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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 16 - Buy or Sell?


Welcome to the All-Star Break edition of Power Hitting Risers & Fallers. All stats are full season through Monday, July 15 (unless otherwise noted). It's only been a few days since the All-Star Break concluded, but some hitters have already heated up. Others were starting before the hiatus and have continued to. And some have been bad. Nothing unusual.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for the players at hand.

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Power Risers

Nathaniel Lowe (1B, TB)

Nate Lowe, 6'4" 245 lb. Nate Lowe, he of five home runs since Independence Day, can barrel a baseball. That will happen when your average contact is 93 mph at 18.7 degrees, with a 97.1 mph EVAB. In just 75 plate appearances this season, he now has nine barrels. It's still not a large sample for Lowe, but his first stints featured just 42 PA when he hit .263/.310/.316, so we have more than that at least. It's still too early to get caught up in the top line numbers (.299/.360/.567), but the foundation has been set for continued success.

We already knew Lowe could hit thanks to a 2018 minor league slash line of .330/.416/.568 across three levels. Now we know he can hit at the major league level. He has yet to play too much of the adjustment game, but it's good to know the talent level is there for real power.

 

Yuli Gurriel (1B, HOU)

Gurriel is tied with Mike Trout with eight home runs in the last 14 days and no one else has more than six. Go back even further to June 23, and Gurriel has 11 home runs in the last 16 games, and he's hit .394/.444/.939 in that time.

Unsurprisingly, this hot a run has involved some luck. Gurriel would be expected to slug .561 based on his contact since June 23, nearly 400 points below his actual mark. And that is so much better than his .359 xSLG prior to that date, or his .428 SLG/.366 xSLG last season.

Is it a hot streak or has something changed? With an 88 mph average EV during this run and an 18.2 degree launch angle, not much has changed significantly. Nonetheless, given the xSLG, it's the best Gurriel has hit a baseball in a long time. But that much is obvious just from the home runs as well.

It's easy enough to say enjoy the ride but don't expect Gurriel to be nearly this good going forward, but that's about all you can say about his insanely hot run.

 

Ramon Laureano (OF, OAK)

Since the calendar flipped to June, it's been a new Ramon Laureano statistically, one who is hitting .277/.338/.600 with 12 home runs in 148 plate appearances after starting the year with two months of .259/.303/.405 and six HR in 221 PA.

The difference by Statcast hasn't been as dramatic, given a .477 xSLG since June 1 after a .421 xSLG before that. He's upped his launch angle from 13.6 to 16.4 degrees, but the exit velocity has actually been lower, going from 90.5 to 88.4 mph.

Laureano's true power hitting ability is still a bit murky, as he just turned 25 and only has parts of two seasons under his belt, but he clearly has at least a decent amount of it. He hasn't necessarily unlocked an unforeseen amount of it yet, however.

 

Brandon Crawford (SS, SF)

Coors.

Okay, it will take more than that to write Crawford off. He also homered at Miller Park on June 12, giving him four home runs since the All-Star Break. Of the four, three were crushed (all hit between 103.5 and 104.8 mph at 22-27 degrees) and one (hit 95.6 mph at 31 degrees) was not.

But that kind of parsing is kind of a silly game to play with someone who has overall in 2019 been the same usual uninspiring hitter, averaging 87.7 mph at 9.4 degrees for a .392 xSLG. It will take more than a hot half-week to justify a major reevaluation of Crawford's batted ball profile. Once he heads back to AT&T's number-depressing hitting environment, instead of enjoying Miller Park and Coors Field, expect more of the pre-ASB Crawford.

 

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET)

Candelario's 2019 performance has the clear demarcation line of his demotion. When he went down, he was hitting .179/.277/.269. Since returning on June 26 (a day he hit 2-for-3), he's hit .321/.387/.661 with five homers, all of which have come in July.

Pre-demotion, Candelario was hitting the ball 87.1 mph at 16.9 degrees on average -- not enough exit velocity to justify the launch angle. Since his return, we're looking at an average of 90.1 mph at 13.6 degrees. From that alone, it would appear Candelario is doing a better job of driving the ball instead of hitting it high and hoping it goes far.

It's produced competent power, with a .491 xSLG. That's not quite .661, but much better than .269 or the corresponding .297 xSLG of before his demotion. It will be interesting to see how Candelario's season develops from here on out and whether he can set himself up for a strong 2020, or whether pitchers adjust and he regresses back to the pre-June 2019 version of himself. That's more than could have been said prior to his demotion.

 

Power Fallers

Trey Mancini (1B/OF, BAL)

Mancini only has one home run in his last 19 games. In his last 14 games, Mancini has hit .161/.217/.179. Forget home runs, he's even lost doubles power, with just one extra base hit in that time frame. And on a larger time scale, a huge April is still carrying Mancini's numbers, as he's hit .246/.310/.443 since May 1. That has come with 11 home runs over 2 1/2 months after he hit six in the first month.

