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Power Risers and Fallers for Week 6: Buy or Sell?


Welcome to Week 6 of the 2018 MLB season and a new week of our investigation into the steepest power trenders in baseball, whether those trends be positive or negative.

As the season progresses further into the month of May, the window of opportunity to snag a surging slugger or to deal a down-and-out disappointment grows shorter with every plate appearance. Getting the jump on identifying the catalytic variables and telling trends in these player's recent offensive performances could be the key factor in the management of your roster in the summer months.

To do this, we'll be taking a look at the batting metrics that influence a hitter's power (Fly-Ball%, Pull%, Hard-Hit%, Exit Velocity) and determining whether you should buy or sell respectively on these surgers and strugglers. Since we can already feel confident in the current power play from players like Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Joey Votto, and Mookie Betts, we are going to be focusing on players who have seen a change in their power profile due to a change in batting metrics and has either warranted greater attention for waiver wire pickups or for a potential trade to cash in on what's left before it's too late.

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Power Risers

Ryon Healy - (1B/3B, SEA)

After two successful first MLB seasons in Oakland, the 26-year old Ryon Healy has picked up right where he left off with his power performance at the plate in his first 67 PA for the Seattle Mariners. To start off 2018 Healy has smacked five HR, and has produced a SLG% and ISO of .538 and .277. Both of these figures display improvements on his two-year run with the A's in which he averaged still impressive marks of .475 and .193. All indications are positive for Healy moving forward in the power department. He has been hitting about 2% less ground balls so far this season and although his plate discipline has suffered, his soft-hit rate and hard-hit rate have both improved by nearly 5% each since just last season. Add in the fact that he has steadily improved his soft-hit and hard-hit rate each year since arriving in the majors and that his pull-rate is up 5.8% from last season, and Ryon Healy looks like a reliable and ever improving power option for 2018.

Wilson Ramos - (C, TB)

After an icy start to the season, Wilson Ramos has been lighting pitchers up from the plate in the last couple of weeks. In his last 61 AB Ramos has an eye-popping slash line of .393/.439/.672 and all four of his homers on the year. The 2016 All-Star has been a reliable offensive option at backstop with varied consistency since his rookie season in 2011. At first glance the improvement at the plate appears to be solely the product of plate discipline, as his BB% and K% have both improved and his ISO is at .179 after marks of .189 and .188 the previous two seasons. At a closer look Ramos's Barrel Rate (8.8%) and Exit Velocity (92 mph) are his highest rates in the last handful of years, while his hard-hit rate is up 9.4% from 2017. While many of these figures appear to be outside the norm for Ramos's career at the plate, the figures show he isn't getting lucky, he is just making better contact. If you are looking for power at a notoriously difficult position and still aren't buying what Ramos is selling, consult his soft-hit rate of 8.8% (down 13.5% from 2017!) and his career-high pull-rate of 48.8% and see why Ramos is one of the most added offensive players by eager Fantasy Baseball Managers of late.

Nomar Mazara - (OF, TEX)

After two straight 20-HR seasons out of the Texas outfield, Nomar Mazara looks poised to break through to the next level of power-hitting with the same ferocity that he's been clobbering pitches with in his 139 AB so far in 2018. In the last 14 days he smashed five of his eight HR on the year, which has led to his ISO improving from .170 to .216 this year. This surge in power-hitting is supported by Mazara's improved hard-hit contact on batted balls. So far in 2018 Mazara has made 7.4% more hard contact and 5.7% less soft contact and has improved his average exit velocity by 2.4 mph. Considering such monster long-balls as his 447 foot shot (110.3 mph) and his 441 footer (113.5 mph) and the fact that he has improved his hard-hit rate by an average of 5.7% each year in the league, the 23-year old Mazara looks ready to blow his previous mark of 20 HR out of the water.

