressive in any situation, but especially when you finish a year with 59 home runs, which is among the most home runs in a season in MLB history.
American League: Aaron Judge, 52 Home Runs
Aaron Judge clearly enjoyed making a good first impression. After getting a 95-plate-appearance cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2016, he came right back to lead the league in home runs (52), runs scored (128), and walks (127) in his AL Rookie of the Year campaign. He also went to the All-Star Game, won a Silver Slugger award, and placed second in AL MVP voting to Jose Altuve in what was one of the most powerful seasons in Yankees history.
This performance broke Mark McGwire’s longstanding rookie home run record of 49 dingers, which he accomplished in 1987. He set a high bar for himself in terms of the fWAR (8.3) and wRC+ (174) he produced, but he’s done a good job of continuing to put up solid numbers. Since his rookie season, Judge has never finished with lower than a 140 wRC+ and has enjoyed three different seasons of at least 4.5 fWAR.
Judge enjoyed three different months with at least 10 homers, and he saved his best for last by slugging 15 taters in September. He also very much enjoyed hitting at the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Although his road wRC+ of 147 wasn’t anything to sneeze at, it paled in comparison to the 201 mark he produced in the Bronx. It’s worth noting that 33 of his 52 home runs came at Yankee Stadium, as well.
He also made sure he didn’t get cheated on any of his homers. Eight of them went at least 450 feet, with two going at least 490 feet. There were 27 different occasions of him smacking these home runs with an exit velocity of at least 110 mph.
Who Hit the Most Home Runs in 2018?
National League: Nolan Arenado, 38 Home Runs
Hey, there’s that man again! This is the last time we’ll talk about Arenado – at least for now. His 2018 campaign included all the usual things: an All-Star Game selection, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, 38 home runs, and 110 RBI. With 5.8 fWAR accumulated, it was his third of four straight years with at least 5.0 fWAR generated for Colorado.
Even though he slugged another 34 dingers with 105 RBI for the Cardinals in 2021, his stretch between 2015 and 2019 is something you see when looking at the stat pages of some Hall of Famers. He never compiled fewer than 110 RBI and enjoyed five straight years of 30-plus homers. It wasn’t just that, though – Arenado put together three years of 40-plus dingers and didn’t finish a year with fewer than 37 home runs during this time.
He finished third in NL MVP voting, which is currently the highest finish of his big-league career.
It’s also helpful that he’s stayed healthy this entire time. If we discount the shortened 2020 season, Arenado hasn’t played in fewer than 155 games in a season since 2015, with his current career-high mark being 160 in 2016.
American League: Khris Davis, 48 Home Runs
Between 2014 and 2019, Khris Davis enjoyed six straight seasons with at least 20 home runs, but it was the three-year span from 2016-18 that was the most eye-opening, with 2018 being the culmination of his elite power surge. In this period, Davis enjoyed three straight years of 40-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI, and he set new personal bests with each passing season.
He posted 42 dingers and 102 RBI in 2016, followed by 43 and 110 in 2017, and finally captured his first single-season home run title by slugging 48 and driving in 123 in 2018. Of course, he did all this while posting a .247 batting average each year, which is a number he finished with every season from 2015 through 2018. Baseball is a wonderfully quirky game, isn’t it?
What’s interesting is that during those three specific seasons we just pointed out, many other things consistently got better each year. His fWAR went from 2.4 to 2.5 to 2.7, while his wRC+ went from 122 to 130 to 136. His soft-hit rate went from 14.7% to 13.5% to 10.8%, while his hard-hit rate went from 39.1% to 42.1% to 45.3%. The same pattern took place for his ground-ball rate (42.7%, 38.4%, 35.3%) and fly-ball rate (40.2%, 42.3%, 48.8%).
Although the batting average didn’t change, Davis was constantly finding ways to improve in other areas of his performance for the Oakland Athletics. He’s not only among the franchise’s single-season home run leaders, but he’s also within the top 20 of the team’s all-time home run leaders.
2019 MLB Home Run Leaders
National League: Pete Alonso, 53 Home Runs
As the 2018 season was winding down, Pete Alonso hoped to make his big-league debut for the New York Mets as a September call-up. It’s just about impossible to say he didn’t deserve one since he slugged 36 home runs with 119 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A that year. The promotion never came, and there’s more than a reasonable chance he had a chip on his shoulder heading into Spring Training the following year.
