When Greg Vaughn hit his 50th home run on the final game of the 1998 season, he became the first and only Padre ever to do so. It was an exclamation mark on the most magical season in team history.
In 2019, there is renewed optimism amongst Padre fans. The arrival of Manny Machado and a group of young prospects has the fan base buzzing. A magical time indeed.
The Padres haven’t necessarily had a shortage of power hitters over the years, but none have been quite as prolific as Vaughn. Phil Nevin came the closest with 41 in 2001.
There’s no question that Nevin’s #2 spot is at immediate risk with Reyes. His 162 game Projection would have him at 47 long balls. The scary part? He’s 23 and just getting started.
But for the sake of comparisons, let’s just look at Reyes vs. Vaughn.
In 1998, Vaughn averaged a homer run every 11.5 at bats. Pretty impressive. It’s worth noting that that he had an extra base hit 12.4% of the time, while striking out 18.3% of the time. He had a total of 661 plate appearances that year, the most of his career.
Now let’s quickly look at Franmil. He’s currently averaging a home run every 10.7 at bats, nearly a full at bat less than Vaughn. He has appeared in all but 1 game, and is the undisputed starting right fielder. That’s important, because he started off the year in more of a platoon role. The Padres starting outfield is becoming a little more clear. If he gets enough plate appearances, he’ll be in the mix. He’s getting an extra base hit 12.7% of the time, which is also more than Vaughn. The most concerning number is his 25.3% strikeout ratio. He’s a bit of a free swinger, but it’s because he can hit anything.
There’s one more thing to consider. Reyes had a rough start to the season. He was tearing the cover off the ball, but was one of the most unlucky hitters in baseball. He’s continuing to put the barrel on the ball, but his launch angle has improved. Thus, more home run production from the slugger.
He’ll inevitably go through ups and downs, but I don’t think there’s any question that Franmil has a chance to take the Single season home run crown from Vaughn. If he can stay healthy, watch out.
The real question is, what is El Mole’s production ceiling?
Time will tell if he can hit the 50 HR mark, but he’ll be hitting moon shots for years to come regardless.