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Schwarber Joins the Homer Race

Kyle Schwarber

Kyle Schwarber

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

For scheduling reasons, this and the next episode of Homer Report will run on Friday. Over the last six days, sluggers have bopped 210 home runs, a typical total for this time of year. Since we last convened, the seasonal pace has increased roughly 40 home runs to 5,243. We’re just over the halfway point – 51.2 percent of regular season games have been played.

Weekly Leaders

Jorge Polanco, 4 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 4 HR
10 Others, 3 HR

Since returning from a minor injury, Polanco has hit five home runs in 36 plate appearances. He bopped 33 deep flies last season. While he isn’t ever a threat to lead the league, he’s established himself as a reliable mid-tier contributor to the category. He’s on pace for 25 home runs this season. Like last year, he started off slow and heated up with the calendar.

This year, Schwarber has carried his scorching hot June into July. He hit .272/.385/.680 over the course of June with 12 home runs in 122 plate appearances. As I noted, it’s much the same through 25 July plate appearances – four home runs and a .304/.360/.826 triple-slash.

The remaining 10 are a collection of the usual suspects with two exceptions. Both Jeremy Peña and MJ Melendez have yet to fully establish themselves as regulars. However, given their prospect pedigrees and success through the first half of 2022, it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing a lot of them in the coming years. Peña is currently on the COVID list and has hit .270/.320/.472 with 12 home runs in 254 plate appearances. Poor discipline and an elevated swinging strike rate indicate some modest risk in Peña’s profile. Melendez hit 41 home runs in the minors last season. Based on his performance to date, he projects for 27 home runs per 600 plate appearances. He could improve his projection by growing into more consistent hard, fly ball contact.

The remaining eight hardly merit further comment. They’re C.J. Cron, Austin Riley, Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Yordan Álvarez, Marcell Ozuna, Franmil Reyes, and Eduardo Escobar. Of those, only Escobar hasn’t appeared in the next section at some point in the last few seasons. Most of these names are there right now! Shall we?

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Aaron Judge, 49 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 46 HR
Yordan Álvarez, 43 HR
Pete Alonso, 43 HR
Mike Trout, 42 HR
Byron Buxton, 42 HR
Giancarlo Stanton, 39 HR
Christian Walker, 39 HR
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 38 HR
Anthony Rizzo, 38 HR

It was the first week in awhile that Judge didn’t hit two or more home runs. Then again, it’s only been six days since the last update. He also missed a game with lower body discomfort. A small amount of jockeying for position has occurred behind Judge. Schwarber is doing his best to catch up. He actually projects for half a homer more than Judge over the remainder of the season. Shohei Ohtani slipped off the list with Guerrero taking his place. C.J. Cron and Austin Riley are next in line followed by Ohtani, Rhys Hoskins, Mookie Betts, and Rafael Devers. It’s a crowded battle for the final positions.

An interesting detail I noticed: Joc Pederson would rank between Buxton and Stanton if he played on a daily basis. The components I use to form my home run projections are (mostly) handedness-aware so, if anything, I’m under-projecting him in his current role. He currently projects for 32 home runs in 475 plate appearances and would check in at 39 dingers with a normal 600 plate appearance workload.

Injured

New

Jake Burger, hand, mid-July
Óscar González, abdomen, mid-July
Jeremy Peña, COVID, soon
Chris Taylor, foot, early-August
Tyrone Taylor, concussion, uncertain
Jurickson Profar, concussion, uncertain
Evan Longoria, oblique, late-July

Profar suffered a nasty concussion in a collision. Taylor also has a concussion. There’s hope he can recover quickly. Pena, Gonzalez, and Burger are expected back soon. Those with long memories might recall Longoria was injury prone early in his career. As he ages, those earlier battles with health seem to be intensifying. Taylor had the most serious injury of the week – a broken foot.

Existing

Hunter Renfroe, early-July
Jorge Soler, back, mid-July
Trevor Larnach, abdominal strain, August
Bryce Harper, thumb, late-August
Jazz Chisholm, back, mid-July
Austin Meadows, both Achilles, mid-July
Salvador Perez, thumb, late-August
Enrique Hernandez, hip, early-July
Tyler O’Neill, hamstring, early-July
Ozzie Albies, foot, September
Yasmani Grandal, back, mid-July
Anthony Rendon, wrist, out for season
Frank Schwindel, back, mid-July
Aristides Aquino, ankle, late-July
Mike Zunino, shoulder, late-July
Royce Lewis, torn ACL, out for season
Edwin Rios, hamstring, early-August
Kyle Lewis, concussion, late-July
Wil Myers, knee, mid-July
Brandon Lowe, back/concussion, late-July
Miguel Sano, knee, mid-July
Mitch Haniger, ankle, mid-July
Fernando Tatis Jr., wrist, early-August

Renfroe and O’Neill could return today with Soler possibly rejoining us on Saturday. Myers is nearing his own rehab assignment. The Mariners actually bumped Lewis down from Triple-A to High-A. They’ve committed to activating him before the end of the month.

Sano has begun a rehab assignment. He’s not expected to return until after the All-Star Break. The Twins may take this opportunity to get him an extended tune up in the minors. He was hitting just .093/.231/.148 in April.

Lowe sustained what sounds like a low-grade concussion after being hit in the head by Steven Matz. Both veterans were rehabbing. The setback might cost him a week or more.

Returned

Mookie Betts, rib
Ty France, elbow
Eloy Jimenez, hamstring
Kris Bryant, back
Seiya Suzuki, finger
Tyler Naquin, quad

These are some serious fantasy reinforcements for those who have gone without. Suzuki was out a month longer than originally expected, but he’s put on a show since returning. He even hit an inside-the-park home run. Bryant finally hit his first tater as a Rockie. Betts, as you might recall from the first subheading, rang the bell three times. Jimenez and Naquin have also homered since returning from injury. France has not yet, but he’s only played one game.

Power Spotlight

The Guardians have announced they will promote Nolan Jones ahead of Friday night’s game. A former Top 100 prospect, Jones has slipped from notice for a couple reasons. He was on pace to possibly debut in late-2020 under normal circumstances. However, the lost COVID season bled into a dreadful May of 2021 for Jones. Although he recovered from his slump, his early-season performance was bad enough to make it appear as if he’d lost talent over the extended layoff. Then, in late-August, he suffered a major ankle injury. Surgery to correct the issue left him out of game action until June.

In 108 Triple-A plate appearances, he hit .311/.417/.500 with three home runs and four stolen bases. His carrying trait is plate discipline. One evaluator I spoke with believed Max Muncy was a fair comparison. Jones has more swing-and-miss to his game and thus will probably run a higher strikeout rate than Muncy. The Dodgers slugger generates enough lift for easy 30 home run potential. Jones, at present, is a low-angle contact guy. While that might help his batting average, he only projects for 20 home runs per 600 plate appearances. That’s a shame because he has double-plus raw power and a home stadium that rewards left-handed sluggers.