Mike Trout, currently day-to-day with a minor wrist injury, is the third player to reach the 30 home run plateau. He joins Jose Ramirez and J.D. Martinez. With a little under one-third of the season remaining, we currently have nine players on pace to reach 40 home runs. Of course, “pace” is a poor measure. Barring incredible hot streaks, we won’t see anybody get there in the next few weeks. The 20 home run club is growing too. We currently have 35 members including some pre-season nobodies like Christian Villanueva, C.J. Cron, Max Muncy, and Jesus Aguilar. Power numbers tend to climb in the latter months of the season as non-contending teams begin to run out of major league quality pitching.
Shall we dive right in?
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Rougned Odor: 5 HR
Nelson Cruz: 5 HR
Steve Pearce: 4 HR
Kudos if you managed to stick with Odor. A blistering hot streak since the All Star Break has rejuvenated his seemingly lost season. Over his most recent 61 plate appearances, he’s hitting .404/.475/.827 with six home runs. Five of those big flies came in the last week. He’s actually performed well since early June, batting .320/.412/.600 in 177 plate appearances with 11 of his 12 home runs. It’s only recently become noticeable in his seasonal numbers because he was that terrible leading up to the change in fortune.
The biggest difference between his dreadful 2017 and decent 2018 is his BABIP – it’s up over 100 points. The low success rate on balls in play he experienced last season and early this year were probably symptomatic of a mechanical issue rather than pure bad luck. He’s seemingly made a key adjustment. Odor has always been one of the hardest players to analyze. His combination of power and speed are valuable, but he walks a cliff edge between good and terrible. There’s no in between for him. Going forward, expect a 30 home run pace with a handful of steals and a low OBP.
Cruz is a regular guest of the column. He usually appears in the next section – the top 10 projected home run leaders. After this week, he’s cemented his spot. Cruz has actually hit six home runs over the last eight days including two multi-homer games. The surge led to a four home run increase to his season-long projection. He’s now expected to finish with the fourth most taters.
Pearce is a 35-year-old part timer. Despite a long and successful career, he’s never had more than 383 plate appearances in a season. This year, he’s come to plate just 153 times. Pearce has an enviable .319/.392/.600 batting line with nine home runs. You’ll notice four of those came over the last week. More accurately, he’s hit four home runs over the last two days including a three homer contest on Thursday. Unfortunately, the veteran doesn’t play consistently enough to be more than a plug-and-play option in deep formats or daily moves leagues. You can usually count on him starting at first base against left-handed pitchers.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: 32 HR, 46 HR projected
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians: 32 HR, 44 HR projected
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 30 HR, 42 HR projected
Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners: 28 HR, 42 HR projected
Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics: 29 HR, 42 HR projected
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers: 28 HR, 40 HR projected
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: 28 HR, 41 HR projected
Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees, 25 HR, 40 HR projected
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: 25 HR, 38 HR projected
Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians: 27 HR, 38 HR projected
With Jesus Aguilar fading rapidly, nobody new is threatening to join the top 10. Bryce Harper still lurks on the periphery with a 37 home run projection. He’s been in and out of the top 10 all season. A hot week from Matt Carpenter or Edwin Encarnacion could also shake it up. Cruz was the only guy to climb more than one spot since last week.
***Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (right knee discomfort)
***Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks (frayed rotator cuff – out for season)
***Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates (left hamstring strain)
***Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (left hamstring strain)
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (left shoulder discomfort)
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds (shoulder subluxation – out for season)
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (hyperextended knee)
Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (calcified heels – out for season)
Clint Frazier, New York Yankees (post-concussion syndrome)
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (chip fracture in right wrist)
Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers (sprained thumb)
Zack Cozart, Los Angeles Angels (torn labrum – out for season)
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (back tightness)
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (calf strain)
Jay Bruce, New York Mets (right hip strain)
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (groin strain)
Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals (fractured foot)
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (ruptured biceps tendon – out for season)
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (calf strain)
Franchy Cordero, San Diego Padres (forearm strain)
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (TJS – out for season)
***denotes new injury
The latest player to miss the rest of the season is Lamb. It’s a big blow to a contending Diamondbacks club. His loss probably hurts more in reality than our fantasy realm. Few contending fantasy rosters relied on Lamb. Altuve, Dickerson, and Devers are all expected to miss little more than the minimum.
Four players returned from injury. The most notable was Justin Turner. He joins a very crowded Dodgers offense. With as much depth as they have, Turner should receive more than enough rest to stay healthy. In Cincinnati, Scott Schebler returned to every day action. The Mets got Todd Frazier back. The White Sox welcomed Avisail Garcia to the middle of their lineup. Altuve, Correa, and Devers are expected to be activated soon. This is the third straight week Correa has been rumored to return.
Today marks a very special Power Spotlight. We’re highlighting a player who has yet to hit a single home run in 2018. And yet, there’s enough potential for home runs in the next two months to make this guy a solid 12-team mixed target. It’s a rare blend of special circumstances and breakout potential.
Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco is a 25-year-old with an exciting batted ball profile. After missing a big chunk of the season due to a PED suspension, Polanco has finally started to show signs of shaking off the rust. Since early July, he’s batting .310/.388/.423 (.407 BABIP). His good fortune on balls in play is offset by the lack of home runs. And yet, his batted ball profile suggests power is coming. He’s a fly ball hitter who is increasing his share of hard contact. Eventually, the interaction of hard contact and fly balls will yield home runs.
Common project systems anticipate just four home runs over his next 200 plate appearances. My own back of the envelope method projects six home runs. However, we’re here to consider breakout potential. Part of the reason for the tepid projections is a long history of low HR/FB ratios. However, for much of his career, he’s been overmatched in the majors. Late last season, he finally started to settle in and take better at bats. Again, hard contact and fly balls should interact in a good way.
We saw a similar pattern with superstar Jose Ramirez. And while Polanco will probably never be like Ramirez, he does share some of the same attributes. He features a high contact rate, rarely swinging through the ball. He also works counts. Presently, he’s produced an unpalatable 21.2 percent strikeout rate. However, as he gains experience, we should see this rate plunge dramatically. In fact, Polanco had a sustainable-looking 14.3 percent strikeout rate just last season. He shows some of the raw ingredients of a hitter who walks more than he strikes out. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that level of excellence, he should make plenty of contact while reaching base at a healthy rate. Polanco is best targeted in keeper and dynasty leagues. However, at just nine percent owned, he’s also a viable short term patch in the middle infield.