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Power Hitting Risers and Fallers for Week 3 - Buy or Sell?


Welcome to a new edition of Power Hitting Risers & Fallers. This week, all stats are full season through Monday, April 15th (unless otherwise noted). This is to maximize the sample, but the risers and fallers were selected based on their performance from April 9-15.

Such a narrow time frame won't be used going forward, but for this week it prevents us from simply continuing to discuss how awesome Cody Bellinger is.

Reminder that EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Power Risers

Jose Altuve (2B, HOU)

After consecutive years of 24 home runs in 2016 and '17, Altuve only went yard 13 times in 137 games in 2018. He's already more than halfway to that total in 2019, with six of those seven bombs coming in five games from April 8th through the 13th.

The biggest change Altuve has made this season is joining the launch angle revolution (better late than never). From 2015-18, Altuve posted launch angles between 9.1 and 10.9 degrees. This season, he's at 16.2 degrees. That mark, plus a 96.3 EVAB, has led to a 15.1% barrel rate on batted balls (11.4% overall), which would smash his previous career high of 6.9% set in 2016.

Altuve, whose 17 steals last year were his lowest total since he had seven in a 57-game debut campaign in 2011, is only 1-for-2 on the bases this season. Speculation here, but he may be done running much, with plans to make up for it by becoming a true power hitter. That could result in a different kind of value from Altuve than you might have expected this year, but it would be value nonetheless.

Austin Meadows (OF, TB)

Meadows has been on the fantasy radar for years now, with a prospect pedigree (breaking into top 10 lists pre-2017) and a .294/.357/.470 career minor league line. He had a modest impact in his short 2018 debut, but 2019 is looking like the year he takes off. After hitting four home runs in the past week, Meadows is up to six on the year for a .357/.438/.732 triple slash.

Statcast is equally impressed, putting Meadows in the 92nd percentile in both xwOBA and xSLG. His 94.0 EVAB ranks "only" 45th out of 117 hitters with 40+ batted ball events, but that's also a sustainable mark for plenty of hitters (84 of whom reached it with 200+ BBE last season). The 211 wRC+ isn't sustainable, but unless you're Mike Trout or 2015 Bryce Harper, that goes without saying. The point is Meadows' power so far this season is definitely more real than fake given the xSLG. He's a better power bet than our next man.

Jesse Winker (OF, CIN)

What a difference a week makes! Several other players on last week's fallers list also started to hit recently, but Winker is perhaps most interesting on account of just how bad his underlying data was the first couple weeks plus how much he has come alive since. In the previous edition of this column, Winker had no home runs, no barrels, and an anemic 87.2 EVAB. He was hitting the ball at 15 degrees, but that was useless without the exit velocity. Now, Winker sits at four homers, three barrels, and a 91.6 EVAB.

That's still not enough to anticipate a major power breakout from Winker this season--you never want to throw out the bad data once you get good data, especially in such tiny samples--but it's obviously good to see him finally hitting the ball, and by the All-Star Break seven home runs should no longer be his career high. It's been a Jekyll and Hyde act for Winker so far in 2019, and in terms of the home runs, it's still too early to decide exactly what we're going to get. That said, you hopefully held onto him after the rough start and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Kevin Pillar (OF, SF)

Pillar set his career best in isolated power (ISO) last season at .174. Early this season, it's .224. But that's seemingly all Pillar is doing at the plate this season, with just nine hits but four of them homers, and no walks. Selling out for power might make sense in Toronto, but all four of Pillar's homers have come at Oracle Park since his trade to San Francisco. Pillar has barreled up five baseballs so far this season, so this power isn't a complete fluke, but it has made for a rather wanting total offensive profile: a .155/.161/.379 triple slash which equates to a 29 wRC+.

Since the Giants aren't very good overall, whatever power Pillar could bring this season will be overshadowed by disasters in BA, OBP, runs, and RBI unless he makes some adjustments. And what Oracle Park hath given Pillar thus far, it could easily take away. There is no reason to run to the wire for him.

