The Blue Jays played their first season in 1977, yet they’ve already seen 16 different performances from hitters that have resulted in 40-plus home runs. That feels like a lot over a short period of time, and they’ve had the benefit of having quite a few sluggers wear their uniform over the years. However, if we talked about Blue Jays home run leaders prior to the 2021 season, it would’ve looked quite different.
Now there are two new members of the club, and based on how the squad is looking for the immediate future, more changes may be on the way soon.
Blue Jays Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Jose Bautista: 54 Home Runs in 2010
Jose Bautista was one of those out-of-nowhere stories that you just love to see. Prior to setting the Blue Jays’ single-season home run record and leading the league with these 54 home runs, he’d never hit more than 16 in a big-league season. And in the span of just one year, he was able to also accumulate a trip to the All-Star Game, a Silver Slugger award, and a fourth-place finish in AL MVP voting.
What I love even more about Joey Bats’ memorable season is that not many people (if any at all) thought it’d be happening by the end of April. Once the calendar flipped to May, he had just four homers and 12 RBI while posting a .741 OPS. Then he had a great performance the following month, slashing .287/.422/.766 with 12 homers and 25 RBI, but that was followed by another rough showing in June (.179/.324/.369 with four homers and nine RBI).
From July 1st through the end of the year, though, he went HAM. Bautista collected at least 11 homers and 2o RBI in each of the season’s final three months (he slugged a combined 34 homers with 74 RBI), which led to a triple slash of .288/.397/.695, along with a 190 wRC+. He rode this breakout to being among the Blue Jays’ all-time home run leaders, too. But to make things even more fun, the right-handed hitter also recorded an inside-the-park home run in the process.
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: 48 Home Runs in 2021
This was exactly the kind of breakout performance we were hoping to see from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Sure, he fell short of winning the AL MVP because of a truly legendary performance from Shohei Ohtani, but he at least tied with Salvador Perez for the league lead in home runs. In winning his first of (likely many) Silver Slugger awards, Vlad Jr. also led the league in runs scored (123), on-base percentage (.401), slugging percentage (.601), OPS (1.002), and total bases (363). Not bad for your age-22 season.
While Guerrero’s bat cooled over the final three months, his first three were incredible. He posted a slugging percentage higher than .600 in April, May, and June, with June being his best overall month. In 114 plate appearances during that part of the year, he slashed .371/.465/.753 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. It was the only month he recorded double-digit home runs.
The slugger did enjoy hitting at home, which was split between Dunedin, Florida, and Toronto in 2021. As the home team, Vlad Jr. slugged 31 of his homers and collected 69 of his RBI, all while hitting .332/.425/.708 (compared to .291/.378/.497 on the road). This huge breakout performance has enabled him to be among MLB’s home run leaders over the last couple of years.
George Bell: 47 Home Runs in 1987
The multi-year progression toward George Bell‘s career performance in 1987 is interesting to see on his stat page. Starting in 1984, his homer production consistently increased each year (26, 28, 31, 47), as did his RBI production (87, 95, 108, 134). With each passing year, he finished higher in AL MVP voting — he went from 19th to eighth to fourth, until he finally won the award in ’87. He’d go on to hit 20-plus homers in a season four more times, but he never again got over the 30-homer mark.
Despite having nearly the exact same number of plate appearances at home and on the road, Bell clearly preferred being a visiting player during his MVP performance. His OPS went from .889 at home to 1.023 on the road, with 28 of his homers and 78 of his RBI coming in that situation. May and June were the best months of his season from a power perspective, as he slugged 22 total homers during that time (11 in each month).
Jose Canseco: 46 Home Runs in 1998
In his early and mid-20s, Jose Canseco managed to enjoy two different 40-homer seasons in a span of four years (1988 and 1991). While he was productive beyond those specific performances, he only hit 30-plus homers once and failed to record 100 RBI again until 1998 when he made a one-season pit stop with the Blue Jays. He hit these 48 home runs and collected 107 RBI while slashing .237/.318/.518. He actually won a Silver Slugger for his efforts and nearly notched a 30-30 season with 29 stolen bases. It was the highest number of thefts he recorded in a year since his 40-40 campaign in 1988.
Canseco actually stayed consistent from month to month in the power department. He didn’t have that huge performance at any particular time, but he always landed between six and nine home runs per month. In the RBI department, he drove in between 18 and 20 runs each month except for June, when he collected 12 RBI. The outfielder/designated hitter did follow this up with a 34-homer, 95-RBI performance the following year in Tampa Bay for the Devil Rays, but that was the beginning of the end for him in the majors, as he was out of the league by 2001.
Marcus Semien: 45 Home Runs in 2021
Instead of opting for a multi-year deal in his first trip to free agency prior to the 2021 season, Marcus Semien decided to bet on himself and shift from shortstop to second base to play in Toronto. And boy, did it ever pay off. He set career-high marks in many offensive categories, which include home runs and RBI (102). While those 45 dingers set a new single-season record for second basemen, he also finished third in AL MVP voting for the second time in his career and took home a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.
Oh, yea — and he scored a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
There was quite a bit of symmetry going on between his home (22 homers, 50 RBI) and away (23 homers, 52 RBI) numbers. The same could be said about his first-half (22 homers, 56 RBI) and second-half (23 homers, 46 RBI) numbers. He didn’t hit more than eight homers in a single month all year, and then he went buck wild in September/October — which was his final 142 plate appearances — by slugging 13 homers and collecting 25 RBI.
It was probably hard to envision this kind of finish and overall performance from Semien by the end of April, as he posted a .658 OPS with five homers and 10 RBI in his first 107 trips to the plate. He turned that around quickly in May with a 1.130 OPS, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Blue Jays Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the Blue Jays’ top-22 single-season home run performance looks like:
- Carlos Delgado, 1999: 44 home runs
- Jose Bautista, 2011: 43
- Shawn Green, 1999: 42
- Carlos Delgado, 2003: 42
- Edwin Encarnacion, 2012 and 2016: 42
- Josh Donaldson, 2015: 41
- Carlos Delgado, 2000: 41
- Tony Batista, 2000: 41
- Jesse Barfield, 1986: 40
- Jose Bautista, 2015: 40
- Edwin Encarnacion, 2015: 39
- Carlos Delgado, 2001: 39
- Carlos Delgad0, 1998: 38
- Justin Smoak, 2017: 38
- Troy Glaus, 2006: 38
- Josh Donaldson, 2016: 37
To look at the rest of Toronto’s most powerful seasons, check out the full list on FanGraphs.