Power Risers and Fallers for Week 7: 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 or Aaron Judge are strong or that Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton are toward the bottom in average exit velocity. It’s been about six weeks and now these numbers are really starting to mean something, but do keep a level head on the whole when approaching surges.

For reference, here's a tasty little screencap of the premium power tool that much of the inspiration for this article comes from. It pulls the fly-ball, pull and hard-hit rates for players -- metrics associated with power -- and looks at notable recent swings in performance.

Editor's note: Get a free one-week MLB Premium Pass including our famous Lineup Optimizer/Generator, Premium Matchup Ratings, DFS Lineups, Cheat Sheets, and 10 other tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Power Risers and Fallers - Premium Tool

Identifying top power risers 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. Here's a free sample:

 

Power Risers

Kyle Seager - (3B, SEA):

While it hasn’t been overwhelming, Seager has hit three homers in May after bopping just one round-tripper in 75 April at-bats. We know better than just to be results-oriented though, so let’s see why he’s got a spot here. Wow, okay then. Well, his fly-ball rate is up to 51 percent in May (41.7 in April), his pull rate has risen 17 percent to 51.9 percent and his hard-hit rate has more than doubled from 24.6 percent to 50 percent.

Well, that’s something. And he’s striking out a little less (down 2.1 percent) so that always helps. This is a guy who struck only eight of his 57 batted-balls at 100 mph or greater in April. However, since May 4 he’s exceeded that mark 15 times on 41 batted balls. While he’s still getting a bit too much lift under some of them, this is marked improvement for the usually-consistent slugger.

Jose Bautista - (OF, TOR):

Joey Bats has already gone yard five times in May after leaving the park just once in April and he’s always improved his average by nearly 70 points. So, is the power truly back? Consider that he’s now pulling the ball at a 60-percent clip in May (33.9 percent in April) alongside a 13 percent uptick in hard-hit rate. His hard hits are also starting to have more useful launch angles within that 15-35 degree mark versus many grounders and flat liners. It’s not predictive, but don’t think he’s just experiencing some fluky blip either.

Chris Davis - (1B, BAL):

Davis’ power is well known at this point, and that’s why it was so disconcerting to see him battling through some dings in a powerless second half of April. He only hit one homer from April 15 through May 10, but since then he’s left the yard five times in five games. Not only that, but he’s doubled his walk-to-strikeout ratio from 0.33 to 0.65 as he’s seeing the ball better and not pressing as hard.

While his fly-ball and pull rates are up some, it’s his monstrous 56.7 percent hard-hit rate that has us excited. That mark was only 29.8 percent in April, as most of it was classified as “medium” contact by Fangraphs. The former 53-homer bat will have his streaks, but when he’s on you need to be there.

Logan Morrison - (1B, TB):

Yeah, that’s right -- this guy’s still hitting. Not only that, but he’s improving as the season progresses. LoMo had a flashy first week and then really fell off most grids with a cold third week, as most folks understandably figured the bottom had fallen out and regression was here. Well, Morrison has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, with four of those games yielding homers.

He’s trading off strikeouts for power, as his strikeout rate has more than doubled in May (36.5 percent!) while he’s cut his soft-contact rate in half to a measly 8.6 percent. Tack on a 14 percent rise in fly balls and you’ve got a recipe for some dingers. An interesting note is how he’s improved against offspeed pitches, as he’s already hit four homers off of them after golfing just two over the fence all of last season.

 

Power Fallers

Cesar Hernandez - (2B, PHI):

It was fun and all, but there was very little chance this hype train was going to hold steady for long. Hernandez has now gone without an extra-base hit since May 1, and his last RBI came with his last homer -- way back on April 23. There’s little doubting that he can’t steal and be a decent contact guy, but his puny 12.5 percent hard-contact rate points to his poor 84.9 mph average exit velocity. He simply doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls and won’t really offer up enough hard contact that when he does put it in the air, it stands a real chance of doing damage. Don’t sit around waiting for the second tide of power, it isn’t in the cards.

Jose Ramirez - (2B/3B/OF, CLE):

Ramirez followed up his spicy breakout campaign of 2016 by hitting .330 with six homers (over half of his total from ’16) in April. We were all excited as to what further magic was about to unfold, but then May hit. Or rather, didn’t hit. Through 15 May games, Ramirez has just two extra-base hits (a double and a triple) with three RBI. His line-drive rate is down nearly 10 percent and while his hard-hit rate remains around 34 percent, his soft-contact has ballooned up from 12.8 percent to 21.4 percent. Yikes.

Outside of his 102.7 mph triple on May 3, his other five 100-plus mph hits have all ended up being outs. Yes, you can be both bad and unlucky at the same time and it looks a lot like this. He needs to pull out of this tailspin before his emerging swing that had done so much good work gets truly damaged. He should be okay, but this is legitimate trouble.

Ian Desmond - (1B/OF, COL):

Remember when everyone got super excited about Desmond finally coming back and getting reap the Coors Field rewards, and then he hit two homers in his third game back and everything seemed incredible? Well, while the hits have been falling (.299 average after going 1-for-8 in the doubleheader on May 18) his power hasn’t resurfaced since that two-homer game. He had one two-double game since then on May 11 (also his only other multi-RBI game of the season) but mostly he’s just been sprinkling in singles.

We know he has power -- he’s averaged 22 homers over his last five seasons -- but he’s simply not lifting the ball! His 18.6 percent fly-ball rate entering play on Thursday is easily a career-low mark, and is almost half of his career mark of 31.2 percent. This is coming with what would be a career-high hard-hit rate of 37.2 percent, it’s just a matter of that danged launch angle. He should be fine and the homers should flow as he hits his groove in 2017, but it’s important to note what’s going on underneath the surface.

Nicholas Castellanos - (3B, DET):

Castellanos has had an interesting season in terms of power. His 16 barrels are good for a spot in the top-10 of the MLB, and yet he has just three homers and a poor .224 average through 39 games thus far. His 51.4 percent hard-hit rate is third out of all qualified hitters per Fangraphs, behind only Miguel Sano and Paul Goldschmidt. Both of those guys are doing alright, so what gives?

Well, there’s no grand explanation but the metrics point to his pull rate dropping 12 percent and his hard-hit rate sinking 14 percent in May, with the most egregious trend being a 10 percent rise in grounders (mostly taken from his line-drive rate). It’s also worth noting that his hard-hit rate is 64.2 percent at home against a 38.9 percent mark on the road, for those who like to know little things like that. The one ball that he’s hit in the air over 100 mph in the last 10 days went 396 feet and resulted in an out, just for extra insult. He still owns positive metrics on the whole and should improve, but is trending in the wrong direction at the moment.

 

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