2024 home run props: Aaron Judge primed to chase history again

Aaron Judge has been lighting the league on fire since 2022, when he made history with an American League-record 62 regular season home runs.

2024 home run props: Aaron Judge primed to chase history again

Aaron Judge has been lighting the league on fire since 2022 when he made history with an American League-record 62 regular season home runs. With the Yankees set to kick off their 2024 regular season on March 28, Judge needs to have a big year for the team to put a dreadful 2023 season behind them.The righty slugger’s home run total is set at 41.5, a shockingly high number for most players. But Judge isn’t “most players.” He’s one of the greatest power hitters of his generation, and with an improved lineup around him, Judge is primed for an MVP-caliber season that could rival his magical 2022 performance.

The lineup around Aaron Judge hasn’t done him any favors in recent years

Incredibly, Judge set the AL single-season home run record despite opposing pitchers making every attempt to pitch around him. They would be very careful with Judge, and often if they got behind in the count, they would just accept the walk and put him on first base.

The rest of the lineup struggled to produce, which meant two things. First, Judge was often at the plate with nobody on. This meant that first base was open and teams wouldn’t be pushing a runner into scoring position if they allowed Judge to take his walk.

Second, the players behind Judge struggled to produce. Because of this, opponents were able to feel secure in the fact that even if they let Judge get a free pass to first base, it was unlikely that the guys behind him would be able to string together enough quality at-bats to drive him in.

Judge had a dominant 2023 despite bad injury luck

In 2023, Judge only hit 37 home runs. However, this doesn’t tell the full story. Judge was forced to take an extended trip on the injured list when he broke his toe trying to make a play in the outfield at Dodger Stadium and ran through a fence and into a concrete wall. This stint on the IL meant that Judge only played in 110 games in 2023. Incredibly, he was on pace for another 60 home run season if he hadn’t been injured.

Granted, injuries are unpredictable and the sportsbooks don’t care if you lose a bet because a player misses time due to injury. If Judge is healthy, though, it is likely he will reach this total with ease. Judge has been labeled as injury-prone, but this designation seems unfair.

Many of his injuries have been due to freakish circumstances that couldn’t have been easily avoided. Running into a concrete wall in the outfield isn’t something that bettors should expect to happen again, and there was no way to predict or prevent the broken wrist he suffered in 2018 as a result of being hit by an errant pitch.

Juan Soto changes everything

This year, everything will be different for Judge and the Yankees. During the off-season, Brian Cashman swung a trade to acquire superstar slugger Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres. Throughout his young career, Soto has been one of the best hitters of his generation, getting on base an unfathomable 42% of the time.

As of right now, the plan appears to be having Soto hit in front of Judge, and this is the right decision. Judge can expect to have a runner on base in nearly half of his plate appearances. This will force pitchers to put the ball in the strike zone and give Judge quality pitches to swing at.

Why bettors should take the over

The days of Judge being pitched around are over, and that should terrify the rest of the league. If Judge is healthy and plays anything close to a full season, he is a near lock to hit 40 home runs.

The total is set at slightly above that mark, with 41.5 being the magic number. Still, bettors should feel comfortable taking the over. If Judge is healthy and plays at least 130 games, he has a great chance to add another 40-homer season to his resume. At -120 odds, the implied probability that Judge will reach 41.5 is just 56%. Assuming a good bill of health, my model puts Judge at 49 home runs.

Judge has played in 835 career games and has hit 257 career home runs. This translates to a rate of approximately 0.3 home runs per game. For the moment, let’s assume that he maintains his career average. At that rate, he would need to play in 140 games to reach 42 homers. However, we can assume he’ll have a slight increase to 0.33 long balls per game as a result of the improved lineup. At this pace, he’ll only need to play in 128 games to reach 42 homers.

If Judge is healthy, he’ll play in at least 135 games. This puts him in great position to reach the over for this bet.

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