The Brightest Star

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Major League sluggers were back to barnstorming this week. The seasonal pace surged from 5,511 to 5,571. A chunk of the production came from unexpected sources, some of whom we’ll discuss in today’s column. Today’s Power Spotlight will shine on the brightest star in the minors.

Let’s jump straight into the action.

Top Performances of the Week

Jonathan Schoop, 5 HR
Salvador Perez, 5 HR
Austin Meadows, 4 HR
14 Others, 3 HR

Schoop is locked in, hitting .368/.442/.711 with seven home runs in 86 plate appearances since mid-May. Over this span, he’s making an unusual quantity of hard, barreled contact including a max exit velocity of 115.3 mph. Earlier in the season, Schoop was dribbling soft, ground ball contact with frequency. We’ve seen these sorts of hots streaks from him before. Ride the wave but be ready to bail. He’s still only 32 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues.

Despite a seemingly exploitable approach, Perez remains one of the most effectively aggressive hitters in the league. His peripherals are right in line with his superb 2020 campaign. He remains arguably the top catcher in batting average formats. He takes a hit in OBP leagues. Two factors will influence his quest for 40 home runs. Since the start of 2020, his batted ball profile has shifted to a premium line drive rate with around 36 percent fly balls. As part of this, a quarter of his fly balls have converted to home runs. If he maintains these rates, he projects for 41 home runs. If his HR/FB regresses, then he’s in store for about 36 dingers. But! If some of those liners turn into flies, then he once again has a shot to crest the 40-homer plateau.

For the fourth time in four seasons, Meadows is a remarkably different hitter than past versions. He’s possibly the most extreme fly ball hitter in the league. Unlike most hitters with this profile, he’s not restricted to pull side power – he also takes outside pitches out to center. Once considered a five-category contributor, he can no longer be counted upon for batting average or stolen bases. The upshot is a more consistent power profile. After this hot week, he’s projected to hit 39 home runs this season – just outside of our Top 10 (next section).

Some interesting players found their way to a trio of deep flies. Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. are guys you expect to thrive. James McCann, Yasmani Grandal, Avisail Garcia, Miguel Andujar, and Randal Grichuk sent us a reminder that they’re all still dangerous at the plate. Unexpected contributors include Bryan Reynolds, Patrick Wisdom, and Eric Haase. Lastly, Dylan Carlson and Ryan Mountcastle fit in a bin of not-quite-established prospects.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves, 17 HR, 47 projected
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, 17 HR, 45 proj
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, 15 HR, 43 proj
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, 14 HR, 42 proj
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 17 HR, 41 proj
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, 13 HR, 40 proj
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, 14 HR, 40 proj
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox, 12 HR, 40 proj
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels, 13 HR, 39 HR
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins, 10 HR, 39 proj

Our Top 10 list from last week mostly remained intact. A few players shuffled up and down with Tatis doing the most to grow his projection. Adolis Garcia fell to 11th on the list with Jared Walsh sneaking back up to ninth. Austin Meadows and Joey Gallo also lurk just outside the Top 10. Matt Olson has a big opportunity to drop some dingers this weekend. He’s visiting Coors Field.

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Injured Sluggers

New

Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians, oblique, mid-June
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins, hamstring, mid-June
Luke Voit, New York Yankees, oblique, early-July
Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics, groin, mid-June
Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants, thumb, mid-June
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners, knee, uncertain

When we last met, Reyes was dealing with a sore oblique. It didn’t recover within a few days so the Indians sat him down. All indications are he’ll be back by late next week. Yastrzemski could return as early as this week. His placement on the Injured List is described as precautionary. Laureano and Kepler also hope to return in short order.

The news isn’t so good for Voit or Lewis. Voit is dealing with a grade two oblique strain which will prevent him from swinging for several weeks. It’s a tricky injury which can sometimes heal quickly or else linger indefinitely. Lewis has a torn meniscus and hopes to return later this season.

Keep an eye on Ryan McMahon. He’s missed a couple games with a sore groin though he did make a pinch-hit appearance. Max Muncy is also dealing with a sore ankle.