Well, whatever Alonso did worked because he not only made the New York Mets’ Opening Day roster, but he was also the starting first baseman and shattered just about everyone home run he could. Even when the homers technically didn’t count, he kept it coming in the Home Run Derby. In addition to breaking the rookie home run record, he also broke the Mets’ rookie and overall single-season record while winning the 2019 home run crown.
One split stat I found interesting was that although his triple slash varied against righties and lefties, he found a way to post an identical .941 OPS in each situation. For more interesting stats — and a lot more dingers — check out Pete Alonso’s home runs through the years.
American League: Jorge Soler, 48 Home Runs
The Kansas City Royals were the last MLB team to watch one of their players surpass the 40-homer plateau, amd my goodness did Jorge Soler make it worthwhile. He set a new franchise record and led the American League in dingers for the 2019 campaign.
Soler was on his way to becoming Kansas City’s next single-season home run king as he headed into the All-Star break. Through his first 374 plate appearances, he’d already hit 23 homers while posting a .805 OPS. On a personal level, this half of play qualified as his most powerful full season ever at that point. But then he went off in the second half, hitting 25 dingers with a 1.076 OPS in just 305 plate appearances. His slugging percentage went from a solid .497 in the first half to an outrageous .665 mark in the second half.
His two most powerful months came in August and September when he combined to hit 20 homers (10 in each month).
Who Hit the Most Home Runs in 2020?
National League: Marcell Ozuna, 18 Home Runs
Marcell Ozuna entered the 2020 season on the verge of free agency. Even though it was a shortened campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he made the most of his opportunity to get paid.
He slashed .338/.431/.636 with 18 homers and 56 RBI, which was good for a 178 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR in 267 plate appearances (60 games played). To put this in perspective, here’s what he did the year prior for the St. Louis Cardinals in 549 plate appearances (130 games played): .241/.328/.472 line with 29 home runs and 89 RBI, good for 110 wRC+ and 2.6 fWAR.
Ozuna not only led the league in homers, but he was also at the top of the leaderboard in RBI and total bases (145). His teammate, Freddie Freeman, won his first NL MVP award, but the outfielder secured his first top-10 finish by placing sixth. He also took home his second Silver Slugger award in the process.
Atlanta signed him to a four-year, $65 million contract last winter, and it’s safe to say the 2021 season was a disaster for him – both personally and professionally. He posted just a 73 wRC+ and -0.3 fWAR in 208 plate appearances while spending time on the injured list and administrative leave because he violated the league’s Domestic Violence Joint agreement.
American League: Luke Voit, 22 Home Runs
Well, if we really want to talk about a power surge during a shortened season, look no further than to what Luke Voit did for the New York Yankees. In 2019, he slugged 21 homers with 62 RBI over the course of 510 plate appearances. In less than half the number of plate appearances the following season (234, to be exact), he out-homered himself with 22 and nearly drove in the same number of runs with 52.
He put together a .948 OPS, 153 wRC+, and 1.8 fWAR in the process, which allowed him to secure his own top-10 finish in AL MVP voting for the first time in his career (he finished ninth). His production was evenly distributed between the only two full months of the season, with 11 dingers in August and nine in September (with two in the final week of July when the year started).
However, Voit did enjoy hitting at Yankee Stadium and was a much different hitter at home than he was on the road. In the Bronx, the first baseman posted a 1.193 OPS and 215 wRC+ with 16 home runs, while those numbers dropped to .693, 91, and six, respectively, as a visiting player. He made sure to add a tank during postseason play, too.
Who Led MLB in Home Runs in 2021?
National League: Fernando Tatís Jr., 42 Home Runs
Baseball is truly blessed right now when it comes to the number of young and elite players at shortstop. Fernando Tatís Jr. – the 23-year-old superstar who will likely re-write San Diego Padres record books – is very much a part of this group. He has found ways to elevate his game since debuting in 2019, and the sky seems to be the limit as he starts to put everything together.
He didn’t take home Rookie of the Year or MVP honors yet, but he’s won two Silver Slugger awards for his offensive efforts in 2020 and 2021. He’ll get himself to that MVP award at some point, one would imagine, as he’s already gotten two top-five finishes under his belt. His 6.1 fWAR and 158 wRC+ are obvious career-high marks for a single season, and in addition to the 42 home runs, 97 RBI, and 99 runs scored he accrued this past year, he added 25 stolen bases for good measure.
