Brandon Crawford Sky

Hitting a fastball in the Major Leagues is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in sports. Unless the opposing pitcher is Jered Weaver, that baseball is likely moving faster than 90 mph from a mound that’s 60 feet away. That gives the batter less than half a second to recognize the location of the pitch and make contact with a well-fashioned wooden stick.

Anyone who can accomplish such a feat on a regular basis deserves praise. That’s why home runs are one of the most celebrated events in sports (to the inexplicable fury of Goose Gossage).

Mickey Mantle Bat Flip

If you can crush a baseball far and high enough to clear a fence about 400 feet away, you deserve a tip of the cap. But that’s not to say there’s no luck involved.

Every ballpark features different dimensions that change the distance and height necessary to tally a homer. A grand slam in one stadium is a long flyout in another. If a player is extraordinarily lucky with those circumstances one year, there’s no guarantee he’ll benefit in the same manner again.

As the 2016 season quickly approaches, PointAfter wanted to find out who were the luckiest home run hitters in MLB last year. In other words: which presumed power hitters could be in for a rude awakening in the coming months?

To qualify for this list, players must have met at least one of three requirements:

  • Hit at least 18 home runs with an average distance of less than 400 feet
  • Hit at least 10 home runs deemed as “Just Enough” by ESPN’s Home Run Tracker
  • Hit at least three home runs deemed “Lucky” by ESPN’s tracker

“Just Enough” (JE) homers are defined as dingers that cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, or that landed less than one fence height past the fence. “Lucky” (L) home runs are undefined by ESPN’s tracker, but given PointAfter’s purpose to find the luckiest home run hitters of 2015, it made sense to include the metric since it’s from a trusted source.

We ranked the 26 qualified players by the highest percentage of JE or L home runs. Every one of their 2015 homer totals were composed of at least 40 percent long balls considered JE or L. More than half of them matched or surpassed their previous career highs in home runs last season.

We’d like to think those guys can sustain that power in 2016. But there’s a strong chance they benefited from good fortune, and Lady Luck is a fickle character. Don’t be surprised if these players feel her wrath and fall back to earth this year.

#26. Josh Reddick

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 40%
Total home runs: 20
Average home run distance: 399.6 feet

The injury-prone Reddick played in at least 115 games for just the second time in his career last season, and responded with his second 20-homer campaign in 149 games. He didn’t record any “lucky” home runs, but had eight that were classified as “just enough.”

#25. Todd Frazier

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 40%
Total home runs: 35
Average home run distance: 399.9 feet

Frazier had a year to remember during his last year as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, winning the Home Run Derby in front of his hometown crowd and mashing a career-high 35 four-baggers during the regular season. Now that he’s been traded to the Chicago White Sox, however, The Toddfather might find life in the batter’s box a bit tougher in U.S. Cellular Field.

#24. Mike Trout

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 41.5%
Total home runs: 41
Average home run distance: 409.4 feet

Trout tied with J.D. Martinez for the league lead in JE homers (16) while launching a career-best 41 moonshots. Can the two-time MVP reach the vaunted 40-home run plateau again in 2016?

#23. Kris Bryant

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 42.3%
Total home runs: 26
Average home run distance: 403.9 feet

The reigning Rookie of the Year crushed 26 homers in 151 games, but also led the National League with 199 strikeouts.

#22. Bryce Harper

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 42.9%
Total home runs: 42
Average home run distance: 400.1 feet

Harper fully delivered on his tantalizing promise in 2015, capturing his first MVP award while being one of just nine players to hit at least 40 home runs. If there’s anyone who can consistently muscle out “just enough” home runs for the near future, it’s Harper.

#21. Pedro Alvarez

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 44.4%
Total home runs: 27
Average home run distance: 416.5 feet

Alvarez boasts the highest average home run distance of anyone on this list. This reflects an all-or-nothing approach that occasionally yields immense power, but also results in long fly balls that barely scrape over the fence. It’s worth noting Alvarez led the NL in both home runs (36) and strikeouts (186) back in 2013.

#20. Carlos Gonzalez

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 45%
Total home runs: 40
Average home run distance: 413 feet

Gonzalez claims the second-best average home run distance among players on this list. This could be aided by Colorado playing in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, as Gonzalez belted 24 of his 40 homers during away games.

As long as he’s wearing a Rockies uniform, though, that’s a moot point.

#19. Shin-Soo Choo

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 45.4%
Total home runs: 22
Average home run distance: 385.7 feet

Conversely, Choo recorded the second-lowest average home run distance of the 26 players listed. He also ranked in the bottom five among the 83 players with at least 18 homers in 2015.

#18. Aramis Ramirez

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 47.1%
Total home runs: 17
Average home run distance: 398.3 feet

Ramirez retired during the offseason after playing the final 56 games of his career with the Pirates, the same team he debuted with in 1998 as a 20-year-old.

#17. Mitch Moreland

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 47.8%
Total home runs: 23
Average home run distance: 407.8 feet

Once considered the weak link of Texas’ lineup during their consecutive World Series appearances in 2010-11, Moreland had his best offensive output last season at age 29.

#16. Marlon Byrd

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 47.8%
Total home runs: 23
Average home run distance: 400.1 feet

Byrd never produced much power during his first decade in the Majors, but he’s averaged 24 home runs over the last three seasons as he’s aged into his late 30s. It’s a curious trend, and MLB GMs seemingly feel it’s unlikely to continue. With just a few weeks remaining before Opening Day, Byrd is still a free agent.

