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Power Risers & Fallers for Week 4 - Buy or Sell?


Welcome to this week's Power Hitting Risers & Fallers. This week we return to looking at which bats are hot and which are not compared to their 2018 (or earlier) performances.

All stats are full season through Monday, April 22nd (unless otherwise noted). For reference, when a Statcast ranking is mentioned, a minimum of 25 plate appearances is needed to rank in Statcast figures, and 288 players have that many.

Your weekly reminder that EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. With that, let's just get right into it.

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Power Risers

Joc Pederson (OF, LAD)

Of the four hitters already with double-digit home runs in 2019, Pederson may be the most surprising. (Although out of Pederson, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and Khris Davis, only Davis is entirely unsurprising.) Naturally, all ten of the left-handed Pederson's home runs have come vs. right-handed pitching, as he is 1-for-10 against lefties so far. Being a platoon bat limits the upside, but at least it's the good side of a platoon.

Pederson has as many barrels as homers, the ten of those giving him an 11.1% rate per plate appearance that ranks 22nd. Twenty-three other players have as many or more barrels as Pederson. His EVAB of 98.3 mph rates 22nd. Despite the consistent upper-20's rankings for Pederson, only three players have more home runs, so he's gotten some good luck to have ten bombs already.

Pederson does seem to be a lock to hit 25 home runs for the fourth time in five years, which helps give him fantasy value despite having none vs. lefties, with a good shot at reaching the 30 mark for the first time in his career. But he's unlikely to still be up near the top of the home run leaderboard by season's end.

 

Eddie Rosario (OF, MIN)

After hitting 27 and 24 home runs the past two seasons, Rosario has kicked things up a notch with nine bombs so far in 2019 (and his tenth on Tuesday night). Outside of the homers, Rosario's stat line looks awfully similar to the hitter of the past two years, with nearly identical BA, OBP, BB%, and K%.

The batted balls are getting more impressive, however. Rosario is keeping his launch angle gains from 2017-18 (12.7 to 17.4), hanging out at 16.8 degrees right now; his 89.7 average exit velocity would be a career high; the EVAB is up (92.5 to 94.9). His 16.9% barrel rate on batted balls (which is 12.9% in all PA) is more than twice his career high of 8.3% from 2018.

Rosario's start is somewhat on par with Pederson: he won't stay so close to the top of the home run perch, but it's looking like a career-year so far.

 

Marcell Ozuna (OF, STL)

After a massive 37-home run, 124-RBI campaign in 2017 was followed by a trade from Miami to St. Louis, expectations were large for Ozuna entering 2018. Before the All-Star Break, he was shaping up as a bust, but 13 homers and 39 RBI in 58 second-half games salvaged some value. Ozuna has picked up right where he left off, going deep in eight of his first 20 contests in 2019.

Ozuna has done it with a launch angle improvement. After launch angles of 10.8, 10.1, and 10.8 degrees from 2016-18, Ozuna is up to 14 degrees this season. With those gains plus an average EVAB of 95.9 mph, an 11.8% barrel rate is no surprise.

Still, like Pederson and Rosario, Ozuna's Statcast numbers don't scream as loud as his pure home run total does. Unlike those two, however, we've seen Ozuna crush 37 bombs in a season before. Now that the launch angle is up, another 37-homer season could well be in the cards. (Or is it on the Cards?) The rough first half of 2018 is quickly proving to be the outlier.

 

Hunter Dozier (3B, KC)

Third base is a power desert right now, as you'll see in the Fallers section. Dozier has proven an exception thus far in 2019, with seven home runs in 21 games. Last season he needed 102 games to hit 11 home runs.

What changed? From a Statcast perspective, less than you might think. The EVAB (93.7 to 96.2), launch angle (13.1 to 17.0), and barrel rate (7.0% to 9.3%) are up, but not as significantly as they are for someone like Rosario. More important for Dozier has been the plate discipline, with a K-BB% that has declined from 21.9% in 2018 to just 4.7% in 2019.

If Dozier's gains hold in both his batted-ball profile and his plate patience profile, there will be nothing fluky about his new status as a power hitter. It won't be one-every-three-games good, but it'll be real.

 

Mitch Moreland (1B, BOS)

Compared to Joc Pederson, Moreland is up to a less obvious but possibly more impressive home run surge to start in 2019. He has seven home runs, but with 11 barrels in 72 plate appearances (15.9%). His EVAB (99.4 mph) and launch angle (15.2 degrees) are both higher than Pederson's as well.

Unfortunately, Moreland plays even less than Pederson, who has 25% more plate appearances with 90. Part of that is Boston having played two fewer games so far. Nonetheless, it makes Moreland the fantasy asset a more extreme version of Pederson in both the good and the bad. No one doubts Moreland's power, but predicting the playing time may just not be worth it.

 

Power Fallers

Travis Shaw (3B, MIL)

Travis Shaw hit 31 home runs in 2017 and another 32 bombs in 2018. His home run on Monday was only his second of 2019. (He followed that with two more on Tuesday, so rumors of his demise may already be exaggerated. But so many people were worried about it, let's discuss anyway.)