Tatís Jr. has been a master of hard contact since making his big-league debut. Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged a 15.3% soft-hit rate to go along with a 47.6% hard-hit rate. In 2021, he never posted a month with a wRC+ below 128 or an OPS below .830, but June and July was easily the peak of his season. During this two-month span (204 plate appearances), the young shortstop was on fire to the tune of a .287/.368/.619 line with 16 home runs, 34 RBI, 42 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, all good for a 161 wRC+.
American League: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Salvador Perez, 48 Home Runs
This was the kind of breakout season we had been clamoring for from Valdimir Guererro Jr. since he debuted for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019. Unfortunately for him, it came at the wrong time when it comes to individual accolades, as Shohei Ohtani was the runaway AL MVP award winner. Coming in second isn’t all that bad, though, especially when it’s accompanied by a Silver Slugger award.
In addition to tying for the league lead in home runs, Vladito also was at the top of the leaderboards in runs scored (123), on-base percentage (.401), slugging percentage (.601), OPS (1.002), OPS+ (169), and total bases (363). Not bad for a 22-year-old, right? The only thing he could’ve added here was appearing in the Home Run Derby again.
Through his first two seasons (757 plate appearances), Vlad Jr. slugged 24 homers with 102 RBI, a 107 wRC+, and 0.6 fWAR. In his 698 plate appearances during 2021, he hit those 48 home runs with 111 RBI, a 166 wRC+, and 6.7 fWAR. Now, that’s a breakout. By looking at his quality-of-contact numbers, we probably could’ve seen that he was on his way to figuring out big-league pitching, too. His soft-hit rate has gone from 20.8% to 14.2% to 10.7%, while his hard-hit rate has gone from 34.4% to 38.8% to 41.7%.
My favorite stat of all is how much Guerrero just pummeled four-seam fastballs in 2021. He posted a 13.2% walk rate and 9.9% strikeout rate against them, as well as a healthy .376/.462/.796 line with 21 home runs, which sussed out to a 239 wRC+.
Salvador Perez had to watch Soler’s power surge from the sidelines for all of 2019 because of an elbow injury. But once he finally had a full season to play in again, he was ready to join the party.
The number Perez had been stuck on for his career-high in home runs was 27. He settled on that number in two straight seasons from 2017-18, but in 2021, he hit 27 homers in the second half alone. The veteran backstop needed just 302 plate appearances to get it done. Unlike his teammate from two years prior, Perez absolutely feasted on left-handed pitching. It’s not as if he necessarily struggled against righties — he posted a .812 OPS with 30 homers in that situation. However, Perez turned up the heat when facing southpaws, slashing .302/.342/.640 with 18 home runs in just 184 plate appearances.
To read more about his record-setting season, check this out.
Who Homered The Most in 2022?
National League: Kyle Schwarber, 46 Home Runs
When Kyle Schwarber signed with the Phillies, many drooled over the mere thought of him hitting dingers in Philadelphia. After all, he’d be playing half his games in a hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
After one year, he’s proved everyone right. He’s not only the National League leader, but his 46 taters are among the most in Phillies history. Even with calling The Bank his home park, Schwarber hit 25 of his 46 homers on the road. He also hit 29 before the All-Star break, nearly joining a group of sluggers to hit at least 30 before the midsummer classic.
Schwarber put himself in this position thanks to a torrid June and July. Entering June 1st, he had 11 homers to his name. He went on to slug 22 over the next two months (12 in June, 10 in July). Lots of Schwarb-bombs in the early summer months isn’t a surprise, though. After a lull in August (three homers in 103 plate appearances), Schwarber got hot again, slugging 10 homers from September 1st to the end of the regular season.
American League: Aaron Judge, 62 Home Runs
Aaron Judge put together possibly the most dominant contract years ever, and it’s been one of the most powerful displays we’ve seen in quite a while. The last time someone hit this many homers in a season, it was Judge’s teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, in 2017 when he hit 59 dingers.
These two got to their respective numbers in very different ways. For Stanton, he had just two months of double-digit homers (July and August). In those two months, 30 of his 59 dingers we hit.
Judge has been much more consistent. Once he passed Roger Maris’ Yankees franchise record, September became his fourth month with double-digit homers. His lowest total in a full month was six in April. Since then, he hasn’t hit fewer than nine.
The slugging outfielder collected his 58th and 59th home runs in Milwaukee on September 18th. That marked the 11th time he’s enjoyed a multi-homer performance in 2022. He had six such games in 2021 and seven performances like this during his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign.