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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 6 - Buy or Sell?

Welcome to this week's Power Hitting Risers & Fallers. All stats are full season through Monday, May 6th (unless otherwise noted). At some point, we'll start tracking in-season trends again, but for now, some more players based on their years to date.

Your weekly reminders: When a Statcast ranking is mentioned, a minimum of 25 plate appearances is needed to rank in Statcast figures; 344 players now have that many. And EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast.

Who's rising and falling this week? Read on to find out.

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Power Risers

Michael Chavis (2B, BOS)

Michael Chavis has 69 home runs in 1726 minor league plate appearances, but four of those came in his 48 minor league plate appearances this year, and he now already has six Major League home runs in 67 plate appearances. What is going on?

From what Statcast can tell, nothing Chavis doesn't deserve. He has a 99.2 mph EVAB, an 11.9% barrel rate (and 21.1% on a batted ball basis, which ranks fifth in MLB), and a .585 xSLG. His overall exit velocity average of 90.6 mph can work with 15.3 degrees of launch angle. He's already walking 16.4% of the time to boot.

The trick for Chavis will be to react well to the adjustments pitchers will make. With samples like this, the first adjustment period probably hasn't quite happened yet. But Chavis certainly hasn't gotten to six bombs already just by accident, and if he adjusts to the adjustments, he could be one of 2019's big power breakouts.


Ketel Marte (OF/IF, ARI)

After a two-homer day on May 3rd at Coors Field, Marte has nine bombs on the year and is just five shy of last year's mark of 14. Things are looking good for Marte, certainly enough to earn a career-high and challenge maybe as high as 25 homers after such a hot start, but this pace cannot be maintained.

The good news is he's continuing a gradual launch angle increase, reaching 9.0 degrees for the first time this season. That's still below the league average, but it's better than last year's 5.7 degrees. He's also already halfway to a career-high in barrels, with 11 this season already after 22 all last year. His 93.7 mph EVAB is also solid enough. Given a .266 xBA and .480 xSLG, that would be a .214 expected isolated slugging, strong but still well short of his .268 so far this season.

Marte has come a long way from a one-homer, one-barrel 2016 campaign, and he looks set for a career year. Just don't expect him to keep up with a Paul Goldschmidt or Franmil Reyes in the home run department all year as he has done through the first few weeks.


Paul DeJong (SS, STL)

DeJong hit 25 home runs in just 108 games as a rookie in 2017. He followed up with 19 in 115 games last season. Although his seven bombs in 36 games so far this season is short of his 2017 pace, he is slugging .600 this year compared to .532 in his outstanding introductory campaign.

This year's performance is also more sustainable, with a .565 xSLG compared to .485 in 2017 and .451 last year. DeJong has also been a launch angle fiend since breaking into the league and is at 19.0 degrees so far this season. He has a 94.0 mph EVAB, putting his average right on the cusp of the 95 required for a barrel, and an 8.5% barrel rate per plate appearance.

The one home run per roughly every five games is also a sustainable one as it represents a full season mark of about 32. If DeJong keeps doing what he's been doing with his contact rates, a little luck could get him to the 30-homer mark.


Anthony Rizzo (1B, CHC)

After four straight seasons of 31-32 home runs between 2013-17, Rizzo only posted 25 last season. At nine already this year, he's back on track.

Statcast agrees, giving Rizzo a .539 expected slugging rate that is almost exactly his .537 his actual rate. That .539 mark would be the best of his career since Statcast tracking began in 2015, and it's far better than his .467 mark last season. He's reached double figures in barrels per batted ball, 10.9% at 11 out of 101, for what would be the first time in his career if maintained the pace. That ranks 87th in MLB, but because he strikes out so rarely -- 13% of the time in 2017, 12% last year, and 13.7% this season -- his 7.5% rate per plate appearance ranks 71st.

Rizzo doesn't necessarily have the xSLG and barrel rate of a 30 home run hitter, but considering he's improved in the first two departments, his chances of replicating his pre-2018 results in the third category are solid.


Luke Voit (1B, NYY)

We haven't discussed Voit yet this season, as his rise goes back to last season, and he hasn't been quite that hot to start this season. But even Voit's .260/.373/.520 with 10 homers is backed up by very impressive Statcast figures and improved plate discipline.

The Statcast key is barrel rate, as Voit's launch angle has fallen to 12.4 degrees from last year's 15.3 mark. He's got 18 barrels already this season, 19.8% per batted ball, or just 0.2% less than last season. His barrel rate per plate appearance of 12.0% ranks 11th. A 97.3 mph EVAB ranks 31st. It adds up to a .602 xSLG, so Voit's probably been a bit unlucky to only have 10 home runs so far (although he hasn't touched last year's absurd .670 xSLG).

Combine it with a BB% that has gone up to 13.3% after last year's 10.6% and a K% of 24.0 instead of 27.3, and Voit is turning into a pretty frightening hitter for opposing pitchers. Watch out.


Power Fallers

Miguel Cabrera (DH/1B, DET)

Cabrera has been a power faller for a few years now. He whacked 38 bombs in 2016, but since then has a combined 20: 16 in 130 games in 2017, three in 38 games last year, and one in 31 games this season.

Even before getting to the power numbers, the striking thing about Cabrera's 2019 to date is the walks and strikeouts. In 2016, Cabrera walked 11.0% of the time and struck out on 17.1% of occasions. When he struggled in 17, both numbers got worse, to the tune of 10.2% and 20.8% respectively. However, Cabrera recovered in last year's small sample to a 14.0% walk rate and 17.2% K rate. This year, it's ugly: the walks are down to 8.9% while the strikeouts at 25.2% would be a career high. If Cabrera is being challenged more by pitchers and can't make enough contact to make them pay, his Statcast numbers won't matter that much.

The Statcast isn't great either, although are more depressing players out there. Cabrera has seven barrels, a 5.2% clip, and on average he hits the ball 91.8 mph at 11.4 degrees. Unfortunately, his flies and liners are only leaving at 92.4 mph. A .433 xSLG is fine, and much better than his .376 actual mark, but not the mark of a particularly powerful hitter.

That said, cutting back on strikeouts is Cabrera's main challenge. He should be able to hit double-digit homers by the end of the year, and perhaps match the 16 he hit in 2017, but not much more than that. The K rate will probably decide whether he's closer to 10 or 16.


Wilson Ramos (C, NYM)

Wilson Ramos has long had a launch angle problem, falling between 4.4 and 5.9 degrees every year from 2015-18. This year, it has tanked to -0.2 degrees. Ever since a career year in 2016, his xSLG has declined annually, and so far this season it's just .391.

While Ramos' exit velocity is 91.0 this season after a 91.3 last year, the launch angle decline has sapped his barrel rate (3.5% per batted ball, less than half his 2018 mark). He's got a 95.1 mph EVAB, but the flies and liners are too rare to matter.

Ramos' problems are exacerbated by playing at a notoriously bad home park for hitters at Citi Field. He's slugging only .339 on the road, but his only home run has come there as he is slugging just .234 with no bombs at home. His main problem has been pounding the ball into the ground, however, and until that stops, he won't come close to his 15 home runs from last season, let alone the 22 he hit in 2016.


Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM)

And Brandon Nimmo is another Met who can't hit for power this year. Nimmo is actually doing better at home than on the road, but not by much, slugging .347 with one homer at Citi Field and .291 with two homers on the road.

Nimmo's Statcast numbers are even uglier than Ramos' despite the extra homers. Although Nimmo's got an acceptable 11.9-degree launch angle, and a similar barrel rate to Ramos (6.3% on a batted ball basis), his xSLG is an anemic .308.

The problem for Nimmo is simple (or simple to explain): he's striking out absurdly often. After whiffing 26.2% of the time last season, he's going back to the bench without running to first in 33.1% of his plate appearances this season. Only five qualified hitters are striking out more: Brandon Drury, Wil Myers, Chris Owings, Jorge Soler, and Curtis Granderson. Other than Owings, the other four are all getting barrels on at least 10.1% when they do produce a batted ball, but Nimmo is only doing it on 6.3% of those occasions, so the strikeouts are really killing him. Until he turns those around and gets back to a more reasonable rate, 2019 is going to continue to be a major disappointment for Nimmo in the home run department and elsewhere.


Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS)

Perhaps no player in baseball is off to a more disappointing start than Bradley. He's hitting the ball 89.5 mph after reaching 91.9 last season. His launch angle is 9.1 degrees, down from 12. The EVAB is 94.3 mph, down from 96.4 mph. He has one whole barrel this season in 114 plate appearances; his 35 barrels last year came at a 6.5% clip. It all adds up to a sixth-percentile xSLG of .297 and a big old goose egg in the home run column.

Even though Bradley only posted a .234/.314/.403 line with 13 home runs last year, his expected slugging percentage was over 160 points higher than it is this year, at .463. This year, the slash line is a Bill Bergen-esque .150/.239/.180. A walk rate increase from 8.6% to 9.6% is offset by a strikeout increase of 25.6% to 29.8%.

Assuming he stays healthy and his defense keeps him in the lineup, Bradley will hit a home run eventually. After all, as bad as he's been, there's still a 117-point gap between his expected (awful) and actual (awfuller) slugging rates. But note that "will hit a home run eventually" is as un-ringing as endorsements come. To be fair, a 94.3 mph EVAB is still plenty good enough for some power hitters, but Bradley is doing everything else wrong, and the strong Statcast numbers he put up last season hardly matter anymore. He'll be very lucky to match last year's 13 home runs at this point.


Miguel Rojas (SS, MIA)

Rojas and Bradley are the only two remaining qualified hitters without a home run. Rojas didn't receive nearly the sleeper hype that Bradley did, mostly because he showed nothing in Statcast in 2018 whereas Bradley did, and has merely been an NL-only asset all year.

That very limited value will continue. Although Rojas hit 11 home runs last season, he only barreled up four baseballs, a 0.76% rate per plate appearance. With two barrels this year, this rate has nearly doubled, but who cares.

Rojas is a throwback to the middle infield slap hitter that has become as fashionable as disco: a balls-in-play hound (5.9% walk rate and 11.0 strikeout percentage this season) with little exit velocity (86.5 mph this year with a sixth percentile hard-hit rate) and a low launch angle (9.2 degrees). Already 30 years old as well, he'll never sniff 11 home runs again.


Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Christian Walker .300/.364/.500 is pretty good for HR shutout
Ozzie Albies Another homer during odd 0-BB, 2-K week
Max Kepler Rough .091/.160/.136 week but should be fine
Yandy Diaz .053/.143/.105 could be sign of predicted power decline
Eric Sogard How is So-gard looking so-good? Another homer helps to .235/.409/.529


Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Carlos Santana .235/.350/.588 w/2 HR assuages power panic
Manny Machado Four homers. It's happening
Yuli Gurriel .316/.350/.579 + HR a pleasant surprise, but can it continue?
Jeimer Candelario Entered HR column and reached 8/19 times is decent sign
Brandon Crawford Also entered HR column, but trick is to do it more than every six weeks

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