Peter Alonso (1B, NYM)

Alonso is more of a year-to-date power riser, without a home run since April 11th, but he also hit a pair of bombs on April 9th. Alonso's 12 barrels lead all baseball through the 15th, one ahead of Khris Davis, and his 17.9% rate per PA ranks behind only Gary Sanchez (minimum 30 BBE). He's one of 13 players with an EVAB above 100 mph, and with an average launch angle of 19.5, he's hitting the ball plenty high to take advantage of his exit velocity. The .338 batting average won't continue with that 31.3% strikeout rate, but Alonso has very quickly justified the scouts' lofty opinion of his power. His .763 SLG only slightly outpaces a .674 xSLG.

Alonso does play in a relatively power-suppressant park and has only played five of his 16 games there so far. Four of his homers have come in those five games, so perhaps it doesn't matter when you have that much power, but it's something to watch out for.

That said, there's not much evidence that Alonso's power game won't continue. That K rate is something to keep an eye on, however; can't hit the ball out if you don't hit it at all.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD)

Prospects are cool, but they become cooler for fantasy purposes when teams call them up without service team manipulation, and even cooler still when they heat up at the plate. Tatis homered on both Friday and Saturday, bringing his early season total to five. He's got a 15.0% barrel rate on batted balls which drops to 8.8% in total PA thanks to a lot of strikeouts. The EVAB is fine at 93.6 mph.

However, Tatis is unlikely to be this much of a power hitter going forward. He's slugging .583, but his xSLG is just .417. He's got the same problem as Alonso--you need to hit the ball to hit it far, and Tatis is striking out 30.9% of the time. Unlike Alonso, however, Tatis' batted balls just aren't as impressive. Tatis makes up for it with positional scarcity and speed, of course, but from a pure power perspective, he's not at his potential yet. Fine for keepers and dynasty, and obviously you want him in redraft too, just don't take his 2019 power numbers at face value.

 

Power Fallers

Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL)

Blackmon has hit .125/.125/.125 in five games the past seven days, producing the league's worst wRC+ in that time at -55. He hit no home runs before then and still has none, unlike his teammate Nolan Arenado, who was going to be the featured faller until homers his past two games. While Blackmon does have three barrels, his flies and liners are only exiting his bat at 88.7 mph, the same as Scott Kingery. Blackmon is better than Scott Kingery, obviously, but that's not the company you want to be keeping.

With Blackmon's track record you need to figure that the power will be here eventually, but he did go from 37 bombs in 2017 to 29 last season, and he'll probably fall again after the slow start. The year Blackmon hit 37 and slugged .601 his expected slugging was .523; he slugged .502 last season with a .446 xSLG. He's now working on a .343 xSLG. If you (unwisely) just extrapolated the 2017-18 path into 19, you might expect roughly a .446 SLG with an xSLG below .400. Blackmon's got some work to do to avoid that fate, although he ultimately should.

While it's not advisable to sell low on Blackmon if you have him, if you don't have him it's not easy to suggest trying to buy low on him either. Let this situation play out a bit more.

Robinson Cano (2B, NYM)

Cano homered on opening day, and again on April 6th, but in the past seven days through Monday, he's got none while hitting .154/.267/.231. His full-season line is .185/.243/.323.

The only time Cano's been a below average hitter was 2008, an eon ago in baseball terms. It's too early to say for sure that this will be the second time. However, compared to last year, his exit velocity is way down (from 93.1 to 87.2 on all batted balls), his walks are down, and his strikeouts are up.

Cano was surprisingly strong in the aftermath of his 80-game PED suspension last season, hitting .317/.363/.497 with six home runs in 41 games from his August 14th return through the end of the year. Now 36 years old and three years removed from his 39-homer 2016 campaign, it wouldn't be a shocker if the sub-20-HR part of the decline phase were here given what the to-date Statcast shows. Again, to early to know that, but it's a possibility. If you so choose, a sell can be made here with somewhat more confidence than with Blackmon.

