Sultans of swat: Predicting every SEC team's home run leader in 2023
Coming off a season where homers were flying out of ballparks everywhere, it’s pretty likely that the SEC will have home run fever again this spring. But who will be each squad’s home run king? Here’s a preseason guess as we inch closer to Friday’s Opening Day and begin the season-long journey to the College World Series.
Alabama: 1B Drew Williamson
The Tide lost top slugger Zane Denton to Tennessee, but of the returnees, Williamson might be the most intriguing slugger. Last season, Williamson hit 9 homers while batting .301. The 6-4 first baseman is the Tide hitter most likely to have a power surge in 2023.
Arkansas: 1B Brady Slavens
The Hogs lost plenty of hitting punch, but Slavens is a significant power threat who returns. Last season, he tied for the team lead with 16 homers, although he hit just .255. He hit 14 homers the season before, when he hit .284. Slavens will be a force in the middle of the lineup in 2023.
Auburn: OF Justin Kirby
Sonny DiChiara is gone. Auburn will miss the star’s massive power, but a new transfer might help fill the void. Kirby comes from Kent State, where he hit 15 homers a year ago, while also batting .323. Kirby figures to be a Day 1 starter, and if he can replicate his power stroke from last season, he’ll probably lead the squad in homers.
Florida: OF Wyatt Langford
A year ago, Langford had almost no experience and UF outfielder Jud Fabian would have gotten this designation. All Langford was lead the SEC with 26 homers, which tied the Florida single-season record. Langford is back, and so is his impressive power game.
Georgia: IF Parks Harber
Harber belted 13 homers last season, tying him for the team lead for returning players with Connor Tate. Either would be a solid pick to lead the Dawgs, but we’ll take Harber, who is still reaching his upside.
Kentucky: OF Kendall Ewell
Ewell is a transfer from nearby Eastern Kentucky, where he ripped 14 homers a year ago. He’s also played well in a pair of summer league appearances, so a retooling Kentucky team will benefit from his experience and his power.
LSU: 1B Tommy White
White hit a program-record 27 homers a season ago with NC State. He’s a big part of the reason that LSU opens the season ranked No. 1 in several different national polls. On any other team, LSU returnee Dylan Crews would get the nod. After all, Crews hit 22 homers a year ago. But White is a fair bet not only to lead the Tigers, but the entire SEC and possibly the nation.
Mississippi State: 1B/DH Hunter Hines
It was a tough 2022 for State, but Hines was a bright spot. By hitting .300 with 16 homers, Hines earned SEC All-Freshman honors. The 6-3 slugger will be key to State trying to sneak up the West ladder in 2023.
Missouri: 3B Luke Mann
The Tigers have plenty of hitting, albeit with a thin pitching staff. One of the top returnees is Mann, who hit .270 with 17 homers last season. Look for Mann to power Mizzou toward competitiveness with his slugging prowess.
Ole Miss: SS Jacob Gonzalez
Gonzalez had an up and down season last year, but certainly finished strong. The top prospect managed 18 homers, although he hit just .273 (down from .355 in 2021 as a freshman). Still, Gonzalez isn’t the best MLB prospect in the league for no reason, and he has plenty of power.
South Carolina: 1B/DH Jacob Compton
Compton is a Memphis transfer who had 11 homers last year with the Tigers and then added 8 more homers in 139 summer league at-bats. Carolina struggled offensively in 2022 and had some significant graduation losses. Compton’s ability to acclimate to SEC pitching will be a key to 2023.
Tennessee: 1B Blake Burke
Yes, the Vols lost a ton of power. But they return Burke, who tied the program record for most home runs as a freshman. He hit 14 homers in 95 at-bats last year (1 every 6.7 ABs), which hints at just how devastating his power game is. If there’s a note of caution here, it’s that Burke also struck out 37 times in 95 at-bats. But if he makes contact, it’ll go a long way. We’d bet he makes plenty of contact in 2023.
Texas A&M: IF/OF Ryan Targac
A&M lost standout Dylan Rock, but Targac can take up some of the power slack. Last season, he hit .294 with 15 homers. The slugging junior figures to key a balanced Aggies offense in 2023.
Vanderbilt: OF RJ Schreck
Schreck is a Duke transfer who hit 18 homers in 2021. He had just 8 homers last year for the Blue Devils, but his raw power skills are still impressive and should translate well to a Vanderbilt team that can use a power bat. Hitting with Enrique Bradfield on base in front of him should help Schreck production significantly.
Cover photo of Tommy White courtesy of LSU Athletics.