Power Risers and Fallers for Week 19: 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 middle of August means two things: the end of the fantasy baseball season is starting to peek out over the horizon, and most of your league’s trade deadlines are bearing down on you.

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 19 power risers and selling these week 19 power fallers.

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Power Risers

Eugenio Suarez - (CIN, 3B):

Belting his 20th homer of the season on Thursday, Suarez has now sent four baseballs to Souvenir City in 10 August games (and seven in his last 21 contests). It’s possible that his bat proves to be one of the streakier ones in the league, as many of you likely know how he bashed five homers in both April and May before hitting only six long balls combined between June and July alongside a 62-point drop in his batting average.

With that in mind, all three of his relevant power metrics here sit above 45 percent in the last two weeks (45.5 percent fly-ball and hard-hit rates, 60 percent pull rate). These marks all sat between 30-40 percent after his red-hot April and he looks to be on that same track again in August. Maybe he just has a thing for months that begin with “A”? Now that’s sabermetrics for you, folks. In all seriousness, we’ve seen what he can do when comfortable at the dish and he looks mighty comfy right now.

Keon Broxton - (MIL, OF):

While Broxton’s homer on Thursday may make this rather obvious, there are likely still a few folks out there who are skeptical of his solid performance since being recalled on Aug. 1. After all, the guy was sent down after hitting just .067 (3-for-45) in July before being sent down. All he’s done since then is post a hard-hit rate of nearly 60 percent with a 35 percent pull rate while lifting the ball half of the time in 37 plate appearances. While we have to cede that a small sample size for a streaky hitter is dangerous to latch onto, but if you’re wondering whether this is a legitimate show or not -- it is.

Kolten Wong - (STL, 2B/OF):

Wong has done well to post a .303 average this season, and his .826 OPS is rather impressive as well thanks to a career-high 10.3 percent walk rate and 20 doubles thus far. We’re interested in the prospect of more doubles turning into homers, though, and it looks like that’s truly not far-fetched. After stroking a batted-ball over 100 mph only once in his first 16 games since the All-Star break, the 26-year-old has since done so six times in his most recent 10 games (Thursday night not included). It likely won’t cost you a thing to see where this summer spike takes him, but his current stat sheet undersells the skills currently at work.

Eduardo Nunez - (BOS, 2B/SS/3B/OF):

Nunez’s inclusion will come as no surprise to Boston fans and his fantasy owners, as the 30-year-old is batting .420 with four homers and six doubles since trading in AT&T Park for Fenway. That said, he went 5-for-10 in two games in Tampa Bay as well, so he’s just all-around locked in right now. We can’t ignore that he hit just .269 with only four homers in 50 games for San Francisco last season after ripping 12 long balls alongside a .296 average in 91 games for Minnesota. Dude just likes the AL is all, and parks that aren’t notoriously pitcher-friendly. Banter aside, his 42 percent hard-hit rate, 35 percent fly-ball rate and 53.5 percent pull rate since being traded back what you’re seeing with your eyeballs and paint him as a legitimate contributor as the home stretch approaches.

 

Power Fallers

Mookie Betts - (BOS, OF):

While Betts has notched a hit in eight of his last 10 games, he’s still hitting just .233 over that span with a poor .292 on-base percentage to boot. Worse in our eyes is the .326 slugging percentage, as only two of his 10 hits in this span have gone for extra bases (one double, one homer). While he’s still hitting plenty of fly balls (40 percent) and pulling the ball at a healthy clip (37 percent), he simply can’t square up a ball to save his life.

His 14.3 percent soft-contact rate means he’s not hitting dribblers, but his even-worse 11.4 percent hard-hit rate means he’s just in batted-ball purgatory. Still only 24 years old, Betts’ biggest weakness actually looks to be his line-drive rate plummeting from 19.3 percent in ’16 to 16 percent here. He still has the tools to be a game-breaking talent and there are plenty who will gamble on that upside, but this is looking more and more like a lost season for his suddenly inconsistent bat.

Byron Buxton - (MIN, OF):

We’ve got to give it up for Buxton for producing a three-hit, two-RBI night just as I begin to write about him here. He had begun to make some noise in July -- batting .387 with a homer and three steals across 10 games -- before landing on the disabled list right after the All-Star break ended. Since then, he’s now 9-for-31 (.290), which is good but has seen his usual pull rate of over 50 percent come out of the gates at 33.3 percent in August. His hard-hit rate was at 39.1 percent in July but it now sits at 28.6 percent. His fly-ball rate is a monthly-low 22.2 percent as well. While I will readily admit that he could have just needed to shake off some rust, he has seen that rolling average-exit velocity graph that enamored many absorb a sharp drop.

Russell Martin - (TOR, C/3B):

Most of Martin’s 2017 campaign has been a disappointing one, but the veteran has actually hit .261 with three homers over his last 14 games. While that’s not lighting the world on fire, it isn’t bad by any means -- especially this year with the bar of “top-12 catcher” being rather low. But Martin’s recent performance has an ugly 21.9 percent hard-hit rate, 22.6 percent fly-ball rate and 37.5 percent pull rate underneath it. Pulling the ball alone isn’t going to do much for you if it isn’t lifted over the fielders and not leaving the bat with any authority.

Ryan Braun - (MIL, OF):

Braun is experiencing a slip in power at just the wrong time for most fantasy owners to feel like they can get enough when they flip him, but it might be worth exploring all the same. Despite playing in only 62 games thus far, the 33-year-old has been productive when able to suit up with a .244 ISO -- his highest mark since 2012 (.276). The bright side and easiest selling point would be Braun’s logging multiple hits in five straight games now and is hitting .383 over his last two weeks despite going homerless in that window.

This can be explained by a poor 29.4 percent fly-ball rate and 23.5 percent pull rate. He’s spraying the ball well and his hard-hit rate of 38.2 percent and 32.4 percent line-drive rate validate the batting average, but his fly-ball rate alone has tumbled 20 percent compared to July. A guy with his track record likely won’t just forget how to hit big flies, but those who have solid average and hurting for power should consider offering up Braun on the trade block.

 

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