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Power Risers and Fallers for Week 7: Buy or Sell?


Welcome to Week 7 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 we power through the second half 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/Fallers Premium Tool

Identifying top power surgers and fallers for each week can help you spot the best pickups before your competition. RotoBaller's Premium Power Risers and Fallers tool has you covered every day.

 

Power Risers

Scooter Gennett - (2B, CIN)

After a breakout year in 2017 that saw him smack 27 HR (including four in one night!), many thought Scooter Gennett's new-found level of production was a fluke. However, 2018 may be proving that the 28-year old Cincinnati infielder is just a late-bloomer. In the last two weeks, he has an amazing slash line of .410/.425/.795 and four of his six long balls on the year. With an ISO of .181 through 155 AB this season as compared to .236 from last year, it may be appear that Scooter's pop has regressed a bit, although he has been able to achieve hard contact on batted balls 8% more frequently in 2018. His exit velocity is also still a bit low around 87 mph, but he is a well-rounded offensive presence with the ability to catch fire for stretches of time which usually manifests itself in a ton of bombs. At 28, Scooter Gennett may just be getting started.

Ender Inciarte - (OF, ATL)

Ender Inciarte has never hit more than 11 HR in a full MLB season (which took him a league leading 662 AB to achieve). His large contribution has been his solid career BA (.293) and an average of 19.5 steals a year. Recently however, Inciarte has been hitting at a mightier clip than usual, smacking three pitches out the yard and slugging .468 in the last 14 days. He is currently among baseball's top base stealers with 18 so far this year, but his recent improvement in power at the plate has apparently been at the expense of his usually stellar BA, which has been .234 over his last 47 AB.

While more frequent HR hitting would be a great addition to his already potent speed threat, don't count on it to stick around. While he has made hard contact on 4% more batted balls in 2018 he is still doing so at an insignificant rate of 26%, and in fact is producing medium contact 7% less and is making soft-contact 3% more. Combine that with a virtually identical FB-rate and an average exit velocity of 83 mph, and one would hope that Inciarte can just get back to hitting for contact again soon so he can start running the base paths and grabbing more steals. That's where his true value lies.

Brad Miller - (1B/2B, TB)

98 AB into the 2018 season, Brad Miller has already posted an ISO figure of .184, his highest since his 30-HR season in 2016. That includes a .531 slugging percentage and two HR hit in the last 14 days. In years past when Miller has had the chance to shine it has predominantly been through power hitting as opposed to speed or BA. However, the question in 2018 is, is Brad Miller's power here to stay? The good news for the lucky few of you who have already taken a chance on him is: yes, count on more to come. While his hard contact on batted balls has fallen a tad-bit, it still sits at a respectable 35% while his soft contact has dropped to 17.4% and he has been churning out fly balls at a crucial 50%. His average exit velocity in 2018 has been encouraging at 92.34 mph while his average HR distance sits at 407 feet. While Brad Miller has his moments of well-rounded offensive production for fantasy baseball owners, he is truly a valuable asset when he is hitting for power like he did for Tampa Bay in 2016. If he eats a full serving of plate appearances this season and continues to smack fly balls at such an impressive clip with hard contact, the homers will continue to fly in at a reliable rate.

Mitch Moreland - (1B, BOS)

32-year old Mitch Moreland has been a reliable pure-power option for a while now, hitting a combined 67 HR for the Rangers and Red Sox between 2015-2017. The former Gold Glove first baseman has a 1.032 OPS and five HR in his last 60 AB. A big difference maker this year has been Moreland's improved plate discipline demonstrated by his 11.5% walk-rate and career-low current K-rate of 16.4%. Luckily while he has added more to his all-around game with the bat, he did so without detracting from his time tested power. He has a 2018 ISO mark of .297 and hasn't produced one lower than .189 in the last hand full of campaigns. He has dropped his soft contact rate on batted balls by 3% to 10.5% and has kicked it up a notch in fly ball volume by hitting them 40% of the time, all while maintaining a hard contact rate of 37.3%. Taken into account with a 93 mph average exit velocity and an average HR of 415.5 feet, Moreland's big steps in plate discipline make him an even safer power option than usual out of the scorching Boston batting order.

 

Power Fallers

Kyle Schwarber - (OF, CHC)

While the Chicago Cubs offense has again looked elite in 2018, lately, Kyle Schwarber has hardly looked passable when facing opposing pitchers. In the last two weeks he has a goose egg in the balls-gone-yard department and an absolutely hideous OPS of .585. However, don't fret. This has all the tell-tale signs of a slump that will end soon. Despite the horrid last 14 days Schwarber has an ISO of .241, a hard contact rate of 36.3%, and a soft hit rate of 17.4% that all ring strikingly similar to his 2017 marks that resulted in 30 HR launched. The real problem appears to be Schwarber's fly ball rate of 31.3% which is down a full 15% from last season and has given way to 14% more grounders this time around. While these offensive variables and a less than eye-popping exit velocity of 90 mph leave a lot to be desired from Schwarber, he has walked 4% more often and struck out 7% less frequently in 2018 and has already stolen two bases in three tries. If he can get back to hitting more fly balls at his current degree of power, his improving plate discipline and potential for sneaky steals makes him a lethal power play out of the fourth ranked run scoring offense in baseball.

