Hitting Report: Will Steven Souza's power turn into 30 homers this year?
Nine players had a HR/FB ratio better than 25% from 2012 through '14. All nine of them would be identified as sluggers, and some of them are classic three true outcomes hitters. There are no surprises here—it takes some real pop to hit this mark for an entire season. All of those guys are legitimate power hitters, even if they don’t really perform elsewhere (looking at you, Pedro Alvarez). The list is as follows:
Chris Davis, 29.6% (2013)
Adam Dunn, 29.3% (2012)
Jose Abreu, 26.9% (2014)
Pedro Alvarez, 26.3% (2013)
Josh Hamilton, 25.6% (2012)
Giancarlo Stanton, 25.5% (2014)
Miguel Cabrera, 25.4% (2013)
Chris Davis, 25.2% (2012)
Pedro Alvarez, 25% (2012)
Now, let's look at the players who are north of that mark for the 2015 season so far. Anyone who looks like they don't belong will likely see his power numbers dip as the season progresses. That knowledge, in turn, could help us identify some players who might be worth selling. The 2015 envelope please…
Starling Marte, 33.3%
Bryce Harper, 31.6%
Steven Souza, 29.8%
Joc Pederson, 28.6%
Nelson Cruz, 27.5%
Paul Goldschmidt, 26.4%
It warrants mentioning that fantasy owners shouldn’t automatically start shopping a guy simply because we wouldn’t expect a him to be on this list. Marte, for example, has turned into a 20-30 threat, and isn’t a sell-high player, even though he likely won’t have this high a home-run rate all season. Pederson may be a rookie, but he mashed his way through the minors and can legitimately lay claim to being considered one of the top-10 power hitters in the game today. It’s not surprising to see Harper, Stanton, Cruz, Goldschmidt and Alvarez in the group this season, and though it’s unlikely that all will remain on the plus side of 25%, all have that ability. And that leaves Souza.
Souza always had good power in the minors, but nothing like we’ve seen this season. In 407 at-bats last year with Triple A Syracuse in the Nationals system, he had 18 homers. In 323 plate appearances with Double A Harrisburg the year before, he had 15 homers. In 265 major league plate appearances this season, he has left the yard 14 times. Either Souza, in his age-26 season, became a 30-homer-per-year player, or he has been punching slightly above his weight for the first three months of the season. It’s not unprecedented for a player to grow into his power in the majors, especially at the age of 26, but it’s wise to not bet on history in the making. If you’re a Souza owner, make him available. You likely won’t be disappointed with the return.
Hitters of the Week
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: .448 BA (13-for-29), 3 HR, 9 R, 8 RBI, 3 SB, .515 OBP
Even the most fervent Orioles fan or strongest Machado supporter could have thought he would bounce back this far this fast after two significant knee surgeries. Macahdo has been great for most of the year, and he just had his single best week of the season. It actually began inauspiciously, as he went 0-for-3 with a walk in Baltimore’s 4-0 win over the Phillies last Monday. He was then at the center of the team’s 19-run outburst the next day, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and three RBI. Machado took an 0-for-4 on Wednesday, but was awfully tough to retire for the rest of the week. In the Orioles’ final four games last week, he went 10-for-18 with a homer, five RBI and six runs scored. Machado’s now hitting .303/.361/.521 with 14 homers, 48 runs, 38 RBI and 11 steals this season.
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox: .581 BA (18-for-31), 2 HR, 8 R, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .594 OBP
Everybody’s favorite preseason breakout pick is finally starting to get going. Betts has actually been swinging a hot bat for the better part of a month now, but he was still flying under the radar. That’s no longer the case after the week he put together in series against the Braves and Royals. Betts got at least one hit in all seven of Boston’s games last week, and had a minimum of two hits in all but one of them. Of his 18 hits, seven went for extra bases, and he was just a single shy of the cycle in the team’s 13-2 win on Sunday. At the start of the week, Betts was hitting .237/.296/.381. The big week upped his slash line to .277/.329/.453, a remarkable jump at this point of the season. In the last month, Betts is hitting .354 (35-for-99) with three homers, 14 runs, 11 RBI and six steals.
George Springer, Houston Astros: .451 BA (14-for-31), 4 HR, 8 R, 5 RBI, .469 OBP
With all due respect to Todd Frazier (five homers, nine RBI, six runs) and Justin Turner (four homers, eight RBI, seven runs), Springer earns the final spot among the Hitters of the Week for June 15 through June 21. Springer started his week with a figurative and literal bang, drilling two homers and scoring three times in a win over the Rockies. He had four multi-hit games last week, and is now on a 14-game hitting streak, during which he has hit .458 (27-for-59) with four homers, four doubles, 10 runs and seven RBI. The 25-year-old is now slashing .284/.378/.490 with 12 bombs and 13 steals on the season.
Hitters of the Weak
Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels: .148 BA (4-for-27), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, .233 OBP
Calhoun had a dreadful week, kicking it off with a pair of 0-for-4s against the Diamondbacks. He had one good game, a 2-for-4 effort with a run, but even both of those hits were singles. Calhoun has fallen far short of expectations this season, hitting .264/.323/.378 with six homers and four steals in 281 plate appearances. He was a popular breakout pick too, and many saw him as someone who could score 100-plus runs hitting atop the Angels’ lineup. Instead, he hasn’t been much more than a replacement level outfielder, especially in traditional fantasy leagues. He’s too good to cut, but his owners have every right to be frustrated with his performance this season.
Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox: .125 BA (3-for-24), 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .125 OBP
Garcia was terrible in every sense of the word last week, getting three hits—all singles—in the White Sox’ six games. Meanwhile, he struck out 10 times, and now carries a 26.1% strikeout rate this season. Garcia was supposed to be at the heart of an improved White Sox offense this year, but, outside one hot stretch, he has been a major disappointment. He’s hitting .267/.319/.394, failing to bring the power the White Sox expected him to provide in the middle of the order. His .127 isolated slugging percentage is worse than the likes of Denard Span, Howie Kendrick and Brett Lawrie. He has been worse than a replacement-level player in real life, earning -0.5 fWAR and -0.4 bWAR this season.
Shin-soo Choo, Texas Rangers: .148 BA (4-for-27), 0 HR, 2 R, 0 RBI, .207 OBP
If there’s one good thing to be said about Choo’s performance last week, it’s that he wasn’t quite as bad as Calhoun and Garcia. He had the same 4-for-27 as Calhoun, but at least he got one extra-base hit, a double in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the White Sox on Sunday. Of course, he went 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts in that game, so it’s not like he went home all that happy with his own results. Choo struck out eight times in the final five games of the week, and now has an ugly 24.5% strikeout rate. For the season, he’s hitting just .233/.319/.390. It’s incredible to observe the dropoff in his play over the last couple seasons. In 2013, his only year with the Reds, he hit .285/.423/.462. In two seasons with the Rangers, he’s slashing .239/.333/.379, and has been worth 0.4 bWAR.
Buy, sell or hold
Buy: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Let’s circle on back to Betts, who has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball in the most recent short term, whether that term be one week, two weeks or a month. We already discussed his numbers since the last week of May, but that’s only part of the case for buying him. The other part is that this is what so many people expected him to do all season. Betts was a chic breakout pick not only because of his pedigree and potential, but because of what he did in his 52-game stint with the Red Sox last year. He hit .291/.368/.444 in his first taste of the majors, which amounted to about one-third of a season. After a dreadful start to the 2015 season, he’s starting to hit like the player the entire fantasy community believed he was at the beginning of the year. It’s going to be tough to pry Betts away from his current owner, but I have no problem acquiring him at the same sticker price that was affixed in March.
Sell: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Gomez rose to fantasy and real-life prominence over the last few seasons thanks to featuring one of the most dangerous power-speed packages in the league. Over the last three years, Gomez has put up 22 homers and 37 steals in an average season. I ask you, what’s the worst injury for a player whose value is entirely dependent on above-average power and elite speed? That would be to the hip, and that’s exactly what’s ailing Gomez. He has missed the four games because of his hip injury, and even when he returns, he could be at less than 100 percent all season. A hip injury is obviously going to slow down any base stealer, but the lower half is where almost all of a hitter’s power comes from, too. If Gomez can’t rotate his hips with his usual torque, he’s not going to generate nearly as much power as he does when healthy. I’d be careful about trading him in keeper leagues, but in redraft leagues I’d be trying to sell him the moment he returns to the field.
Hold: Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
The pace of Ellsbury’s return has no doubt been frustrating for the Yankees and his fantasy owners. Both groups finally got some good news over the weekend, as Ellsbury hit in spikes for the first time since injuring his knee. That’s how he suffered the injury, so this was an important step on the road to recovery. Having said that, there’s still not timetable for his return, and he’ll have to go on a rehab assignment before he rejoins the Yankees. At this point, the team could keep him on the DL until after the All-Star break. So long as he returns at full strength, he should resume what had started as a huge season. He’s hitting .324 with a .412 OBP, 14 steals and 29 runs in 170 plate appearances
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
We already covered Seager in the Prospect Watch earlier in the season, but it’s time continuation of the status quo for both him and Jimmy Rollins forces us to talk about him again. Seager’s doing just about everything the Dodgers could ask of him at Triple-A Oklahoma City, slashing .288/.342/.441 with with four homers and 13 doubles in 44 games. The 21-year-old entered the season as a consensus top-10 prospect, and he hasn’t done anything to push anyone off that ranking. His brethren in the rankings, fellow shortstops Addison Russell, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, are all in the majors. Can Seager be too far behind?
The answer, unfortunately, is unclear. There’s no spinning Rollins’ awful debut season with the Dodgers. He’s hitting just .211/.269/.344 , providing exactly 0.0 fWAR and -0.2 bWAR. It’s hard to say with a straight face that Seager would be worse, no matter how old he is. At the same time, the Dodgers are in first place in the NL West, 1.5 games ahead of the Giants. If and when they promote Seager, they’re not going to have him sit on the bench. They won’t make that move until they’re ready to hand him the reins to the starting shortstop job. Is that a move they’d make in the middle of the season while they’re in the middle of the playoff race? It’s awfully hard to say unless you have Andrew Friedman’s office bugged. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Dodgers turn to Seager given the way Rollins has played, but they haven’t indicated they’ve reached that point yet. Those of you in deeper leagues should feel free to speculate on Seager and stash him, but owners in shallow leagues will want to give it more time.
GIF of the Week
Ubaldo Jimenez got an RBI infield single last Wednesday. Did you really think the GIF of the Week could be anything else?
In fact, this calls for two GIFs. When have you ever seen a professional athlete so winded from a 90-foot sprint?