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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 7 - Buy or Sell?

Welcome to this week's Power Hitting Risers & Fallers. All stats are full season through Monday, May 13th (unless otherwise noted).

Your weekly reminders: When a Statcast ranking is mentioned, a minimum of 25 batted balls is needed to rank in Statcast figures; 365 players now have that many. And EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. And new this week: xISO. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA.

Who's rising and falling this week? Read on to find out.

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Power Risers

Two Houston outfielders on a roll and three third basemen who have recovered from slow starts.


George Springer (OF, HOU)

George Springer had 22 home runs in 140 games this year. He just needs seven in his next 98 to match that pace, as he is second in MLB behind only Christian Yelich at 15 homers.

Springer is doing it with giant Statcast improvements across the board: 92.0 mph exit velocity instead of 88.6, 95.7 mph EVAB instead of 93.3, a launch angle of 11.5 degrees instead of 9.5, and a 10.5% barrels/PA which was just 6.1% last season. As a result of these changes, Springer's x-stats are also excellent, including a .612 xSLG (97th percentile) that is nearly his actual mark of .652.

Springer's barrel rate ranks 22nd, but in total barrels he is third, behind only Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman, so ranking second in homers is no fluke, even if he's 11th in xSLG. If Springer stays healthy and keeps going like this, he may well challenge Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and others for the 2019 home run crown.


Michael Brantley (OF, HOU)

Michael Brantley's career high in home runs is 20, when he finished third in the AL MVP voting for the Cleveland Indians in 2014. He's halfway to that mark this season, and five of his ten home runs have come in May, which is not yet half over, and eight of them in the last 30 days.

Brantley is still pretty much the same hitter he's always been, especially last season with its 17 total home runs, so you can expect the power to cool off a little bit. His strikeout rate is a fraction below 10% for the second straight year, giving him plenty of opportunities to hit the ball over the fence. Brantley has been between 8.8 and 10.3 degrees of launch angle since Statcast began in 2015, and his launch angle of 9.9 degrees this year is consistent with that. A .307 xBA last year is now .298 and a .457 xSLG has improved to .477, so he should be hitting for more power than last season. But not this much more; that's a .179 xISO in 2019 where his current ISO this year is .252.

Brantley's been a good hitter for a long time at this point, but he's not .333/.378/.585 good. Nonetheless, thanks to his head start, a new career high in home runs should be coming forthwith.


Eugenio Suarez (3B, CIN)

Eugenio Suarez has set a new career high in home runs each year he's been in the Majors, most recently the 34 he had last season. With 12 bombs at the roughly quarter-way point of the season, he has a chance to repeat the feat yet again this year.

If his Statcast is any indication, Suarez has more work to do to accomplish that task than it might appear at first glance. Despite 14 barrels, in 8.4% of his plate appearances, and a 15.0 degree launch angle that is consistent with his career performance of 14.8 degrees, Suarez is posting just a .444 xSLG for a .213 xISO. His ISO last season was .243.

Suarez was pretty much right in line with his x-stats last season (a .002 difference in wOBA and .009 in SLG), but this year he's out-performing them with a slugging percentage more than 100 points above its Statcast expectation. The question is, will his x-stats start to back up his performance, or will his performance fall back towards the x-stats? Given that his launch angle and exit velocity (90.0 this year after 91.2 last year) make Suarez look like mostly the same hitter as in years past, you can expect him to continue to succeed and for the x-stats to catch up. While it's no guarantee, going with past production instead of Statcast looking forward sometimes makes sense, and this seems like one of those cases.


Justin Turner (3B, LAD)

With three bombs against the Braves on May 7, and two more in his next three games, Turner went from power dud to power riser; he's now got six bombs in 39 games after posting zero through 28 contests. While neither "extreme" is the real Turner, which is closer?

Over the course of the 2019 season to date, the answer appears to be the version of Turner that is capable of hitting the ball out. Although Turner's launch angle is down from his usual 17-18 degrees, he's still at a very useful 15.7 degrees. With a career high 91.6 exit velocity and a 94.2 EVAB, Turner is not just hitting soft flies, either.

Nonetheless, he's turned into more of an OBP demon in the aftermath of his 27-homer breakout in 2016, posting marks of .415, .406, and .387 since 2017. A home run every 6-7 games is about what you expect from Turner, and it's good to see him back there after his slow power start.


Nolan Arenado (3B, COL)

Nolan Arenado didn't hit his first home run until April 14. Then he hit two more the next two nights. Now, he's at 10, and it's as if his .246/.299/.311 to start the season never happened.

The same sentiment is pretty much reflected in his Statcast numbers. A .395 wOBA is exactly where he was in 2017 and four points higher than in 2018. His xSLG is actually up slightly, .498 this season after it was .474 last year. Not the expected mark of a 38-home run hitter, but that's what Arenado did last season, with 23 of them coming at Coors.

What's really changed for Arenado this year is the strikeouts and walks: he's doing both a lot less than usual. His career strikeout rate of 15.2% is all the way down to 10.8% this season. His 7.4% walk rate in '19 is only slightly below a 7.7% career mark, but from 2016-18 he walked 9.9% of the time. The 2019 version of Arenado looks a lot like Brantley but at Coors. With the added bonus of the park and a big power track record, Arenado should reach the mid-30's in home runs again.


Power Fallers

It seems like a faller homers every Tuesday. This week, we had two: Guerrero -- twice! -- and Wong.


Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, TOR)

It's been a slow start for the much-hyped prospect, hitting .191/.283/.234 in his first 53 plate appearances after a .343/.416/.593, 161-PA Triple-A career. Perhaps no plate appearance in his young MLB career more demonstrates his struggles than this successful one: Guerrero annihilated a baseball at 118.9 mph on May 11, but was limited to a single because he only the ball five degrees off the ground.

Overall, Guerrero is hitting the ball at just 1.7 degrees, and it's a big reason why he's been limited to a single barrel. His 11.3% walks against 22.6% strikeouts tells us he's seeing the ball pretty darn well for a 20-year-old, but to a reasonable degree given his prospect rep. So one suspects it's a matter of time before the lift and the pop come.

There's not much left to say about Guerrero after just 53 Major League plate appearances. It's best to rely more on his monstrous minor league numbers until the MLB sample gets larger. If it's the All Star Break and he's still not elevating the ball, there may be more issues to discuss.


David Dahl (OF, COL)

David Dahl hit 16 homers in just 77 games last season, albeit 13 of them at Coors Field. This year, he has two at Coors and one on the road for three total over 32 games. He has been productive thanks for a .458 BABIP, but how much longer can he get away with 31.5-6.5 in the K-BB department?

Surprisingly, perhaps a bit longer. With 13 barrels already this season after 17 last year, it's very unfortunate that Dahl only has a trio of bombs. Sure, his exit velocity and launch angle are down, but he's still got a .283 xBA and .543 xSLG despite all the strikeouts. Nonetheless, he'll want to bring that K rate closer to last season's 25.1% mark to sustain his success. Unless you're Joey Gallo who can hit the ball 100+ on average (and Dahl's EVAB is 95.5 mph, which is still quite good and explains the x-stats despite just an 86.0 overall EV), a 30% strikeout rate asks for trouble.

Dahl is still a part-time player (28 starts in 40 team games) who gets a lot of his value from his home park, but his home run rate at Coors should pick up at some point. He's barreling up too many baseballs for it not to.


J.T. Realmuto (C, PHI)

With four home runs in 38 games, Realmuto is somewhat off his 21/125 pace from last season, but you wouldn't bat an eye if he were still in Miami. Unfortunately, he's in Philadelphia and has not gone long since April 26 after having woken up a bit with three homers in the 11 games prior.

However, by Statcast Realmuto could be doing a lot better: a 96.0 mph EVAB and a 9.0% barrel rate are two ways. He has 14 total barrels, just as many as Suarez and Khris Davis, both of whom have three times the number of bombs. His .516 xSLG is 85 points higher than the .431 SLG he has mustered to date.

One potential issue is that Realmuto's launch angle gain last season that brought him to 14.4 degrees has gone away as he is at only 8.4 degrees this year. However he is also setting a career high with a 91.3 mph exit velocity after never cracking the 89 mph barrier before. In addition to his EVAB and barrel rate, that makes for a much better outlook on Realmuto than would be gleamed from his main lines so far. If he keeps hitting the ball the way he has, he should hit that 20 homer mark again, and hopefully maybe exceed it now that he plays home games at CBP instead of Miami Caverns.


Carlos Gonzalez (OF, CLE)

Gonzalez appears to have lost his job to Oscar Mercado, heading to the bench in Mercado's favor on Tuesday. Gonzalez's roster spot could be next given his .221/.272/.302 line in 24 games. Long gone are the days of 2015 and its 40 home runs.

Gonzalez has earned his anemic line with a launch angle of -2.4 degrees. No, the negative sign was not a typo. And because the exit velocity has disappeared -- 86.3 mph when his career low since 2015 was 87.4 -- the .302 slugging rate is no surprise. Gonzalez has actually managed a .337 xSLG with three barrels, but even if he kept getting playing time, it would be difficult to see that much continuing if the negative launch angle did.

When Gonzalez has elevated this season, it's given him a 94.4 mph EVAB, which could be useful...but did I mention the negative launch angle? Cleveland's attempt to get one last bit of productivity out of Gonzalez appears to be over with the Mercado call-up.


Kolten Wong (2B, STL)

Wong was a power riser early on, but has no home runs in the last 30 days, stuck at four. His Statcast numbers were unimpressive then, and they're unimpressive now. An EVAB then of 87.5 mph is up to 90 mph but that still only ranks 300th. He also only has three barrels. Although is launch angle is now up to 13.0 degrees, it still does little good with too-weak contact in the air. His .352 xSLG means he still has room to regress given his slugging rate currently stands at .395.

Even when Wong was hitting for power very early this season, its sustainability was highly questionable at best. We've seen much closer to the real Wong in these past 30 days.


Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Michael Chavis 3-for-13 and no homers, but season numbers still great
Ketel Marte .385 OBP but no homers, so the drop may be coming (but not to near-zero!)
Paul DeJong 3-for-22, no homers, but 6 BB to 5 K looks like he's seeing it well
Anthony Rizzo Just four games but another HR, he's looking good
Luke Voit 0-for-last-11 but 4 BB in 17 PA


Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Miguel Cabrera Still scuffling, hit .182/.250/.182 during week
Wilson Ramos Only played one game
Brandon Nimmo 2-for-8 with a double but 5 walks a good sign
Jackie Bradley Jr. .167/.333/.250 week and he's still a mess
Miguel Rojas Unsurprisingly still no homers here either; just a .067/.176/.067 week

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