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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 17 - Buy or Sell?


Some players will be changing home ballparks in the coming days. It's hard to address that directly before any trades are actually made, but keep in mind if any of the below players are moved, it may become easier or harder for them to continue or resuming hitting homers.

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 this week's risers and fallers.

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Power Risers

Eugenio Suarez (3B, CIN)

Suarez has nine home runs in July, third in the majors behind Yuli Gurriel and Mike Trout, despite striking out in 37.5% of his plate appearances this month. Despite the strikeouts, Suarez does have a .536 xSLG this month, so he's making great contact, just not at quite a .758 SLG-sustainable level.

Over the full season, Suarez continues to drag along surprisingly low expected stats, for instance his .443 xSLG and .211 xISO. His 26 homers have come on 29 barrels, a difficult ratio to sustain. And his overall strikeout rate of 27.4% would be a career high.

Suarez has come this far, but if he continues to make the same kind of contact with a high strikeout rate, it's difficult to see his home run production sustaining in the final couple months of the year.

 

Oscar Mercado (OF, CLE)

With four home runs since the All-Star Break, Mercado is tied with 23 other players for the third-most in MLB. He now has eight total home runs in 230 plate appearances after posting four in 140 PA at Triple-A this season. Thanks to his nine steals as well, Mercado has become an interesting fantasy player.

His power hitting chops aren't the best, with an 87.0 mph exit velocity and 10.7 launch angle. He only has as many barrels as home runs, eight. And his .488 SLG supersedes his .409 xSLG by a fair margin.

Not much has changed since the All-Star Break, either. Mercado only has two barrels in that time despite the four home runs. It's hard to buy much into Mercado's power so far.

 

Tyler O'Neill (OF, STL)

O'Neill has bounced between the Majors and minors a lot the past couple seasons, but his latest MLB stint is going pretty well. Since June 29, he's hit .300/.329/.514, bringing his season line to .287/.313/.472. All four home runs during this call-up came from July 13-17, when he was 10-for-20 with two doubles as well and 11 RBI.

O'Neill is not a riser compared to last season, however, when he barreled up 17 baseballs in just 112 plate appearances. O'Neill in 2018 averaged 92.1 mph at 22.2 degrees on his contact, compared to 88.6 mph at 18.3 degrees this season. But none of his recent homers were particularly cheap, coming with exit velocities in the range of 102.6 to 107.2 mph.

O'Neill's problem is not killing the ball, but, as it was last year, hitting the ball in the first place. His .385 xSLG is way below his SLG in large part because of a 37.5% strikeout rate. Last year's 40.1% rate was even worse. And unlike a Gallo type, O'Neill has yet to show he can take a walk. Same as it ever was for him, he'll need a better approach at the plate if he is going to make use of his power.

 

Mark Canha (OAK)

Canha, with 16 bombs, is one home run away from tying his career high, and 166 plate appearances to do it in to match his rate last season (17 in 411 PA). There is both good and bad news in his profile.

The good news, he's making much better contact this season, averaging 88.6 mph at 18.4 degrees, instead of 87.0 mph at 15.5 degrees. He's developed a much better eye, walking 13.9% of the time against 19.2% whiffs rather than 8.3% walks and 21.4% strikeouts. Pitchers have to pitch to Canha this year.

The bad news begins, as you might suspect, with his expected stats. Despite slugging .542 this year, Canha only has the batted ball profile of a .445 slugger, and his ISO should be closer to .226 (still good) than .297 (way good). After a reasonable 17/25 HR/barrel ratio last season, Canha only has 15 barrels this year. And so while Canha should easily set his career high home runs this season, his batted ball profile suggests regression. There does remain some hope that his plate discipline gains will translate into better contact.

 

Jose Ramirez (CLE)

Ramirez is finally showing some more oomph in his bat, with two homers on Independence Day and three since then for a total of five in his last 61 plate appearances. That's the same number he hit in his first 349 PA of the season.

Ramirez seems to have changed his approach, as he's only walked once in those last 61 times at the plate. The speculation is easy to make here: tired of taking pitches and having very little to show for it, Ramirez seems to have simply started attacking much more aggressively. He's only struck out seven times during the run, so he's remaining selective, but not in a potentially burdensome way.

And indeed, since that Thursday in the park, which was definitely the Fourth of July, Ramirez has hit the ball much better. His xSLG in those nearly three weeks is .525, compared to just .399 before. He hasn't necessarily improved his contact as much as the .724 post-7/4 SLG would suggest, but he appears to have changed his approach for the better, at least in the short term.

