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Power Risers/Fallers for Week 26: Buy or Sell?


Welcome to Week 26 of the 2018 MLB season and a new week of our investigation into the steepest power trenders in baseball, whether those trends are positive or negative.

It has blown by insanely fast, but believe it or not, the final week of the 2018 MLB regular season has officially arrived. Most fantasy baseball leagues have already had their trade deadlines come and go, and the only decisions left for managers to make in terms of personnel are whether players are worth the AB they are receiving and whether a player is worth adding for a postseason push. 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 season's final 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 it's always best to wait and trudge through with the 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

Yasiel Puig - (OF, LAD)

Gut-wrenching home burglaries aside, Yasiel Puig is having himself a great month of September. With seven HR and a 1.199 OPS in 48 AB to this point, his strong finish is a big reason that the Dodgers are currently atop the NL West and at the very least are in a strong position to see October. A look at Puig's offensive metrics makes it clear to how he has accomplished his best month at the plate in an already successful 2018 campaign. His plate discipline has been fantastic with a season-best strikeout rate of 14.8% and an 11.1% walk rate which has allowed him plenty of opportunities to make contact and reach base to grab stolen bases. In terms of quality of contact on batted-balls, Puig has particularly exploded this month. Though he has only hit fly balls at a 35% frequency so far in September he has been cranking balls yard with a 52.5% pull rate, just 12.5% soft contact, and a significant hard contact rate of 50%, ultimately culminating in an ISO of .458. With impressive displays of strength like an 89.6 mph exit velocity and a 414-foot average HR-distance (not to mention outfield assists that defy the laws of physics), it is no secret that he is an extremely dangerous and talented hitter, so now that the pieces have all come together in September, the devastation he has dealt to opposing pitchers should come as no surprise. It may come as a shock but Yasiel Puig is 27-years old now, and the strong finish to his strong season establishes him once again as dangerous power/speed combo outfielder for 2019. Now flip a bat to that.

Ketel Marte - (SS/2B, ARI)

Few players have had power-hitting performances as surprising throughout the year as Ketel Marte. The first note of surprise comes in the middle-infielder's above-average exit velocity of 88.8 mph and fantastic average HR-distance of 406-feet (assisted by such behemoths as a 465-foot dinger). This month has been another solid showing from Marte: with an .869 OPS, three homers, and an ISO of .268 in 56 AB, this month has gone a long way in proving to all watching that his work at the plate in 2018 has been no joke. There have been some drawbacks to his offensive results thus far into September. His strikeout rate of 18.8% is his highest of the year for an individual month, his fly ball rate of 33.3% leaves a little to be desired for hitting deep, and he has produced a less-than-ideal soft contact rate of 19.6%. Despite these apparent cons, it's all a part of the process. His hard contact rate of 37% is solid, his pull rate of 52.2% is his highest of the year for a month by a margin of 12.2%, and his GB/FB ratio has actually reached a season-low 1.13 despite his low frequency of flyers due to a very high rate of line drives (28.9%). This influx of extra-base hitting has wreaked a little havoc on Marte's stolen-base figures (though he has still stolen six bases in seven attempts), but this high-quality batted ball contact mixed with his speed and line drive tendencies has led to a great well-rounded year at the plate and very well may culminate in him being MLB's 2018 triples champion. Still being just 24-years old, the skill set that Ketel Marte has demonstrated throughout the entirety of this season bodes well for his continued play and progression in coming years.

Joc Pederson - (OF, LAD)

Speaking of the young Dodgers propelling the squad to the postseason, Joc Pederson has so far slugged his way to five HR and a .953 OPS in 57 September AB. It has definitely been an up and down year for him, he is even striking out at an astounding rate of 32.3% during this, his excellent month to close out the regular season. However, despite a strikeout rate that is even higher than his already-high season average and his soft contact rate reaching 18.9% this month (his highest since May) everything else about Pederson's work at the plate during September aligns extraordinarily with successful power-hitting. He possesses natural power, but it more translates into homers of the "laser" variety than the "bomb" variety, as evidenced by his below-average HR-distance of 393-feet and his well-above-average exit velocity of 91.6 mph. His GB/FB ratio this month has hit the abyss at 0.61 off of 48.6% fly balls and just 29.7% grounders, and while his pull rate has dropped it still remains at a trustworthy 43.2%. In conjunction with the tremendous hard contact he has managed this month of 51.4%, Pederson has produced an ISO of .333 which is his highest since his ten-homer month of June. He should probably stop trying to steal bases (he has successfully nabbed just one base in six attempts this year), but at 26-years old he has set the tone for himself as a yearly albeit streaky candidate for 25+ dingers.