Through Monday, Shaw was averaging a 93.0 mph EVAB with a 16.9-degree launch angle. Last season, that season of 32 home runs, those figures were: 93.1 mph and 16.6 degrees. So Shaw was almost the exact same hitter last season; at least, he was when the ball left his bat. But he's striking out 32.2% of the time so far compared to 18.4% last season.

The key to Shaw retaining his 2017-18 success lies in that strikeout rate. If he gets it back to normal, his power numbers should take care of themselves. If he can't get it under control, his troubles will continue.

 

Rafael Devers (3B, BOS)

Devers has a .356 OBP and three steals in four attempts but has yet to go yard in 2019 after posting 21 homers in '18. The first thing that jumps out is a 2.3-degree average launch angle, down from the 10.9-mark Devers posted in 2018. With only one barrel so far as well, it's no mystery why Devers hasn't hit for power. Devers needs to make an adjustment if he's going to hit the 20-homer mark again this year because that launch angle simply won't cut it.

Fortunately, his walk rate is up to 11.4% with just a 17.0% strikeout rate, compared to marks of 7.8% and 24.7% last year, so Devers is not completely floundering. His 88 wRC+ is just short of last year's 90, but it's much less valuable for fantasy purposes to be walking than homering. And of course being a below average hitter isn't good, but Devers had a 110 wRC+ in his 58-game debut in 2017.

Devers is also still just 22 years old, so he has plenty of time to work out, even if it doesn't happen this month or this year. The plate discipline is a good sign for the year, even though the Statcast is not. Keep watching Devers' launch angle to find out if he's starting to turn it around.

 

Kris Bryant (3B, CHC)

Like Devers, Bryant isn't having trouble getting on base with his .345 OBP but is struggling in the power department. Bryant has only one home run, which he hit all the way back on Opening Day on March 28. Unlike Devers (or Shaw), Bryant's plate discipline numbers haven't changed from last season, his walk rate is up about a percentage point and his strikeout rate is down one.

Also unlike Devers, Bryant has been a bit unlucky to be so limited in the power department thus far. He has four barrels and is elevating the ball more, at 14.4 degrees. But his 92.3 EVAB is a bit pedestrian. Bryant isn't out of the woods with his .414 expected slugging rate. In fact, Bryant's xSLG has fallen every year since it was .550 in 2016.

Bryant was limited to 102 games last year and hit only 13 home runs in 102 games last year, eerily similar to production to Hunter Dozier. They've only gone in opposite directions so far in 2019. Bryant hit a combined 94 home runs from 2015-17, so he has the history to be a better bet than Dozier. It's a bit worrying how much work Bryant has yet to do to justify such confidence, however.

 

Nicholas Castellanos (OF, DET)

Finally, not a third baseman, just a former one. Castellanos has yet to homer despite continuing to be a barrel fiend, six of those so far this season. Four of those turned into outs, continuing a longstanding trend of barreling into outs that is almost just absurd at this point.

The 7.9% barrels per plate appearance rate ranks 72nd, exactly in the 75th percentile. His 17.4-degree launch angle would be a career high, as would his 90.4 mph overall exit velocity. His 93.4 EVAB is basically the same as 2018's 93.6 mph. His xSLG is down but a still respectable .483.

Castellanos, who hit 49 combined home runs in 2017 and '18, is a bit behind the ball with four banked weeks of no homers, as unfairly as he's come about that fate. However, he's essentially the same hitter. His walk rate is up 0.7% and his K rate 4.0%, which has resulted in a 24-6 ratio instead of 151-49 from last year.

Because he's off the pace, a new career high in home runs is unlikely, even with the improved exit velocity and launch angle. ROS, however, Castellanos will give you about what he has the past couple years. It's not the breakout some might have been hoping for, but it's also not as hopeless as the to-date homer goose egg would indicate.

 

Jesus Aguilar (1B, MIL)

Aguilar has a track record half the length of his teammate Shaw, after hitting 35 home runs last season. And unlike Shaw or Castellanos, Aguilar is seeing his Statcast numbers deteriorate in 2019. The xSLG is .340, down from .496. The barrel rate is 3.8% per PA, down from 7.2%. Launch angle: from 16.2 to 13.1 degrees. Exit velocity has gone from 89.8 to 88.7 mph, and the EVAB from 93.8 to 93.0 mph.

The good partial comparison for Aguilar is that to Devers, although it's less extreme for the Brewers' hitter, and that's in the walks and strikeouts. Aguilar's 11.4 BB% and 22.8 K% represent modest gains from 2018.

That said, other than Bryant, there's perhaps no power faller here in a more dire situation than Aguilar. The 35 long balls from last year present some leash, but the question is how much is left, both for the Brewers and for fantasy teams.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Jose Altuve Cooling down a bit but hit 8th homer
Austin Meadows Injuries suck
Jesse Winker Only hit .118 but another two homers
Kevin Pillar Power proving as fluky as expected
Peter Alonso .316/.409/.684 and two more homers, holding steady
Fernando Tatis Jr. Another homer while getting running game going (3/4)

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Charlie Blackmon .478 BA with two homers indicates recovery
Robinson Cano .400 BA with a home run has trajectory upwards
Austin Barnes .077 SLG in four games
Kyle Schwarber Only 3 games, 0 XBH continues slump
Joey Gallo Reigning Player of the Week, enough said

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice