Power Risers and Fallers for Week 14: Buy or Sell?

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Welcome back to this investigative piece where we examine players who have seen some notable changes in their power profiles -- for better or for worse -- in 2017.

As usual, you don’t need me to tell you that Miguel Sano and Aaron Judge are strong or that Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton are toward the bottom in average exit velocity. The next time we meet up here, we'll be starting up the second half of the 2017 season.

Identifying top power risers and fallers for each week can help you spot the best pickups before your competition. We'll do the hard work for you, looking at the underlying metrics that influence a hitter's power: fly-ball, pull, hard-hit rates and exit velocity.  Consider buying these week 14 power risers and selling these week 14 power fallers.

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Power Risers

George Springer - (OF, HOU):

Before Springer went 1-for-5 on Thursday night, he had ripped off a .435 average with four homers and six doubles over his last two weeks of play. His leadoff position on this stacked team yielded 16 runs scored in that span, and the bottom of the order produces enough where he still notched nine RBI to boot. But really, one has to wonder how he pops up on a list like this given what his “norm” is while on his power warpath.

Well, pulling the ball nearly half of the time (48.7 percent) with a ridiculous 46 percent hard-hit rate (and teeny 10.8 percent soft-contact rate) could have something to do with it. Despite still hitting more grounders (43.2 percent) than flies (37.8 percent), his contact is just so loud that when he does lift the ball it does damage.

Justin Turner - (3B, LAD):

Turner, the National League's winner on the All-Star Game Final Vote, has done his usual flirting-with-a-.400-batting-average thing lately, except now he’s clobbered six homers in his last 15 games after clubbing just two round-trippers over his first 46 contests of 2017. While these things are far from scientific, he owned just three homers through May of last season before popping off for 24 long balls from June onward.

It’s not as though anyone is going to be selling Turner at anything but “high”, but the point is that he could actually be better than this if fantasy owners aren’t prorating his power accordingly. He has recorded just three batted balls that registered as soft contact for a mere 5.8 percent rate over this stout 15-game span, with a 46.2 percent hard-hit rate, 50 percent pull rate and 48.1 percent fly-ball rate, all pulling his power up.

Brandon Belt - (1B/OF, SF):

Belt has long been the poster child for those preseason articles about guys who are finally going to breakout, but it appears this season’s upward-swinging revolution has taken him there. What’s strange is that his fly-ball rate is actually down from last season and his hard-hit rate is only up about two percent, yet his HR/FB rate has surged seven percentage points. 2016 was just a down year for him luck-wise in that department, even when you mix pitcher-friendly AT&T Park into the equation.

All the 29-year-old has done over his last 15 games is rope four doubles, two triples and five homers while hitting at a .298 clip. The average may drop a bit considering his absurd 57.5 percent fly-ball rate, but a 53.5 percent hard-hit rate does tend to make flies harder to catch when they’re bashing off of -- or clearing -- the wall. Despite only posting a 30.2 percent pull rate (39.5 percent opposite), Belt is one of those batters who can make the all-fields approach work with power -- though it does mean the homers could come even more frequently should he get out in front pitches a bit more.

Kendrys Morales - (1B/OF, TOR):

Morales’s inclusion may raise some eyebrows here, as he’s hitting just .213 with two homers over the last two weeks. Plotting his two-week stats against the first three weeks of June shows how his hard-hit rate is holding steady around 47 percent and his pull rate has actually dropped by 20 percent, but his fly-ball rate has drummed itself back up from the dead, leaping from 28 percent to 50 percent.

The loss in pulling the ball likely explains why the power hasn’t quite been there, as the fly balls traveling the other way have helped his HR/FB rate tumble from 33.3 percent to 7.1 percent. One figure is too high, and the other way too low. Expect regression to hit soon, meaning his batted balls will start finding Souvenir City at a righteous clip shortly.

 

Power Fallers

Anthony Rizzo - (1B, CHC):

Remember when Rizzo was moved into the leadoff spot and cranked out homers like it was his job? Well, that party ended a little over two weeks ago. Since then, he’s been moved back into the three-hole and is hitting just .245 with two homers in his last 15 games. While he’s still got 10 walks against just six strikeouts, his batted-ball profile has simply imploded on itself like a dying star.

Worst of all is his hard-hit rate, which was already meh at 33.3 percent before June 20, but this 15-game stretch has yielded a 23.8 percent mark. That’s bad. Not bad for Rizzo, just bad. Combine that with a pull rate that has fallen by over 22 percent and all he’s done is render his snappy 47.6 percent fly-ball rate over the last couple of weeks useless. It’s been a terrible first half for the 27-year-old, and he’s somehow gotten worse after summer began -- isn’t Wrigley Field supposed to bring on the dingers with the heat?

Hunter Renfroe - (OF, SD):

After swatting five homers across a 10-game window in the middle of June, Renfroe has now left the yard just once with five RBI over his last 17 games. While he’s hitting a respectable .250 over that span, this is a guy who needs the long ball to retain any sort of fantasy value considering the lineup around him. His counting stats are thin enough as it is, so what’s going on here?

Well, he’s still pulling the ball 50 percent of the time so that’s fine. His hard-hit rate is down about four percentage points, which isn’t ideal but not cataclysmic either. What ties it all together is a fly-ball rate that has fallen to 31 percent from 44 percent before the cold stretch began. Now, is this enough to warrant his HR/FB rate dropping from 19.5 percent to 7.7 percent? No, but it does open the door for some bad luck to make him unrosterable in most mixed-league formats.

Charlie Blackmon - (OF, COL):

While it’s tempting to chalk up his inclusion here to the fact that he’s set to participate in the Home Run Derby, which we all know is the Kiss of Death, this is more about his bat simply slowing down lately. We’ve all seen that his average is over 100 points higher at home with a .415 Coors ISO against a .148 road ISO, but there’s (sadly) more to it than that.

The 31-year-old has seen his fly-ball and pull rates slip roughly four percentage points each, while his hard-hit rate has dropped about seven percentage points. Not only that, but his soft-contact rate has risen from 16.6 percent to 25 percent. While it’s true that this stretch had nine road games compared to just three at home, his hard-hit rate is the only metric that noticeably falls below average on the road. His fly-ball rate actually jumps by about seven percentage points. There’s no doubting that he’s still a great hitter in a fantastic hitting climate, but with the entirely of Colorado’s roster seemingly unable to hit its way out of a paper bag, there’s no shame in trying to sell high on his year-to-date numbers.

Josh Harrison - (2B/3B/OF, PIT):

The day was June 12, 2017, and Harrison had just crushed his eighth homer of the season alongside his six steals and healthy .311 batting average through 267 plate appearances. Everything was magical! And then it wasn’t. Now hitting just .156 with one homer and five RBI over his last 21 games, the versatile 29-year-old has seen his fly-ball rate drop by six percentage points, his hard-hit rate drop by 10 percentage points and his pull rate crash by 15 percentage points.

Since Harrison was no power maverick before the carpet was pulled out, the consequences have been rather devastating. It’s unlikely that anyone is really buying into him at this point, but he could be sold as being on pace for a 20/20 season with relative ease if your trade partner isn’t looking at game logs. This is more of a PSA to bench him until further notice, as the struggles are most definitely warranted.

 

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