Power Risers and Fallers for Week 15: 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. Just because there’s no baseball being played right now doesn’t mean the analyses stop! In fact, it means they get churned out even more because what else do we have to do with our lives?

Identifying top power risers and fallers for each week can help you swing the best deals and 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 15 power risers and selling these week 15 power fallers.

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Power Risers

Nelson Cruz - (OF, SEA):

This name isn’t likely to surprise, as the photogenic All-Star has already hit three homers with 11 RBI in just eight July contests after hitting only two round-trippers in the entire month of June (25 games). His fly-ball rate had sunk to 33.8 percent last month, but now it sits at 54.5 percent alongside a 54.6 percent pull rate and 54.6 percent hard-hit rate. 54 just might be his lucky number!

While that mark will surely stabilize a bit toward the low 40s as the month plays out, it’s definitely encouraging to see a bat of his caliber show flashes of outstanding power like this. I'd expect this to lead into a solid second half that sees his lower 17.2 percent HR/FB rate on the season continue to rise toward his mark of 26.2 percent last season (30.3 percent in '15).

Willson Contreras - (C/OF, CHC):

Over the first two and a half months of the 2017 season, Contreras socked just five homers with a .239/.306/.381 slash line in 196 plate appearances. There wasn’t much hope as he hit June’s mid-point without a homer since May 28. Then he socked a pair of doubles on both June 16 and 18 to jumpstart a 22-game stretch (82 PAs) that has seen him hit .315 with six homers.

The 25-year-old’s bat is heating up with the weather, as he’s notched a sweet 38.6 percent hard-hit rate, 40 percent fly-ball rate and 49 percent pull rate over this recent surge. The pull rate is nothing new, but the hard-hit rate is up eight percentage points and the fly-ball rate has jumped 14 percentage points, as he’s seeing both his exit velocity and launch angles creep up toward optimal levels.

Todd Frazier - (1B/3B, CWS):

While still hitting a lowly .213 on the season and entering the All-Star break having gone a disappointing 1-for-9 in a three-game series at Coors Field, the Toddfather looked like a new man in June and just may carry that forward here. Frazier ripped eight homers in June after hitting just seven between April and May combined, but he also went from hitting .181 to hitting .261. One is terrible, and one isn’t going to hurt anybody.

He’s already knocked three doubles and a homer in eight July games, with six walks to six strikeouts in 33 PAs. But we want to be sure that the power metrics are still there. Well, his fly-ball rate is at 55.6 percent in July, his pull rate is at 50 percent and the hard-hit rate sits at 38.9 percent (35.7 percent in June). He’s ticking off all of the boxes right now, and if he manages to keep up the contact and cull those strikeouts then all the better for us.

Carlos Correa - (SS, HOU):

Correa has been going cor-razy lately, but I’m specifically picking him out here because of what his power is supported by. We all know how he hit just two homers with a poor .233 average in April, and it’s been a nonstop joyride ever since. Despite hitting seven homers in both May and June only to open July with four dingers in seven games (sheesh), he’s been relying more and more on each fly ball to get out of the park as the season has gone on.

The young slugger’s fly-ball rate has gone from 39.1 percent in April down to 26.6 percent in June (20.8 percent in July so far), as his HR/FB rate sat at a lofty 33.3 percent last month. It’s 80 percent in July. Yes, only one of his five fly balls has failed to leave the park. Part of that comes from owning a hard-hit rate above 40 percent, but don’t expect the party to continue at quite this rate -- he simply isn’t showing the swing for it.

 

Power Fallers

Edwin Encarnacion - (1B, CLE):

Encarnacion took his parrot for seven strolls around the bases in June thanks to his fly-ball rate receiving a 17-percentage-point shot in the arm. While his early July rate sits at 44 percent, his pull rate is down at 18.5 percent and his hard-hit rate is at 26 percent -- down 10 percentage points from both May and June. Things should even out as more games get played, but the bottom line is that so far his bat hasn’t been getting around on the ball like it was in June and his performance is rightfully suffering as a result. I have faith he’ll be okay, but I also don’t want folks thinking he’s still drilling it with the same authority and simply getting unlucky.

Ryon Healy - (1B/3B, OAK):

Since clubbing two homers on June 17, Healy has been mired in a 13-for-67 (.194) slump over his last 18 games. He’s hit two homers and one double in that span with four walks against 22 strikeouts, though plate discipline has never really been his thing. What’s happened is he’s suddenly driving the ball into the dirt (58.7 percent ground-ball rate) with a poor 23.9 percent hard-hit rate fueling said gopher-thumpers. Compare that to his first half of June, when he hit grounders at a 39.1 percent clip alongside a healthy 43.5 percent fly-ball rate and robust 52.2 percent hard-hit rate. I think this is more of a rookie streak, but someone with his propensity for whiffing (26.7 percent strikeout rate on the season) can get into trouble like this pretty easily when their swing is even just the tiniest bit off.

Matt Kemp - (OF, ATL):

Kemp was able to avoid a second trip to the disabled list this season after his left hamstring tightened up on him on June 14 -- it was the right one that sent him to the DL in April -- but maybe he should’ve taken the time anyway. Something is not right here for the 32-year-old, as he’s hit just .176 (12-for-68) with one homer and two doubles in 19 games since that tightness sprung up.

It isn’t just the results, I promise you. While he’s still pulling the ball 40 percent of the time, his hard-hit rate of 22 percent alongside a 20 percent fly-ball rate is just not going to cut it. That hard-hit rate sat at 38 percent prior to June’s midpoint and one out of every three batted-balls was being lifted. This is really bad, so hopefully, the All-Star break gave his body enough downtime to feel comfortable again. Keep an eye on his swing plane and whether he’s getting any lift on the ball in the early going.

Addison Russell - (SS, CHC):

Remember when Russell went 13-for-34 (.382) with four doubles and four homers over a 10-game span from June 11-22? Well, I don’t because he’s gone just 7-for-39 (.179) since with a lonely double standing as his only extra-base hit over that span. He had enjoyed a lovely 54 percent hard-hit rate over that little surge, but it’s fallen back to 30.8 percent. Couple that with a below-average 26.9 percent fly-ball rate (down from 34.6 percent) and a 34.6 percent pull rate (down from 50 percent), and one can see that his bat is indeed lost.

That hot streak also relied on four of his nine fly balls leaving the yard, so he had some luck in there as well. What’s most interesting is how his average exit velocity is actually up on the whole -- from 87.2 mph to 87.6 mph -- but it’s actually down on balls struck in the air. His fly-ball/line-drive AEV has sunk from 92.3 mph to 90.9 mph, which helps explain how his barrels per batted-ball rate has sunk from 9.3 percent to 5.7 percent. Move along.

 

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