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Homer Report

Baez Goes Wild

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

Welcome to the Homer Report. We’re in the midst of a baseball revolution – the Air Ball Revolution. Juiced baseballs, Statcast, and mechanical innovations have led to ever-burgeoning home run totals. This column will seek to celebrate home runs. We’ll take a peek at the past week, power threats lost to the disabled list, new boppers to target, and sluggers with juicy upcoming matchups. Ready for some big flies?

 

New research by Rob Silver of The Athletic (subscription required) has found that home runs are down, probably because the ball is exhibiting more drag this season. We’re still seeing more home runs than an average big league season, and you can bet on the rate accelerating as April warms into May. It’s been unusually cold, although that’s controlled for in Rob Silver’s research.

 

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Week Three Leaders

 

Javier Baez: 4 HR

7 Others: 3 HR

 

It was Javier Baez’s week to shine. The Cubs second baseman is hitting a power-heavy .190/.320/.595 on the season. Don’t be fooled by the 12 percent walk rate, he’s just as aggressive as ever at the plate. A .154 BABIP accounts for the low batting average. Best I can tell, he’s the same ol’ Javy Baez. If video of all four home runs proves anything, it’s that you shouldn’t throw him middle-middle pitches. Especially since we know he’ll swing outside of the zone.

 

Mike Trout was one of the guys to hit three home runs. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him. Here’s his latest deep shot – the culmination of a long at bat. Did you know this guy is good? Similarly, Khris Davis and Eric Thames will show up more than a few times over the course of a healthy season. They also popped three apiece.

 

Gregory Polanco deserves a nod for his trio of bombs. How about some video evidence of his multi-homer game against the Cubs? Whew, that first one… Polanco was a popular post-hype rebound candidate in fantasy drafts. Through 57 plate appearances, he’s become substantially more patient. He’s also traded quite a few line drives and ground balls for fly balls. Time will tell if he can hang on to these improvements. There’s an actual chance he becomes a 35 home run threat. He already has five.

 

Let’s also recognize Asdrubal Cabrera, Steve Pearce, and Justin Bour, all of whom joined the tri-homer brigade. Cabrera is off to a crazy start, but I don’t see any strong indicators of a late-career breakout. Bour was struggling with his lack of protection prior to last week. Pitchers are avoiding him in a limp Marlins lineup.

 

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

 

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics

Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers

 

Charlie Blackmon missed most of the last week with back and quad soreness. He’s avoided the disabled list thus far. Meanwhile, Thames has charged out to five home runs while filling a part-time role in Milwaukee. Thames claims his legs fatigued after his hot 2017 April. He didn’t recover until late in the year. If you believe the story – I do – then Thames could seriously benefit from sitting against most left-handed pitchers. Perhaps enough to reach 40 home runs even without playing full-time.

 

Stanton and Judge are off to slow starts on the homer list. It’s premature to remove them from the top spots. Harper currently leads baseball with six home runs. The pair of Yankees are each capable of hitting six home runs in a single week. Martinez and Arenado are the other laggards on this list. They’ll catch up after a couple hot weeks.

 

Disabled

 

***Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

***Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays

***Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

***Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners

***Scott Schebler, Cincinnati Reds

***Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds

Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

Wil Myers, San Diego Padres

Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

Greg Bird, New York Yankees

Steven Souza, Arizona Diamondbacks

Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles

***denotes new injury

 

Aaron Hicks is back in action. And he hit an inside-the-park home run which he followed up with an out-of-the-park blast. Charlie Blackmon may be added to the disabled list if he can’t return sometime this weekend. Rizzo, Cruz, and Zunino are expected to return to action early next week.

 

The Blue Jays and Reds both lost two sluggers to injury. The biggest name is obviously Donaldson. He’s been dealing with a balky shoulder all season. Visually, it’s reminiscent of the struggles endured by David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman. I have no idea if the case is actually pathologically similar. For now, I advise patience. Morales may return around the end of next week. As for the two Reds, Schebler had lost feeling in part of his hand, but it sounds like he’s 100 percent again. He’ll return soon. Unfortunately, Suarez will miss at least six weeks with a fractured thumb.

 

Teams Visiting Launching Pads

 

For Opening Week, I provided a detailed report on home run park factors (skip to the section 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 Pirates will stop in Philadelphia for a four game set starting next Thursday. All the more reason to buy high on Polanco! Other Buccos with pop include Josh Harrison, Josh Bell, Colin Moran (versus righties), David Freese (versus lefties), and Corey Dickerson. You could even throw the dice on Francisco Cervelli or Jordy Mercer at Citizen’s Bank Park.

 

The Cubs will visit Coors Field on Friday. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to dust off a few veterans like Jason Heyward or Ben Zobrist. I’ve been seeing Addison Russell’s ownership rate drop too. Snag any available Cubs starters a couple days before the series begins.

 

The Marlins will play two games at Yankee Stadium – Derek Jeter won’t travel with the team. After that series, the Blue Jays will play four in New York. The Marlins have all kinds of available talent. Justin Bour is probably owned, but most of you can grab shares of Derek Dietrich, Starlin Castro, Brian Anderson, Lewis Brinson, and even Miguel Rojas (he’s batting second!). Of Blue Jays, your best options are Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte, Russell Martin, and Randal Grichuk. Feel free to reach deeper.

 

High Value Matchups

 

This early in the season, probable pitchers can be especially hard to predict more than a few days in advance. For now, we’ll just focus on the next three days. You can apply the same principles I use below to find more matchups later in the week.

 

Saturday, April 14

 

A combination of weather and scheduling limits our options for today. If you’re not in a same day moves league, you’ll have enough trouble filling an active roster. At least three games are likely to be postponed. Three more are possible rainouts.

 

The Red Sox versus Alex Cobb is a good place to start. The weather is fine, and Fenway buffs right-handed power. Cobb usually isn’t homer prone. He did struggle with big flies in 2016, and he’s getting a late start on the 2018 campaign.

 

If the rain clears from Cincinnati, it makes sense to target either side of the matchup between Miles Mikolas and Brandon Finnegan. Mikolas has run afoul of home runs in the early going – his only obvious weakness. Finnegan has barely pitched in recent years. He’s making his 2018 debut. Some choice batters to select include Dexter Fowler, Scooter Gennett, and Jose Martinez.

 

Sunday, April 15

 

Left-handed Blue Jays should make for useful targets opposite Josh Tomlin. The fly ball pitcher is typically quite susceptible to long balls, and Progressive Field bolsters lefty power. Granderson and Solarte are your best bets.

 

Assuming he’s not bumped from his start, stick with Cardinals batters versus homer prone Homer Bailey at Great American Ballpark. It’s possible a few backups like Yairo Munoz will earn a Sunday start, although that’s always hard to predict early in the season.

 

Not that there are many freely available Astros, but you’ll want to invest in time for a pairing against Bartolo Colon. The immortal Big Sexy is coming off a season in which he allowed 1.76 HR/9. Possible waiver targets include Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher, and Jake Marisnick. One of those four will probably sit.

 

Monday, April 16

 

Does Caleb Smith even have a chance at Yankee Stadium? Snag all the low-owned role players like Hicks, Neil Walker, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, and Ronald Torreyes. One of them will sit. Across the aisle, Masahiro Tanaka is not entirely immune to home runs. Refer back to the launching pad section for possible picks.

 

A.J. Cole may play his way out of the rotation after his next matchup with the Mets. He can’t keep anything on the ground, leading to a ridiculous 4.00 HR/9 through two starts. Yes, it’s a small sample, but he’s also extremely exploitable. Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario are your best pick ups.

Brad Johnson
You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.