Existing

Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays, neck discomfort, early-June
Darin Ruf, San Francisco Giants, hamstring, late-June
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, oblique, mid-June
Trent Grisham, San Diego Padres, bruised heel, early-June
Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies, elbow inflammation, mid-June
Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves, domestic violence, out for season?
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees, wrist strain, out for season

Dylan Moore, Seattle Mariners, calf, unknown
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, calf, early-July
Michael Conforto, New York Mets, hamstring, late-June
Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies, right elbow impingement, early-June
Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds, heel soreness, early-June
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, broken hand, late-June
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds, knee surgery, August
Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals, fractured rib, late-June
Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates, groin, early-June
George Springer, Toronto Blue Jays, quad strain, early-June
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets, finger, mid-June
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, hip, early-June
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, broken thumb, June
Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox, hip, second half
Kole Calhoun, Arizona Diamondbacks, hamstring surgery, late-July
Sam Huff, Texas Rangers, knee surgery, July as DH-only
Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers, knee surgery, season-ending
Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds, fractured hamate, early-June
Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox, torn pectoral, September

Votto is expected to return imminently. He hasn’t performed well in a 13-plate appearance stint at Triple-A. Perhaps the club is waiting for him to regain his timing. Story is scheduled to be activated on Tuesday. Biggio is traveling with the Blue Jays and will likely skip the rehab trail. Springer is closing in on game activities. He’s progressed slower than expected. Moustakas is also dawdling through what was originally supposed to be a minimum 10 day stint.

Nobody outside of the Mets organization is sure of where Nimmo stands in his rehab process. He was originally supposed to return weeks ago but there still aren’t any imminent plans for a rehab assignment. The injury could be more serious than originally thought.

Returned to Action

Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, oblique, early-June
A.J. Pollock, Los Angeles Dodgers, hamstring, early-June
Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates, wrist strain, early-June
Pete Alonso, New York Mets, wrist, early-June
Wilmer Flores, San Francisco Giants, hamstring, early-June

Of the recently returned players, Hayes, Alonso, and Flores have hit the ground running. Hayes is 4-for-7 with a home run and a triple. Flores has pieced together a 7-for-15 performance with a couple extra base hits of his own. Alonso is 6-for-18 with a home run.

For more injury updates, check out our MLB Injury Report.

Power Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on a name you’ve heard – Angels prospect Jo Adell. The right-handed slugger leads minor league baseball with 14 home runs in 120 plate appearances. Friday night was his fourth multi-homer game of the season. He also has six doubles and a triple. The guy is mashing – so much so that the Angels recently felt compelled to come out and say they would not be promoting him anytime soon. Their claims ring false.

Let’s review how 2020 turned out for Adell. He hit a miserable .161/.212/.266 with a 41.7 percent strikeout rate. When he did make contact, he flashed star-level talent including a 115.5-mph max exit velocity. In that one particular indicator, he would have ranked 11th among qualifying hitters last season, sandwiched between Marcell Ozuna and George Springer. His batted ball profile was reassuringly balanced.

His struggles were also a continuation of a career-long pattern. In 2018, he mauled Low-A pitchers, performed well in High-A, then stumbled (by his standards) in Double-A. The next season, he trounced Double-A only to hit a roadblock in Triple-A. The COVID season cost him the opportunity to clobber Triple-A pitchers last year.

It’s easy to see the baseball reason why the Angels brass are resisting a promotion. Strikeouts and a wantonly aggressive approach remain calling cards for Adell. Even while stunning Triple-A opponents on a daily basis, he’s still striking out at a 31.7 percent rate backed by a 16.8 percent swinging strike rate. He projects for a 35 percent strikeout rate in the Majors.

Service time could be a consideration too. If so, that’s going to be a bummer for everyone involved. A service year is accrued after 172 days in the Majors. Since service was prorated last season, he was credited with 153 days. That means he can spend no more than 18 days in the Majors this season if the Angels want to retain him through 2027. Otherwise, he’ll reach free agency in 2026. A more realistic hold up could be the Super 2 deadline. It’ll be hard to predict the rough cutoff this season. I suspect if he’s held out through the All-Star break, the Angels will avoid some future arbitration raises.

Unfortunately, now is the time the Angels need an outfielder. Mike Trout is out for several more weeks. Meanwhile, Juan Lagares, Jose Rojas, Kean Wong, and Taylor Ward are playing on a regular basis. They’re replacement level killers and bear partial responsibility for the Angels mediocre 26-31 record. With the season quickly slipping away, it’s not the time to play it safe using roster patches like Lagares. So what if Adell might stumble again? He’s not going to adjust to Major League pitchers by annihilating Triple-A scrubs.