Matt Chapman - (3B, OAK)

For a glimpse into the statistical potential that the 25-year old Matt Chapman offers: in 2016 at the Double-A level he smacked 29 HR and added seven stolen bases. In contrast in the last 41 AB Chapman has managed just one long ball and a .293 slugging percentage and has been getting dropped like a cult-classic from the FOX network. The peripherals surrounding Chapman's offensive production have been a bit perpendicular. He has produced a solid exit velocity of about 93 mph, but has managed just 395 feet on average per HR. His strikeout rate and walk rate have both improved by small increments, but his XBH% rate has dropped by 4%. While his ISO sits at a respectable .204 and his hard contact rate is up to 42%, he is now hitting with soft contact 24% of the time (up 4% from 2017). Lastly, he has hit 10% less fly balls with an alarming 26% ending up in the glove of an infielder while Chapman has been producing grounders 8.5% more frequently, but has improved his pull-rate by 9%.

Chapman never relied on a good BA/OBP split or more than 5-7 steals to be an asset of value while working his way to the majors. He has hit as many as 36 HR in a minor league season and it would be impossible to count him out for 2018 at the rate that many people seem eager to drop him. However, Chapman's current peripheral metrics point in several directions, a few of which should make you a bit tentative to hitch yourself to him for the rest of the year. He just hasn't been able to catch the right pitch at the right time lately.

Paul DeJong - (SS/2B, STL)

The 24-year old middle infielder Paul DeJong had a breakout tour in 2017 by hitting 25 homers and an producing an OPS of .857 for the St.Louis Cardinals. This year he has picked up, in part, where he left off last year with eight HR and a slugging percentage of .476. DeJong has hit a bit of a power snag in the last two weeks by producing only one HR and a .361 slugging percentage. Despite being a middle infielder with a traditionally solid BA, DeJong has never been much of a threat for stolen bases as he hasn't been a threat to run since 2015 at the Single-A level when he took 13 bags. His value has always been in his pop, and so it is a vital question to ask if DeJong's struggles of late spell out any further complications?

DeJong's average exit velocity and average HR distance of 89 mph and 397.5 feet are far from elite and he has been striking out a little more often this year, while his pull-rate is down by about 3%. The encouraging news is that his hard and soft contact rates have inversely improved by about 4% each, he is hitting a few more fly balls and a few less grounders. While this recent suppression of his power at the plate brings his overall offensive production slightly below that of his 2017 breakout season, if you can hold on to a middle infielder with multi-position eligibility who holds an ISO of .217 in his DOWN TIMES, then the lack of stolen bases and contact hitting present with other players at his position is well worth it. The one main drawback being that his exit velocity and average HR distance demonstrate a clear ceiling in DeJong's ability to turn power into home runs on batted balls.

Josh Reddick - (OF, HOU)

The 31-year old Josh Reddick was once a potent power/speed combo capable of a 30/10 season while also being one of the most dynamic defensive outfielders in the game. Nowadays for the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, Reddick is a much more well-rounded offensive option as opposed to his higher ceiling, HR/SB oriented play of years past. From 2015-2017 he averaged 14.33 HR and 8.33 steals per season with his total power/speed output diminishing each of those last three seasons. Reddick has been striking out nearly 20% of the time so far in 2018 which is nearly 7% higher than his mark from 2017; and he has slumped mightily in the last 14 days with a .212/.350/.303 slash line,  zero HR, and zero steals (not even an attempt). He has been hitting grounders, fly balls, with soft contact, and hard contact at about equivalent rates to recent successful seasons; while his pull-rate has jumped up all the way to 54% from 36% in 2017. His BABIP is also all the way down to .256 despite nearly identical peripherals to years past that resulted in BA/OBP of .281/.345 and .314/.363 (2016-2017), so his ability to bat well-rounded for average looks to be safe.

Concerning his power, that's likely a different story moving forward. He is far removed from seasons of 20-30 HR and while we mentioned that his power peripherals are very similar to past campaigns, he is producing an average exit velocity/HR distance of 86 mph and 370 feet with an additional 8% of infield fly balls. Those big power/speed numbers just aren't realistically a part of his game anymore. Can you expect a BA between .280-.300 moving forward with the added benefit of playing the a top-five MLB offense? Knock yourself out, you won't be disappointed. But should you expect anything more than 10-15 homers and maybe five to seven steals? Now that will lead to heartbreak.

 

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