Austin Barnes (C, LAD)

Barnes started six games at catcher in the past week, a goodly amount of playing time for the position. Despite this, Barnes has no home runs in April after hitting two in March. Nonetheless, his 12.6 average launch angle is nearly triple the 4.4 he posted in 2018, his 90.5 mph exit velocity would be a career high, and his 94.0 EVAB is even better. The xSLG is only .405, but it bears being patient with Barnes.

Catcher, as you may know, is an incredibly weak position, where all but a few can be considered waiver fodder in (one-catcher leagues). Barnes has the potential to be more than that even though he hasn't seen the appropriate results yet. If he continues to get a significant amount of the Dodgers' catching time, that's another head start that Barnes has on the field. The bar for entry into the top 10 catchers isn't that high and Barnes could pass it yet.

Kyle Schwarber (OF, CHC)

Schwarber has zero home runs and 10 strikeouts in his last 17 plate appearances through Monday. He had three home runs before that, but striking out nearly 60% of the time usually indicates some degree of lostness at the plate. However, taking the full season into account, this looks like mostly a blip. Schwarber has a 98.9 EVAB and 8.8% barrel rate and his .463 xSLG is only 10 points below his .473 xSLG from last season. Not all is safe, however, with Schwarber producing just a 4.0 launch angle so far. He's also walking more rarely than usual, 8.8% of the time compared to a 13.4% career rate.

Watch him closely, but continue to bet on Schwarber being himself those days he's in the lineup, although the Cubs are benching him for the second straight game on Tuesday, which perhaps the most dangerous trend Schwarber currently faces.

Joey Gallo (OF, TEX)

Gallo only had one home run from April 9-15 while hitting .167/.167/.389. He hit four home runs through April 8th and ought to be just fine, despite the fact that his strikeout rate is now 33.9% after a 50% mark the past seven days. It was a short week, with the Rangers off on the 11th, postponed on the 13th, and Gallo sick on the 14th. But just in case you were starting to get even slightly worried, Gallo's home run Monday was a 115.1 mph missile. This is at the very least the same Joey Gallo we've come to know and love with the 103.2 EVAB and 14.3% barrel rate, and there's still the possibility of more if he continues to walk at a 17.9% clip.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Update Upshot
Bellinger Two more HR as he continues to rake. X-rays negative after 4/15 HBP off knee. Still hot, watch knee
Sanchez Last played 4/10 thanks to an unfortunate IL trip Injured
Renfroe Another bomb on April 9th but none since. Started four games with 2 PH appearances. Keep watching PT
Wong Also one more HR this week. Still weak at 88.3 EVAB Still a mirage
Bruce Like Renfroe, last homered on the 9th. EVAB down three mph to 95.0 Hold tight
Vogelbach One more HR, on 4/11; playing time is going up with six starts in seven games Keep watching PT
Santana No extra HR, but .478 BABIP kept him hot for the week Hold tight
Beckham 4-for-23 without a barrel or homer. Hot start a mirage but he's also not this bad Hold tight

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Update Upshot
Ramirez Still rough but finally entered HR column 4/15, EVAB and barrel rate slightly up Stay patient
Hernandez Also broke through to HR column on 4/15, with a 109.7 mph shot Slight upward trend
Reyes Kept playing, now up to three HR as he catches up to still-lofty Statcast Trending up
Dozier No homers since 4/8 and losing playing time to Howie Kendrick Hold tight...for now
Suarez Up to three HR with .283/.411/.543 slash Was always fine
Votto Still at the one homer, EVAB a skosh down to 91.3 Hold tight
Puig Homer off Kershaw 4/15 was second of season; season EVAB up to 94.8 mph Trending up

 

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