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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 18 - Buy or Sell?

It's trade deadline day. Will any actual trades be made, and which hitters will change parks, and for better or for worse? Lots of unanswered questions. However, most of the players below are unlikely to move.

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. Stats are through July 29 unless otherwise noted.

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Power Risers

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR)

It's been a tale of two halves for Hernandez this season, with his May demotion marking a clear line. He had three home runs and a .189/.262/.299 slash line in 141 plate appearances before his demotion, and has hit 12 home runs with a .250/.315/.566 line in 149 PA since. Since the All-Star Break, he's gone on even more of a roll, with seven homers and a .298/.389/.787 slash in 54 PA.

Is this a breakout? Well, the difference between Hernandez's expected slugging rate before and after the demotion does not suggest so: he had a .370 xSLG before and a .442 after. It's an improvement, obviously, but not a significant one. In the post-break sample, however, he has a very strong .683 xSLG, and has had near-perfect average contact: 96.0 mph at 19.7 degrees. He has continued to strike out a ton, fanning 29.6% of the time, but that's also come with a 13.0% walk rate.

At the very least, this is a very real hot streak for Hernandez that should be ridden where it makes sense to. How long it continues, however, remains to be seen, and only a larger sample can really tell us who the real Teoscar is.


Danny Santana (OF/IF, TEX)

Santana has six home runs since the All-Star Break -- while hitting .403/.431/.839 -- and 15 overall in 2019. By Statcast, he should not be hitting .403 while slugging .839 lately, but instead hitting .278 and slugging .533. That would make for a very nice season, but as a hot streak, it's underwhelming.

Of course, Santana's production this year has been a bonus given his mediocrity from 2015-18. The seeds of his 2019 were somewhat planted in '18, when he had a .446 xSLG, 91.0 mph exit velocity and two barrels in a very bare-bone 32 PA sample. This season, he has a .474 xSLG, a 90.9 EV (at a career-high 13.6 degrees) and 17 barrels.

Both Santana's full season (.324/.355/.588) and his post-break run have been fueled by luck, but even the underlying numbers are fine. The 80-12 K-BB numbers are a little concerning, but there's no compelling reason not to be along for the ride at this point.


Starling Marte (OF, PIT)

Marte has gotten better every month this season, slugging .400 in April, .444 in May, .539 in June and .606 so far in July, with similar gains each month in OPS. He's also hitting .314/.338/.671 with six bombs since the break. The sum of these results is a .500 slugging rate that exactly matches his .500 xSLG. He also has 29 barrels in 431 PA, a 6.7% rate that would be a career-high, and which could support more than 18 home runs.

Despite average contact of 86.8 mph at 7.8 degrees, which is just about in line with Marte's career norms, he's done enough with the 2019 baseball to be well on track for a career-high in home runs. And given a .632 xSLG since the break, his current run is mostly real as well.

Marte's power bump is enough combined with his 14-of-17 base-stealing success that he has rewarded the investment given by his owners before the season. There's no reason to sell now.


Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN)

Perhaps no hitter is taken more for granted in fantasy than Nelson Cruz, or perhaps it's his defiance of the aging curve. "Surely this will be the year his performance collapses," one may think during draft season, and so he slides a little down the draft board. And then he doesn't collapse. Now 39 years old, Cruz has 26 home runs this season despite missing more than two weeks with a wrist strain.

Cruz leads all hitters with 10 home runs since the All-Star Break while no one else has more than eight. He doesn't have quite the same monopoly on barrels, with 10 of them that ties with Marte and Josh Donaldson for the most since the break. Cruz also has a .685 xSLG since the break, and a .626 xSLG over the entire season which is beaten only by Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, and Christian Yelich (recognize them?).

Age is still a factor for Cruz, but mostly in making him more susceptible to nagging injuries like the wrist strain. Assuming health, however, you can continue to bank on him for power production through the end of the year. And then assume that finally, at age 40 next year, he will fade...until he probably doesn't.


Jose Altuve (2B, BOS)

Altuve is hitting .345/.378/.568 since returning from his hamstring strain on June 19 and .391/.432/.725 since the All-Star Break. In other words, he's looked a lot more like Jose Altuve lately. The expected slugging rates of .488 and .575 aren't as impressive as their respective .568 and .725 marks, but since this is Jose Altuve, it'll do.

Certainly, it's gone better for Altuve than before the IL stint. Not that his .243/.329/.472 slash line through May 10, backed by a .249 xBA and .467 xSLG, was bad by normal standards. However, it would have Altuve's worst season since 2013, just before he reinvented himself with his 2014 breakout.

If Altuve keeps going as he has of late, his 2019 season should result in an improvement over a relatively down 2018. Now that he's healthy, it's best to bank on the player. However, a player without his pedigree but with the same season trajectory might be worth selling high on.


Power Fallers

Yasmani Grandal (C, MIL)

Grandal homered against Pittsburgh on July 6. It's his only home run since June 25, over a calendar month. He's hitting .256/.407/.326 since the All-Star Break, retaining offensive value for the Brewers but not so much for fantasy owners. And with a .367 xSLG since the break, the power dissipation hasn't been a fluke.