Power Fallers

Eugenio Suarez - (3B, CIN)

There is no doubt about it that 2018 has been Eugenio Suarez's big arrival, complete with 32 homers, 101 RBI, and his first selection to the All-Star game. However, he has so far limped through this month of September to the tune of just two dingers and a mediocre .621 OPS in 75 AB. The issue is that, as far as how these results came to be, it is hard to nitpick with Suarez. His walk rate has been great all season but his strikeout rate this month has ballooned to 29.1%, while his respective rates for grounders and fly balls of 44% and 32% have netted a season-high GB/FB ratio of 1.38. His pull rate still sits well above the league norm at 46%, and although his September hard contact rate is his worst of the season and his soft contact rate hasn't been as high as it is now since May, both figures still stand as highly competent at 38% and 10% respectively. His hard contact contains plenty of pop too as evidenced by his 399-foot average HR-distance and 91 mph exit velocity. As there have been few problems with his quality of contact on batted-balls or plate discipline as a whole on the year, the driving force behind Suarez's September slump is likely the increase in strikeouts and a higher rate of batted-balls hitting dirt, because if he had hit them for line drives or fly balls, we would likely be discussing his triumphant end to an emergent campaign. Don't feel trepidation in trusting 27-year-old Eugenio Suarez in future seasons, this 32-HR season could be the tip of the iceberg.

Max Muncy - (3B/1B/2B, LAD)

Hold up, there is indeed one young Dodger putting the breaks on a bit as the regular season dwindles down, and it's Max Muncy. Fortunately, though he has slowed down, it hasn't been in his overall game but just in the power department as he has hit just three HR but has still managed an impressive .892 OPS in 51 AB. His plate discipline has been extremely polar this month with a still-concerning strikeout rate of 29.4% yet a stratospheric walk rate of 23.5%. It is also encouraging to assess that very few components are out of place for Muncy at the moment. His GB/FB ratio remains at a homer-friendly 0.62 off of 41.9% fly balls and just 25.8% grounders, his pull rate provides a moderate assist at 45.2%, and his hard contact rate is still high-quality at 41.9% (though this is incredibly his lowest figure since April!). Though, one peripheral that seems to be leaking through the month has been his soft contact rate which sits at 19.4%, his highest of the season by a 3.8% margin. Overall though, a slight slow-down, when combined with what is still a very successful well-rounded month at the plate, shouldn't inspire any concern. The 28-year-old's breakout campaign of 2018 has been stacked with month after month of hard contact being applied to a high-volume of fly balls, resulting in 33 balls-gone-yard for Los Angeles. His plate discipline may waver on occasion, but he possesses enough raw power (90.4 mph exit velocity and 401-foot average HR-distance) to accrue an ISO of .196 even in his worst offensive month since the start of the regular season. Breakout seasons from emergent Dodgers have been a staple of the last few years, and while they come and go, Max Muncy's demonstrated consistency in producing elite power peripherals projects favorably for the last week until the postseason and 2019.

Anthony Rizzo - (1B, CHC)

Despite an .840 OPS, 24 homers and 96 RBI this season for the NL Central-leading Cubs, 2018 has quite easily been Anthony Rizzo's worst offensive season since 2013. In 75 AB so far in September, he has smacked just two homers with an unusually pedestrian .786 OPS, and like his counterparts being discussed today, the issue he is having in going deep this month appears relatively easy to diagnose. His strikeout rate of 13.6% and walk rate of 11.4% are both superb, his pull rate of 46% lends a considerable helping hand within hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, and his power metrics remain above-average and active with a 90 mph exit velocity and 403-foot average HR-distance (not to mention that his bat comes in one of baseball's most dangerous run-scoring orders). In contrast, he has been hitting a lot of grounders (41.3%) as compared to his 33.3% fly ball rate which has translated into a 1.24 GB/FB ratio. Most concerning, his batted-ball contact has regressed significantly this month with a hard contact rate of just 28.6% and a high soft contact rate of 19.1% that are both highly uncharacteristic of the seasoned slugger. This explains his September ISO of .120, while his superior plate discipline combined with his high frequency of line drives and medium contact explain how his BA and OBP have yet to suffer. Anthony Rizzo has been good for so long that it is hard to believe that has yet to turn 30, and while his September power outage is a bit concerning, he will have a chance to work that out in the postseason for the Cubbies so that the issues need not resurface come April of 2019.

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