 

Power Fallers

Gleyber Torres (SS, NYY)

Sure, the Yankees haven't played the Orioles, whom Torres was noticeably abusing early this season, since May 23, but that can't explain the complete home run drought Torres has experienced since June 25. The sudden loss of power has produced a .328/.400/.373 line starting on June 26.

Torres has had a decent exit velocity of 89.1 mph during this drought, with a 14.7 launch angle that does not scream hitting it too high or anything like that. The sample does produce the rare occasion of a player's expectation exactly matching his actual performance, as Torres has both a .373 SLG and xSLG during this stretch. Also, he only has two barrels, one hit too soft and the other too low to escape the confines of the field.

Torres is probably seeing some regression. His .456 xSLG on the season compares to a .513 SLG, a gap which won't have changed too significantly with the equal post-June 26 SLG and xSLG. Like most hitters, he will return to the home run column eventually, but even that early-season dominance of the Orioles now does seem like it was playing an out-sized role in his earlier success.

 

Ketel Marte (OF, ARI)

Marte has continued to be a very effective hitter in July, riding a .423 BABIP, 11.9 BB% and 7.5 K% to a .397/.478/.621 slash line. But he only has one home run.

Naturally, you look at launch angle first in a situation like this. Marte's is 9.9 degrees in July. That's not high, but it's not low either. Surprisingly, he's also averaging just 86.8 mph in exit velocity. The BABIP suggested he's still scalding the ball, but that would appear not to be the case.

Marte's walk and strikeout numbers indicate he's still seeing the ball well, and no matter what ratio(s) your league uses, that's been a strong point lately. One suspects Marte will start another run of home runs some point again this season.

 

Cavan Biggio (2B, TOR)

Biggio popped six homers in his first 30 games, through June 29. He has none since while hitting just .167/.296/.200. (He can still take a walk at least.)

Since June 30, he's lifting the ball 17.1 degrees, but hitting it just 85.9 mph. The result is a .311 xSLG. He's just not hitting the ball with any authority.

Fortunately, the previous results were based on solid footing, as his expected slugging rate through the 29th was .480, a few points higher than his .469 SLG at that point. So it's not as if the entire campaign has been a mirage. But Biggio will need to produce a little more exit velocity if he is to return to the home run column soon.

 

Eric Hosmer (1B, SD)

Hosmer homered in back-to-back games on June 26 and June 28, but has not been heard from since, leaving him stuck at 13 home runs.

Hosmer has never caught up with the launch angle revolution, and was in fact at negative-1.2 degrees last season. This year he's improved to plus-1.2 degrees, which has actually risen during his power outage thanks to a 3.4 average in the recent sample.

Obviously, 3.4 degrees remains very low, and Hosmer's power potential will always be capped by his inability or refusal to lift the ball. Ruts like his current one should never be a surprise. He may run into a few more homers, but last season's total of 18 would appear to be his rough cap again this year.

 

Adam Jones (OF, ARI)

Jones' rut has lasted quite a long time compared to our other fallers; since June 2, he has only gone deep once while hitting a mere .254/.312/.315.

His velocity/angle profile is essentially identical before and after: 86.3 mph at 12.8 degrees before June 2 and 86.6 mph at 10.5 degrees since. Strikeouts haven't become a significant problem, with a 16.0% strikeout rate before our cutoff and 19.1% after it.

Despite the similarities so far, both during the success and the lean times, Jones' SLG and xSLG have matched fairly well; it's a .007 difference beforehand and .003 after. Jones' numbers show the problem with relying on specific Statcast numbers at the expense of seeking the broader picture. Ultimately, age will probably win out here, but a recovery can't be ruled out. The fact that Jones hasn't hit the ball much higher than 87 mph all year is certainly discouraging, however.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Nathaniel Lowe A very quiet .188/.350/.313
Yuli Gurriel .348/.348/.870 (with 3 more HR) doesn't even count the inside-the-parker on Tuesday
Ramon Laureano .478/.520/.957 continues hot streak with 2 more homers too
Brandon Crawford No more Coors? No more homers, going .227/.292/.273. No Surprises
Jeimer Candelario The basic decent line without homers (.286/.375/.429)

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Trey Mancini Woke up in a big way, four more bombs and slugging (not OPS'ing) 1.105
Anthony Rizzo Found power stroke again while also going .471/.550/.765
Joc Pederson Only 4-for-18, but two were homers; so far so good being a faller last week, but now...
Khris Davis .217/.280/.261 and it's tough to fathom at this point unless he's still hurt
Robinson Chirinos 6-for-13 with .600 BABIP as he continued to evade xBA, but not xSLG with just one XBH, a double

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