Grandal has three barrels since the break and two of them went over 400 feet, but he has only had doubles to show for it. His overall launch angle, however, has fallen to just 8.0 degrees since the break, dropping his season mark to 14.2 degrees. His exit velocity has also tanked to 88.2 mph, dropping it to 90.9 on the season.

Statcast shows clear ways Grandal's power has fallen of late, clear enough that pitchers probably saw something and it's now up to Grandal to counter-adjust. Because Grandal's OBP is keeping him afloat, and because of how strong his performance was the first three months, he should be trusted to figure it out.


Josh Bell (1B, PIT)

While Marte since the break has been on fire, it's been mostly the opposite for his teammate Bell. Bell has yet to homer in the second half, with just a .170/.290/.226 line as a result of the drought. It shouldn't quite be that bad, but a .315 xSLG is still no good.

There's really nothing about the break that should cause any significant changes in performance. Bell had five home runs in the first seven days of July, and did with a .739 xSLG. He didn't suddenly turn to mush after a few days off.

It's still best in Bell's case to go with the season numbers, which remain great: 41 barrels, a .551 xSLG, and 92.9 mph/11.3 degree average contact. If it's the middle of August and he's still slumping, there will likely be more to discuss.


Mike Moustakas (3B/2B, MIL)

Moustakas, like Bell, has gone from a behemoth first half to a sluggish start to the second half, although it hasn't been as bad for Mous: .245/.322/.415 with one home run. And like Grandal, Moustakas has three post-break barrels including two 400-footers that did not leave the yard.

Overall, a .427 xSLG since the break means Moustakas has slowed down slightly. However, his slowdown is even less concerning than Marte's, because if this is a downturn, it's as mild as they come.

Moustakas did not have a great second half last year either, but that doesn't speak to any natural shortcoming. As with Bell, panicking about the limited post-break power is much more likely to be counterproductive than productive (although Moustakas' season-long Statcast numbers aren't as impressive as Bell's).


Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL)

The inconsistency of Albies continues. A July 27 grand slam was his first home run in over three weeks, which came just after a seven-homer stretch in a little under the four weeks before it. And yet Albies' .394 post-ASB slugging rate has been a bit lucky considering a .339 xSLG.

As a week 5 riser and week 10 faller, at this point the full season numbers are going to be more telling than any mini-stretch. And those show an Albies who has performed almost exactly as expected: can't get much closer to a .282 BA/.471 SLG than a .283 xBA/.471 xSLG. As for the home run totals, 15 is perhaps actually a bit low considering 28 barrels.

As for the inconsistency, that could be a matter of age for the still-22 Albies. Overall he's someone that from a fantasy perspective you can't sell during the lean times, including this one, because the end-of-year results are likely to be there.


Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL)

Week 13 riser Charlie Blackmon is in a July rut, going .256/.307/.366 in 21 games, 13 of them on the road. His contact is worthier of a .422 rate by Statcast's expectation. Of course, now there are back spasms, although an injured list stint is still questionable. The good news is that of Colorado's 55 remaining games, 30 of them will be played at Coors Field compared to 25 on the road, for that still seems to be the deciding factor in Blackmon's production.

Thanks to the recent slump, the home/road splits remain extreme, even atypically so for Blackmon: .415/.470/.848 at home and .247/.283/.395 on the road. Weirdly, the splits have diverged even in plate discipline: his 17-28 BB-K ratio at home is 7-47 on the road. It's a bit odd to see Blackmon's walks and strikeouts so different at and away from Coors and one can't help but wonder, as dangerous as it is to try to read an athlete's mind, whether Blackmon's thought process at the plate has become distorted based on where he's hitting. Several years having to deal with such a friendly home environment could certainly start to lead to compensation attempts when not playing there.

Overall, however, it's best to take the whole of Blackmon and to endure the road games -- sitting him for those if necessary -- in order to get the Coors production. Already worth noting, however, that the Rockies end the season with six games at Los Angeles and San Francisco before concluding with a three-game home set. If your standings are tight, there will be a decision at that late stage.



Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Eugenio Suarez Homer #28 despite just a 4-for-17 week
Oscar Mercado A .304/.308/.348 week without a HR
Tyler O'Neill 0 HR in 14 PA but 3 BB vs. no K's is very strong
Mark Canha .313/.476/.563 and bomb #18
Jose Ramirez Slugged 1.043 with four more bombs, 2 BB and just 1 K in 25 PA...he is definitely back


Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Gleyber Torres Back on homer board but need more than a .211/.286/.368 week
Ketel Marte .333/.478/.667 and two HR, also .333 BABIP, falling period still seems blip-ish
Cavan Biggio .294/.400/.647 and also two HR, but more BABIP driven, still nice to see HR back
Eric Hosmer .238/.261/.619 including a 2-HR night, but questionable continuability
Adam Jones 3-for-16, 0 XBH, the end is here

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