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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 20 - Buy or Sell?


Since the past few weeks, through players like Trey Mancini, have demonstrated that a player's track record is more important than their Statcast numbers during a hot or cold spell, it's time to reorient a little towards season numbers. Each player's entry starts with a line of their key numbers over the course of the full season.

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 August 12 unless otherwise noted.

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Power Risers

Giovanny Urshela (3B, NYY)

Rising via: 7 HR in last 14 days (T-2nd, MLB). Full season marks: SLG: .587 vs .542x. BA: .332 vs .316x. HR/BAR: 18/22. BB-K%: 5.7-15.7. Average contact: 91.1 mph at 14.4 deg (94.5 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Another reason to focus on season numbers is the unsustainability of hot streaks. No one would even presuppose that Urshela is a true-talent 81-home run hitter. And so taking his .980 SLG since July 30 and using the lesser .808 xSLG to say he's over-performed isn't a terribly surprising development.

But wait, .808? That's one of the highest streak-only xSLG's that this column has seen. And what it's done for Urshela's full season is amazing. He may still be over-performing a bit full-season, but he hasn't gotten this far on light contact. If only he'd gotten everyday playing time a bit sooner, some of us may have more shares than we do since perhaps we wouldn't have picked him up in June only to drop him after a period of two starts in five days. No, I'm not bitter.

 

Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY)

Rising via: 6 HR in last 14 days (T-4th, MLB). Full season marks: .294 BA vs .242x; .567 SLG vs .416x. HR/BAR: 12/12. BB-K%: 11.4-25.6. Average contact: 88.7 mph at 12.1 deg (91.6 mph EVAB). Verdict: Sell.

Nothing in Tauchman's season profile is promising for long-term home run potential, especially his xSLG and EVAB. Is there something in the streak? Well, a .560 xSLG is fine, but you want to see better contact than that in a hot streak. It's certainly not enough contact sustained for long enough to suspect this is the new Tauchman.

The good news for Tauchman is he's already a relatively selective hitter looking at the walk rate. That can help him find better pitches to hit over time. But Tauchman needs to show a lot more when he does swing before much legitimacy can be given to his performance this season.

 

Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, ATL)

Rising via: 8 HR in last 14 days (1st, MLB). Full season marks: .298 BA vs .286x; .538 SLG vs .560x. HR/BAR: 33/53. BB-K%: 9.9-24.6. Average contact: 90.7 mph at 14.3 deg (95.3 mph EVAB). Verdict: Buy.

Strikeouts are the only weakness in Acuna's game at the plate, which, when that means a K% of just about a quarter of plate appearances, is hardly a weakness at all in 2019. In the latest Acuna hot streak he is striking out over 30% of the time, but with the kind of contact Acuna makes, such a small sample K% means little.

In fact, Acuna's power output in 2019 has been somewhat on the low side given his Statcast numbers: his xISO of .274 beats his actual .240 mark, and his ratio of home runs to barrels is a little on the low side. Even if he didn't steal bases -- which, of course, he does -- Acuna would be a top fantasy player. And he doesn't turn 22 until December.

 

Hunter Dozier (3B, KC)

Rising via: 6 HR in last 14 days (T-4th, MLB). Full season marks: .285 BA vs .282x; .561 SLG vs .511x. HR/BAR: 22/31. BB-K%: 10.9-22.3. Average contact: 92.4 mph at 16.7 deg (95.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Dozier hit a bit of a possibly injury-related rut around the All-Star Break, going 15 games without a home run from June 26 to July 15. He managed three in the rest of July and now has three two-homer games in August alone. So much for the cold streak. Once again, season numbers become a better sample.

And Dozier's are good. His expected slugging rate drags 50 points below his actual mark, but that's about it for the warning signs. His HR-barrel ratio is within league norms, he has a good launch angle, EVAB, and plate discipline. The Royals don't offer a ton of RBI chances and there are better sources of power out there, but Dozier is a legitimate second-tier power producer.

 

Carlos Correa (SS, HOU)

Rising via: 5 HR in 19 games off IL, all in past 14 days. Full season marks: .297 BA vs .295x; .577 SLG vs .536x. HR/BAR: 17/24. BB-K%: 9.7-24.2. Average contact: 89.6 mph at 10.7 deg (96.9 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Correa didn't need much of a post-IL readjustment period. He started hitting again after only a week or so back from his rib injury. In the past 14 days he's hit .349/.440/.767 in 11 games. Statcast only sees a .614 xSLG during this run, however.

Nevertheless, with someone like Correa, that's not a major issue. Yes, 2018 was a down year, but he appears much closer to the 2017 version this season. So a .614 xSLG for Correa is more believable than, for example, Tauchman's .560 over the same period. Correa's produced a couple extra home runs than his contact would indicate, but nothing that should make his shareholders uncomfortable for the stretch run.

 

Power Fallers

Buster Posey (C, SF)

Falling via: 0 HR in August, 1 since July 16. Full season marks: .254 BA vs .253x; .386 SLG vs .417x. HR/BAR: 6/13. BB-K%: 7.8-15.6. Average contact: 89.0 mph at 11.1 deg (92.9 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Sell.

Posey hasn't hit the ball hard enough or high enough to make much noise in 2019. The number of barrels might suggest more than six home runs but little else does. The good part about being a relatively low-walk and low-K player is extra chances to go long. As someone who ends 76.6% of his plate appearances with contact, Posey should have more chances to go long but it hasn't been there.