The difference for Mancini in March/April was launch angle, as he averaged 11.0 degrees then compared to 6.2 degrees since. But his exit velocity has actually been higher since May began, at 90.1 mph instead of 88.5 mph. During this most recent 14-game slump, however...not much has actually changed, with an average of 91.5 mph at 6.4 degrees.

That sounds like good news, but it's not really, as Mancini only has a .275 expected slugging rate in those 14 games. One problem is a stat we haven't looked at too much in this column, sweet spot percentage. That's just the percentage of batted balls hit between eight and 32 degrees, regardless of exit velocity. Of Mancini's 38 batted balls in our sample, only nine have been in the sweet spot. That 23.7% would rank 382nd out of 391 over the full season.

Until Mancini finds a more consistent launch angle, his struggles could continue.

 

Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC)

Rizzo is still having a great season overall, but oddly, he has gone over a month now without a single home run. A .364 BABIP and his keen batter's eye has helped him keep up a .286/.390/.405 line in those 100 plate appearances. Rizzo's eye should always lead to confidence that he can work his way through a power slump, but maybe there's more going on here.

There is. Both Rizzo's exit velocity and launch angle have tanked during his power outage. After his most recent home run on June 15, Rizzo was averaging 90.7 mph at 14.2 degrees when he made contact. Since June 16, he's averaging just 87.1 mph at 6.1 degrees.

Someone as talented as Rizzo is probably just one adjustment away from fixing the launch angle, but the loss of exit velocity is a little more concerning. For now, trust the track record, plate discipline, and overall season line here more than a bad month, but know that the bad month hasn't been about bad luck.

 

Joc Pederson (OF, LAD)

Since June 3, Pederson has been working on 116 plate appearances of just two home runs, which came close together on June 18 and 20. He's only hit .190/.267/.286 in that time frame. The Dodgers have not lapsed in their platooning, giving Pederson only eight PA against lefties since June 3, so what's going on?

Pederson's average contact since June 3 is a respectable combination of 90.5 mph at 18 degrees. It's produced only a .331 xSLG, however. Like Mancini, Pederson has had trouble finding the sweet spot, with a 24.7% rate in this sample.

Pederson does have a couple possible advantages over Mancini, however. One, as a platoon bat, he will get more favorable matchups going forward, even if the playing time hit dings counting stats. Two, with the much higher average launch angle, his misses still lean towards too much lift rather than too little. It might be a little easier to fix an issue of hitting the ball too high in the air than to need to work on getting lift in the first place.

 

Khris Davis (DH, OAK)

Davis had that lingering hip issue that finally put him on the IL for a minimum stay starting May 24. It hasn't helped. Since returning on June 1, he's hit .219/.291/.336, with four home runs that came in a mini-burst from June 9-18.

But his overall season line, .235/.306/.425, is not Khris Davis-esque at all either. And the Statcast reflects it: his barrel rate (11.2% of batted balls), 89.5 mph exit velocity, 12.8 launch angle, and .463 xSLG are all down significantly from the 2017-18 version of Davis.

While the 38-point gap between SLG and xSLG shows some bad luck, we are also clearly seeing a diminished version of Davis this season. Whether or not it's related to the hip, it's concerning. And the fact that it's been worse since June is no consolation, obviously. Perhaps he'll come back strong in 2020.

 

Robinson Chirinos (C, HOU)

Chirinos was a riser in Week 10, but not an impressive one given his .360 xSLG at the time. Chirinos continued to provide power, however, homering four more times from June 4-14. And on Flag Day, he drove in six and was hitting .243/.367/.521 on the year.

Since then, his unimpressive contact has caught up with him: Chirinos has only hit .143/.286/.175 with no home runs in those 77 PA. And now, his overall season xSLG -- before during and after that June 4-14 period -- is .368. In just the slump, it's .284.

More regression could be expected here, but Chirinos is already pretty much at his 2018 power level, with a .211 ISO this season compared to .197 last year. Chirinos has pretty much always outperformed what his Statcast metrics have said he should be doing, but this current slump is a reminder that such good luck can give out at any time. At 35 years old, who knows if Chirinos will regain it, even with such short notice.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Josh Bell Slow, insignificant .133/.188/.200 start to the second half
Brett Gardner .333 .375 .533 without a HR even with Yankees starting second half at home
Willson Contreras Homered in only post-ASB game as he's unfortunately headed to the IL
Jason Heyward .471 .471 .765 and also another HR as surprising renaissance continues
Orlando Arcia 0-for-12 is not a shocking beginning of the back end of the year

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Jose Ramirez .375/.375/.688 with HR #8 is some life
Mookie Betts Early second half success without homers, .375/.421/.563
Mike Zunino Just 1-for-6, but of course it was a home run
Stephen Piscotty Still out
Jesus Aguilar Appeared in all four games, but just two starts; incidentally, .333/.333/.417 and no HR

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