#15. Joey Votto

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 48.3%
Total home runs: 29
Average home run distance: 399.9 feet

After a couple relatively down years, Votto quietly rebounded in 2015 for the last-place Reds and finished third in MVP voting.

#14. Justin Turner

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 50%
Total home runs: 16
Average home run distance: 400.6 feet

Turner came out of nowhere to connect on 16 homers in 126 games for the Dodgers last season. He had never hit half that many in his four other full seasons. The red-haired fan favorite seems like a prime regression candidate in the power department, though he’s proved himself to be a consistent contact hitter.

#13. Andrew McCutchen

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 52.1%
Total home runs: 23
Average home run distance: 405.3 feet

An All-Star for five years running, McCutchen finished in the top five of MVP voting for the fourth consecutive year. The frequency of his JE/L homers indicate he could be due for a dip in power, however.

#12. Matt Kemp

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 52.1%
Total home runs: 23
Average home run distance: 399.6 feet

Kemp posted the fewest homers in a full season since 2008 during his first campaign in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. The 31-year-old should be able to top 20 homers again, but not much more should be expected.

#11. J.D. Martinez

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 52.6%
Total home runs: 38
Average home run distance: 400.3 feet

Martinez tied with Mike Trout for the most JE homers (16) in MLB. That takes a bit of the luster off his breakout 2015 campaign, though he should be bankable for around 25-30 big flies again.

#10. Jose Abreu

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 53.3%
Total home runs: 30
Average home run distance: 399.3 feet

A phenom who’s belted at least 30 bombs in each of his first two seasons in the bigs, Abreu is undoubtedly an offensive force. But the 29-year-old took a bit of a step back after his monster Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014, and could be beginning a downward trend as he enters his 30s.

#9. Justin Upton

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 53.8%
Total home runs: 26
Average home run distance: 399.4 feet

Upton made his first All-Star team since 2011 during his lone season in San Diego, but he ended up logging one of his worst all-around lines. Getting out of Petco Park helps most sluggers, but Comerica Park in Detroit isn’t necessarily better.

#8. A.J. Pollock

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 55%
Total home runs: 20
Average home run distance: 398.7 feet

Pollock became an All-Star for the first time in 2015 by exhibiting prodigious power for a speedy center fielder. His abnormally high amount of JE/L homers indicate that might have been an anomaly.

#7. Evan Gattis

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 55.6%
Total home runs: 27
Average home run distance: 379.8 feet

Gattis ranked dead last in the league in average home run distance among players with at least 18 homers in 2015. However, his power numbers should be sustainable as long as he calls Minute Maid Park home. The stadium’s notoriously short porch in left field measures just 315 feet from home plate, a boon for a right-handed power hitter like Gattis.

#6. Eugenio Suarez

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 61.5%
Total home runs: 13
Average home run distance: 385.7 feet

Suarez was a surprising second-year standout in Cincinnati after being acquired from Detroit in the offseason for Alfredo Simon. Reds fans should prepare for a power outage from their young catcher, however. Only three of Suarez’s homers traveled more than 400 feet; he had just as many measure below 360 feet.

#5. Geovany Soto

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 66.7%
Total home runs: 9
Average home run distance: 397.4 feet

Soto only qualified for this list because he tallied three “lucky” taters, only two behind the league leader (whom we’ll get to in a second). Soto, a former Rookie of the Year, appears to be near end of the line. The 33-year-old is competing for at-bats with the Angels during spring training.

#4. Brandon Belt

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 66.7%
Total home runs: 18
Average home run distance: 396.9 feet

Belt cranked a career-best 18 blasts in 2015, no small feat for a southpaw who calls AT&T Park home. Like another Giants lefty in the top five, Belt should receive more credit for his homers than most guys on this list. With the giant brick wall protecting McCovey Cove in right field, it’s difficult for any left-handed hitter not named Barry Bonds to consistently pull balls out of the park in San Francisco.

#3. Ryan Howard

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 69.6%
Total home runs: 23
Average home run distance: 395.9 feet

One year after leading the NL in strikeouts (190) in 2014, Howard cut down on the strikeouts and matched his previous total with 23 home runs. Take that with a grain of salt, though. He led MLB with five “lucky” homers in 2015.

#2. Brandon Crawford

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 71.4%
Total home runs: 21
Average home run distance: 400.8 feet

A banner year for Crawford saw him more than double his previous career best in home runs, earn All-Star honors for the first time and capture his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Though Crawford certainly deserves credit for exhibiting a slugger’s stroke in San Francisco, it’d also be unrealistic to expect him to repeat the magnificent showing he had at the plate in 2015. Crawford had never before hit more than 10 home runs in three other seasons as the Giants’ shortstop, and nearly three-quarters of his long balls registered as “just enough” or “lucky.”

#1. Billy Butler

Pct. of JE or L home runs: 73.3%
Total home runs: 15
Average home run distance: 399.1 feet

Poor Billy Butler. He leaves the team he came up with, and the Kansas City Royals go on to win the World Series without him. Meanwhile, Butler records the worst offensive season of his career in Oakland.

It could have been far worse, though. A whopping 11 of Butler’s 15 home runs barely made it over the fence. The A’s are still on the hook for two years of Butler’s $30 million contract, so they’d better hope Lady Luck keeps smiling down on “Country Breakfast.”

Read more: RANKED: 2015 MLB Catchers From Worst To Best