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Homer Report

Joc On Top

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Home runs are down in 2018, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the best power hitters. Last season, 89 players hit 20 or more home runs. Eighty players are on pace to match the feat this year. Some, like Nick Markakis, Nick Ahmed, and Jed Lowrie, probably won’t get there. Then again, those laggards will be replaced by sluggers like Michael Conforto, Nick Castellanos, and Joey Votto who currently aren’t on pace to reach 20 big flies. Overall 57 players are already in double-digits.

 

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Week 10 Leaders

 

Joc Pederson: 6 HR

Eddie Rosario: 5 HR

5 Others: 4 HR

 

What an insane week for power hitters. A visit to Coors Field helped fuel Pederson’s parade, but he also continued the light show at pitcher friendly PNC Park. This week accounts for six of his seven home runs. Prior to the hot streak, he was hitting a fantasy irrelevant .244/.331/.382. Now he’s up to .272/.345/.523. Before jumping on the bandwagon with both feet, we should recognize his history of inconsistent performance. This current binge coincides with a more aggressive approach. He hasn’t walked since May 19. Speculate if he’s free or cheap, but don’t buy high if you can avoid it.

 

Eddie Rosario appeared in the power spotlight earlier this season. At the time, I noted his performance last season (27 home runs) and the potential for more due to an increase in his fly ball rate. Nearly a month later, he’s still hitting more fly balls than last season. He’s a good bet to cross the 30 homer plateau with an outside shot at 40 blasts. He thrice homered last Sunday.

 

The five players who popped four home runs are mostly names you’d expect. Giancarlo Stanton finally had himself a week. Justin Upton and Khris Davis continued strong seasons. Andrew Benintendi is a five category monster. He may not be much more than a 20 homer threat. When you combine that with 20 steals, a .290 average, and over 100 each of runs and RBI, you’re left holding a top 10 fantasy asset. Last but not least is Cody Bellinger who very much needed a positive week. Despite his struggles, the 22-year-old still projects to finish the season with 35 home runs.

 

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

 

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox: 20 HR, 47 HR projected

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 19 HR, 45 HR projected

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: 18 HR, 43 HR projected

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians: 19 HR, 42 HR projected

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: 18 HR, 41 HR projected

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees: 17 HR, 41 HR projected

Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics: 17 HR, 41 HR projected

Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers: 17 HR, 41 HR projected

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: 15 HR, 40 HR projected

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: 17 HR, 40 HR projected

 

As a reminder, the arrows now represent changes to the projected end-of-season home run total. The process I use is intentionally simplistic. I estimate remaining balls in play, multiply by projected fly ball rate. Multiply again by HR/FB ratio. And viola – rest of season home run projections.

 

When I originally conceptualized this section, it probably should have occurred to me it would eventually cement into a slight reordering of the current top 10 home run leaderboard. The above list includes 10 of the top 11 sluggers to date. Only Edwin Encarnacion (16 HR) has been excluded. While I believe this exercise still has value, I’m brainstorming ways to make this section more interesting. One option is to ignore performance-to-date and just focus on the top 10 projections over the rest of the season. I’m open to feedback.

 

Nobody except Stanton moved their projection by more than half of a home run. As I’ve said all along, Stanton is capable of sustained power outbursts that break my simplistic projection technique. Case in point, I expect 25 more home runs based on the number of fly balls he’ll hit. Popular projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS estimate 33 more big flies.

 

Disabled

 

***Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (UCL strain)

***Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (appendectomy)

Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (calf strain)

Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves (knee sprain)

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (oblique)

Franchy Cordero, San Diego Padres (forearm strain)

Steven Souza, Arizona Diamondbacks (pectoral soreness)

A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks (thumb fracture)

Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals (fractured finger)

Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (mild hip flexor strain)

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (back soreness)

Lucas Duda, Kansas City Royals (plantar faciitis)

Nick Delmonico, Chicago White Sox (fractured metacarpal)

Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (TJS – out for season)

Wil Myers, San Diego Padres (oblique strain)

Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers (thumb injury)

Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (recovering from knee surgery)

***denotes new injury

 

First, the good news - more sluggers returned from the disabled list than were added to it. Rhys Hoskins is expected to be activated for today’s game. I assume he’ll wear a helmet with a jaw flap to protect his recently broken jaw. Matt Davidson’s back spasms are gone. Randal Grichuk’s return actually happened last week. He’s batting .316/.350/.789 with a pair of home runs and three doubles since being activated. Todd Frazier is back too.

 

Brandon Belt had an appendectomy. The timeline for recovery is typically two to four weeks depending on the pathway used during the surgery. I haven’t heard anything about it being a ruptured appendix which requires a bigger cut and longer recovery time. Expect Belt back in around 10 to 14 days. The risk with a fantasy asset like Shohei Ohtani is when the inevitable pitching injury strikes; you also lose a potent bat. I suspect he’ll miss the rest of this season with a Grade 2 UCL sprain. I suppose it’s possible he’ll return as a designated hitter.

 

Keep an eye on Aaron Judge. He hurt his thumb sliding yesterday. Team and player claim he’s fine, but I’ve seen too many of these seemingly minor thumb injuries turn into two or more months on the disabled list.

 

Teams Visiting Launching Pads

 

For Opening Week, I provided a detailed report on home run park factors (skip to the part titled “Park Factors” on page two). This section will be used to highlight which teams are visiting the most homer happy venues – namely Citizen’s Bank Park, Coors Field, Yankee Stadium, and Great American Ballpark.

 

The Phillies are finishing a series at home against the Brewers. The Rockies will visit for a three game set starting Tuesday. Jesus Aguilar is probably the one and only potential waiver wire target with the Brewers. Carlos Gonzalez is on a fluky-looking hot streak. He bats cleanup and will have the platoon advantage against nearly every Phillies pitcher. Unfortunately, the Rockies spend the next week on the road so we don’t get any Coors Field games to exploit. They’re finishing a home series against the Diamondbacks tomorrow. Chris Owings, John Ryan Murphy, and Daniel Descalso could be of some value.

 

At Yankee Stadium, the Nationals will play a couple games followed by a four game series versus the Rays. Matt Adams is the lone waiver target. Daniel Robertson, C.J. Cron, Wilson Ramos, Matt Duffy, and Carlos Gomez all have elevated value later in the week.

 

Power Spotlight

 

This week, we’re highlighting a couple clones. Both are players I’ve covered in detail for The Fringes (available as part of the Rotoworld Season Pass). Now they’re no longer around the periphery of fantasy baseball usefulness – they’re mainstream assets. And they have some serious power potential.

 

Before I name names, let’s compare attributes. They’re both lefty hitters and righty throwers. They have nearly comparable swing rates on pitches inside and outside of the strike zone, leading to virtually identical walk and strikeout rates. Their batted ball distributions are mirrored. They feature comparable swinging strike rates and power. The only differences: one guy is eligible at first, third, and outfield. The other is outfield only but has enough speed to steal a few bases.

 

The players in question are Max Muncy and Brandon Nimmo. This section is specifically about power, so let’s focus on what we can expect going forward. Both hitters have roughly a 14 percent walk rate and 25 percent strikeout rate. That means a little over 60 percent of their plate appearances end with a batted ball. Roughly 47 percent of those will be fly balls. Nimmo has a luck neutral 18 percent HR/FB ratio. Muncy is sitting on a fluky 24.4 percent HR/FB ratio. Based on their exit velocities and launch angles, I’d expect a 17 percent HR/FB for both of them. Here’s where it gets hairy – projecting rest of season plate appearances.

 

Nimmo has grown into the best hitter on the Mets – Yoenis Cespedes included. His high OBP and solid pop is more valuable than Cespedes’ power and modest on base skills. At this point, Nimmo shouldn’t have to worry about losing playing time once Cespedes returns. Jay Bruce can move to first base on a more full time basis. However, the Mets aren’t exactly the most tightly managed ship in the league. There’s always a chance Nimmo loses starts. He has particularly bad strikeout and power numbers against fellow left-handed pitchers, suggesting a possible platoon role. I’ll estimate 310 plate appearances over the rest of the season. That adds up to 15 more home runs.

 

As for Muncy, his versatility should keep him in the lineup. Justin Turner continues to battle a sore wrist and there’s always room in the outfield or at first base. Muncy is also expected to take reps at second base – the Dodgers’ worst performing position. While he won’t quite play every day, I’m comfortable estimating about 325 plate appearances in his future. For comparison, a star like Mike Trout can expect about 400 more plate appearances. With this projection, Muncy should hit something like 17 more home runs. He has a shot to reach 30 homers with everyday action. It helps that he’s handled left-handed pitching.

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.