Ian Happ - (2B/OF, CHC)

After a rookie season last year in which he totaled 24 homers and eight steals, Ian Happ's case for power at the plate in 2018 is a little more of a mixed bag. His plate discipline has suffered as his K-rate has ballooned by 13.5%, his pull-rate is down 9.2%, and his soft-contact rate is up 10.2%. On the other side of the argument Happ has actually increased his hard-hit rate by 7.2% to an even 40%. This increase in hard contact on batted balls in tandem with his FB% of 51.1% (up 11.4% from 2017) is undoubtedly how Happ has managed to get back on the power-hitting track in the last couple of weeks. While the metrics of Happ's overall offensive performance this season seem to lean in both directions, his ability to grab between 5-15 steals is what tilts the scale in his favor. Not to mention, he is still available in about 50% of Fantasy Baseball Leagues.

 

Power Fallers

Paul Goldschmidt - (1B, ARI)

After averaging 31 HR the previous three seasons in Arizona, the five-time All-Star Goldschmidt appears to be struggling with his pop and power in 2018 at age 30. His K% is up nearly 9% to start the year, which is concerning enough on it's own. Although his GB% is down 5.3% to 41%, his HR/FB ratio is at its lowest (9.8%) since 2012. This is likely spurred on by his 8% increase in soft contact and infield fly ball rate which sits at 14.3%. Goldschmidt should be considered a "Ride it Out" asset, as his current hard contact rate and ISO aren't deviating too far from his typically phenomenal career norms. The ongoing offensive slump can likely be explained by an increased amount of strikeouts and infield fly balls in his first 124 AB of 2018. While the decrease in power to this point in the year rings a bit concerning, Goldy's track record of being the premier power/speed threat at first base is too compelling to panic and sell on him so early in May.

Dansby Swanson - (SS, ATL)

While it's nice to see that former top prospect Dansby Swanson has found his groove at the plate after his disastrous 2017 campaign with Atlanta, don't count on power to be a a staple of his game moving forward. The former Vanderbilt Commodore has made some modest improvements this year to his hard/soft contact rates, this is only in comparison to his lowly figures of last season. His average exit velocity still sits below 90 mph, and his  truly optimistic offensive marks can be seen in his improved BA/OBP of .289/.336 which is explained in part by his up-tick in BABIP (.292 in 2017 to .388 this season). Even among shortstops, Swanson doesn't project as a power-hitter. His ability to produce a solid BA/OBP in combination with his speed on the base paths makes him at best a future 15-15 man at the position, but even that is a stretch. His 3.4% increase in XBH is encouraging for his overall production at the plate, but as far as power it is much more reasonable to expect 10-10 potential from Swanson.

Ryan Braun - (1B/OF, MIL)

While Ryan Braun is well past his days of finishing top five in the MVP race, he is still a valuable power/speed asset in his 12th MLB season with the Milwaukee Brewers. Braun has five HR and four SB so far in 111 AB in 2018, but has greatly faltered in the last 14 days with a goose egg in the long-ball department and a slugging percentage of just .314. The good news is, the recent slump likely isn't very indicative of his power projections moving forward. While there is no doubt that his regression in K-rate and BB-rate has a detrimental effect on Braun's SB figures, his power metrics show little cause for concern. His average exit velocity currently sits at 92 mph (his highest mark since 2015) and his hard-hit rate is up 5.3% (48.8%) since last season. In recent years, when given a full season of AB, Braun has typically contributed anywhere from 20-30 homers and 15-25 steals. Based on his offensive metrics, despite the recent slump, he is in good shape to mimic that power/speed pace as the season moves along.

Rhys Hoskins - (1B/OF, PHI)

Rhys Hoskins took the MLB by storm in just 170 AB last season by producing 18 HR, a .618 SLG%, and a crazy .359 ISO. While the 25-year old Philly's power has been down and he has skidded of late, he has hit five HR and stolen three bases through 117 AB this year. His average exit velocity is down from his incredible rookie campaign last year but still sits at 90 mph and his hard contact rate is actually up to 45.5%. His plate discipline has seen turbulence with an improvement in walk-rate but a regression in strikeout percentage. Hoskins has also increased his fly ball rate by 8% while decreasing his infield fly ball rate by 1.5%. Hoskins's power might have dipped lately, but his ongoing power metrics in 2018 support that he is still a fantastic power option. As a bonus, while H he never demonstrated an ability to steal more than eight bases in the minors, his improved all-around offensive game and three steals already to this point in the year may make Hoskins a sneaky candidate to grab 8-12 steals.

 

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