So perhaps Posey is one homer shy of where he "should" be based on his contact, but it's not much more than that. He's been in a fairly soft decline since 2016, and while this is the worst of it so far by far, power hasn't been Posey's thing even when he was doing well in 2017. With all sorts of catchers cruising past double-figures, Posey remaining stuck in the singles is an unavoidable concern.

 

Christian Walker (1B, ARI)

Falling via: 3 HR in 107 AB since ASB, none since July 30 (until Tuesday). Full season marks: .263 BA vs .262x; .477 SLG vs .504x. HR/BAR: 20/38. BB-K%: 11.1-27.1. Average contact: 91.3 mph at 15.3 deg (96.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Walker's Statcast numbers for 2019 as a whole still look pretty good. Even if pitchers have adjusted somewhat since the All-Star Break, a .430 xSLG in that time makes for a decent comparison to his .381 actual SLG. Overall, his barrel rate leaves room for a few more homers -- as one example, he flew out on a 395-foot fly on July 13 -- and his 96.2 mph remains excellent. Speaking less than scientifically, because contact must be 95 mph minimum to qualify as a barrel, averaging more than that in the air feels like the cutoff between good and not-so-good exit velocity in the air. Walker clears that line comfortably.

Walker strikes out a bit more than you like but his surname is appropriate for the number of bases he takes on balls, and even during relatively lean times he's still finding the seats occasionally. Walker's power output in 2019 continues to justify a starting spot on the Diamondbacks and a roster spot for most fantasy teams.

 

Corey Seager (SS, LAD)

Falling via: 2 HR since June 1, just 1 since return from injury at ASB. Full season marks: .265 BA vs .239x; .441 SLG vs .409x. HR/BAR: 10/16. BB-K%: 9.7-18.9. Average contact: 88.4 mph at 13.4 deg (93.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Sell (in 2019).

Seager has never really been able to get things going in 2019 after missing the last five months of 2018. He had a very nice calendar month from May 12 to June 11 (6 HR in 110 PA, .354/.409/.646), but has struggled before and after.

Since the All-Star Break, when Seager returned from a hamstring injury, his .354 SLG is pretty much backed by a .388 xSLG. His good month in late May/early June has not been enough to sustain optimism-inducing Statcast numbers for the season as a whole. The 2019 is looking like a lost cause in the power department as well as overall. His 2020 price ought could end up sufficiently depressed as to make for a good investment in March, but the better bet right now is to expect little for the remainder of 2019.

 

Aaron Judge (OF, NYY)

Falling via: Last homered August 4, July 19 before that. Full season marks: .268 BA vs .280x; .463 SLG vs .541x. HR/BAR: 12/29. BB-K%: 17.0-29.3. Average contact: 96.7 mph at 10.4 deg (99.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Buy.

Despite his results so far in 2019, Aaron Judge is still Aaron Judge. It's hard to barrel up a baseball 29 times while only homering 12, but Judge has pulled off the feat. Judge's x-Stats would make almost any other player jealous. The cold streak is a rarity: since July 20 he has a .512 xSLG but just a .326 SLG; usually cold streaks feature weak contact, but not this one. A whopping 10 barrels have produced just one 389-foot home run, while 413 and 406 have produced only doubles with 378, 372, and 370 producing outs.

If there's one flag in Judge's profile, it's that he's wasting a lot of hard contact on the ground; his 94.5 exit velocity on grounders is 1.4 mph higher than the next guy with 50 batted balls (teammate Mike Ford). The guy who hit 52 home runs in 2017 has yet to return, but this version of Judge is plenty good enough to believe in as the season winds down.

 

Mark Canha (OF, OAK)

Falling via: no HR since July 27. Full season marks: .255 BA vs .235x; .506 SLG vs .433x. HR/BAR: 17/17. BB-K%: 13.8-21.3. Average contact: 88.3 mph at 16.7 deg (93.6 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Sell.

The Week 17 riser has fallen on hard times. He's continued to walk but the strikeouts have ticked up and the contact continues to be underwhelming. His xSLG just since July 28 is .391.

Canha does get the launch angle right, but with the 93.6 mph EVAB, he's not making enough use of it. Even in week 17 Canha's power looked like a bit of a sell, and it still does now.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Max Kepler Another HR despite .167/.211/.333 19-PA line
Trey Mancini 26-PA .286/.423/.714 with 3 HR, 5 BB continues the rise
Paul Goldschmidt BABIP-driven .438/.471/.625 includes HR #26
Jeff McNeil .267 .389 .600 and another HR; hamstring MRI coming Wed.
Adam Duvall 0 BB, 0 HR, 4 K in 20 PA as pitchers may now have the book

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Yasiel Puig Back in HR column and .375/.423/.667 line despite 1 BB/8 K
Franmil Reyes Same 1 BB/8 K ratio but also back in HR column (Monday 8/12 and Tuesday 8/13)
Garrett Cooper .286/.348/.333 helped by .400 BABIP as home run ride still appears over
Nick Senzel Finally homered again breaking big drought but .158/.200/.316 line did not inspire
Shohei Ohtani Drought continues as .318/.318/.409 fed by BABIP (o BB, 8 K in 22 more PA)

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