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Phillies Roundtable: Over/Under 34.5 home runs for Harper and Hoskins in 2019

Rhys Hoskins has 52 home runs in his first 203 major league games. (Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire)

Between 2006 and 2009, Ryan Howard hit at least 45 home runs every season for the Philadelphia Phillies, peaking at 58 during his 2006 National League MVP season. However, since 2009, no Phillie has topped the 40 home run mark. Or even 35, for that matter.

In 2019, the Phillies theoretically have two players capable of competing for the National League home run crown – Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.

In his first seven seasons, Harper has hit 184 home runs, including a National League leading 42 in 2015, his MVP season. Still just 26, Harper should just be entering the prime of his career, which is why the Phillies signed him to a record-shattering 13-year/$330 million deal. He also should benefit from playing his home games at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, where he has 14 home runs in 179 career at-bats.

Meanwhile, Hoskins hit 34 round-trippers in 2018, his first full season in the major leagues. That came a year after the soon-to-be 26-year-old garnered the attention of the baseball world by hitting 18 home runs in his first 170 at-bats.

Conveniently, Westgate Superbook has set the over/under for home runs for the new teammates at 34.5 each. Some of our Phillies Nation staff debated whether Harper and Hoskins will top that number in 2019.

Tim Kelly, Editorial Director 

Harper: Over

Hoskins: Over

As hard as it may be to believe, Harper has only hit 35 or more home runs once in his career, his 2015 National League MVP season. The Phillies, obviously, signed him to a deal in excess of a decade with the belief that he’ll hit 35 or more home runs annually at least for the first part of his deal.

The guess here is 2019 will be one of those years. Assuming health – which perhaps isn’t a smart thing to assume – it’s not hard to envision Harper hitting 40 plus home runs in 2019. Heck, he hit 34 home runs in 2018, a season where he says he wasn’t fully healthy during the first-half of. He left an extremely-talented lineup in Washington, but joined another one in Philadelphia. The biggest obstacle to him topping 35 home runs could prove to be whether opposing teams become hesitant to pitch to him, as they have at times throughout the course of his career. But with Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto likely waiting behind Harper, teams seemingly won’t be able to pitch around Harper without the fear of facing another All-Star caliber hitter.

With that said, it’s not hard to envision Harper getting off to a slow start in 2019, potentially preventing him from hitting the over. Regardless of how hard Harper may have worked this offseason, it’s undeniably easier to get ready for a season when you know where you will be playing and your family will be living, as opposed to having your free-agent stint drag into Spring Training. Compartmentalizing getting ready for the season and deciding where you will play the next season at has to be difficult. That’s why – and this may seem a bit surprising on the surface – I had to think harder about whether Harper will top 34.5 home runs in 2019 than Hoskins.

Hoskins hit 34 home runs in 2018, despite an injured list stint and hitting in a lineup that was significantly worse than the one he’ll be a part of in 2019. It’s not normally smart to read too much into Spring Training games, but if last Saturday is any indication, 34.5 will prove to be a pretty low over/under for Hoskins’ home run total in his second full major league season.

Matt Veasey, Staff Writer

Harper: Over

Hoskins: Over

This is a really close one, as it should be when someone is setting over/under odds. In 2018 there were just six players in the National League to blast more than 34 home runs. None of them were named Bryce Harper or Rhys Hoskins. However, both players smashed exactly 34 bombs.

Last season was Hoskins‘ first full year in the big-leagues. He stayed fully healthy, playing in 153 games and receiving 660 plate appearances. Doing the same in the 2019 season will be pivotal for any possibility of surpassing that 34 number.

Hoskins was also forced to left field last season. While it didn’t appear to mess with his power stroke, I believe that it always impacts a player’s mentality when forced to play out-of-position on defense. (This is one of my biggest complaints in regard to how the club is handling Scott Kingery right now.)

Harper has seven seasons of Major League Baseball under his belt. His numbers in three of those were impacted by injuries, and in his rookie year he wasn’t called up until late April. In his three full, healthy years, Harper struck 42, 24 and 34 homers.

Much has been made of the fact that Harper is moving to an extremely friendly home hitting environment at Citizens Bank Park. However, while Citizens Bank Park (1.190 per game) was indeed the fourth-best home run park in MLB a year ago, Harper’s former home at Nationals Park (1.173) was right behind in fifth place.

The entire key here is the health of both players. Given that health, I will call both players as “over” for this one. Hoskins is more likely to reach or surpass 40 homers. But in a full, healthy campaign, both players could reach that mark.

Drew Rhoades, Staff Writer

Harper: Over

Hoskins: Over

I’m going with the over on this one, and it’s an easy call.

We all know Citizens Bank is a hitter-friendly park, but just to reiterate: CBP had a home run rate of 1.190 in 2018, fourth best in the league. Heck, I think Hoskins might be closer to 40 home runs this season than 34.

The key is Hoskins batting fourth, behind Harper. In 88 games batting fourth (371 PAs), Hoskins has 26 home runs and 72 RBIs, with a .279 average and a .606 slugging percentage. Compare that to the 104 games (476 PAs) he’s played while hitting second in the lineup, where he’s managed 23 home runs with a .226 average and a .459 slugging percentage. Hitting behind Harper and in front of J.T. Realmuto, Hoskins should be able to see some much better pitches than he has in the past.

As for Harper, his 14 home runs at Citizens Bank Park were his most at any away stadium while playing for the Nationals, while also managing a .564 slugging percentage in 50 games in Philadelphia. It’s fair to expect him to hit 35 or more home runs in 2019 as well.


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