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The league's downward spiral came to an end this week. Sluggers combined for 197 home runs. The pace for the season is now 5,180 home runs – up a whopping four dingers since last week. With several exciting young hitters joining the show, it'll be interesting to see if home run rates can edge upwards in September. Historically, the final month of the season has two conflicting effects. First, cooler weather lends itself to fewer deep flies. However, with more teams falling out of contention, a flood of exploitable pitchers is called upon to mop up the final dregs of the season.
15 Others, 3 HR
In a typical week, between one and a handful of sluggers clear the three-homer plateau. This time, the plateau served as a ceiling. First, we can touch upon the usual suspects: Manny Machado, Austin Riley, Shohei Ohtani, Joc Pederson, Tyler O'Neill, Mookie Betts, and Corey Seager. They scarcely merit comment, though O'Neill probably deserves a second nod given the frustrating nature of his season. A hot September could salvage his draft standing next spring. Alternatively, a cold month might ensure he's a bargain.
A couple catchers dusted off their sweet stroke – Cal Raleigh and Travis d'Arnaud. Raleigh has an extreme fly ball approach with a high rate of barreled contact. He's effectively what Gary Sanchez used to be. A low average and OBP are offset by plenty of power. D'Arnaud has rebounded from an icy start to the season to post a solid .266/.319/.481 line. He has the hardest max exit velocity of his career, but he's also struggled at times to make hard contact. Lately, he's been on fire. Since a few days on the sidelines in early August, he's batting .333/.406/.702 in 64 plate appearances.
A few usually impotent infielders also joined the party: Kolten Wong, Tommy Edman, and Ty France. That's not to say they haven't been useful fantasy performers this season. France even has enough power to supply 15-20 home runs on a regular basis. Wong and Edman are closer to 10-homer types, though they blasted beyond that threshold this week. Edman in particular actually makes plenty of hard contacts – he just pounds most of his best contact into the ground.
The remaining trio is a mixed bag: Michael Taylor, Gavin Sheets, and Lars Nootbaar. Taylor is having his best season at the plate since 2017 – which just so happens to be the only other season in which he wasn't a truly terrible hitter. Although he's still fast, he no longer steals bases, limiting his fantasy utility. Nootbaar is up-and-coming. He'll have a hard time clinging to an everyday role in that Cardinals system, though weeks like his last few will certainly help. He has a knack for barreled contact. There's another gear in there if he can chip away at his rates of infield flies and soft grounders. Sheets stomped upon bad pitchers late last season then didn't do much of anything during the early months this year. My scouting contacts are not enthusiastic about him, but I think he'll stick as a decent second-division starter. He really can't play the outfield – he's a first baseman. In any event, we'll see if he can terrorize September for a second consecutive season.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
Aaron Judge, 59 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 43 HR
Pete Alonso, 41 HR
Austin Riley, 40 HR
Paul Goldschmidt, 39 HR
Mookie Betts, 39 HR
Christian Walker, 38 HR
Shohei Ohtani, 37 HR
Anthony Rizzo, 37 HR
Yordan Alvarez, 37 HR
Judge held serve with another two home runs. He remains on pace for 62 home runs. My projection system expects a slight cooling of that pace. Betts saw a three-homer uptick in his projection due in part to his big week and also because I caught an error in his expected plate appearances which accounted for his time missed to injury but didn't fully capture just how many plate appearances a top-of-the-lineup Dodger can be expected to take.
Ohtani and Rizzo rejoined the list, reclaiming their spots from Mike Trout and Matt Olson. Alvarez has been sidelined since last Tuesday and might yet take a short stint on the injured list. If he does, Nolan Arenado is next in line with Seager and Trout just a fraction of a homer behind him. Rizzo's also on the bench for a couple days while recovering from an epidural for his chronic back issues.
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Wisdom and Moncada suffered minor injuries – a sprained finger for Wisdom and a grade 1 hamstring strain for Moncada. Perhaps it's a stretch to include Moncada here – he only has seven taters on the season. However, his batted ball profile and exit velocities still resemble a 25-homer threat. He should be a tidy draft bargain next season.
Baty had surgery to repair the UCL in his thumb. In theory, he should be game-ready by early October. In practice, I'm not sure he showed enough to merit inclusion on the Mets postseason roster. Moustakas is also out for the season with the calf issue that's plagued him since last season. His career could be in jeopardy given his struggles when he does manage to take the field.
A contusion has sidelined Lowe for what feels like the dozenth time this season. He's really struggled of late so this could be an excuse to get his head on straight while the Rays use some of their truly absurd second base depth – no franchise rosters more second basemen.
Brandon Belt, knee, out for season
Vinnie Pasquantino, shoulder, early-September
Ramón Laureano, oblique, early-September
Jared Walsh, shoulder, out for season
Byron Buxton, hip, early-September
Joey Votto, shoulder surgery, out for season
Matt Carpenter, broken foot, early-October
Miguel Sano, knee, early-October
Alex Kirilloff, wrist, out for season
Kris Bryant, foot, late-September
Adam Duvall, wrist, out for season
Ryan Jeffers, thumb, late-September
Wander Franco, hamate, early-September
Mitch Garver, TJS, out for season
Jorge Soler, back, early-September
Trevor Larnach, abdominal strain, mid-September
Jazz Chisholm, back, mid-September
Austin Meadows, both Achilles, out for season
Ozzie Albies, foot, mid-September
Anthony Rendon, wrist, out for season
Mike Zunino, shoulder, out for season
Royce Lewis, torn ACL, out for season
Albies is rehabbing in Triple-A and could probably return as soon as today. Even amidst a pennant race, the fine play of Vaughn Grissom gives the Braves an opportunity to slowplay Albies' recovery. The Rays should get Franco back in the next couple days – a huge boost over Taylor Walls at shortstop. Pasquantino is taking swings on the field and could return this week without a minors stint. Soler is aiming for the back half of next week. Buxton also seeks to return this week. Laureano's targeting a Tuesday return.
Meadows is out for the season. Between a lengthy COVID infection, vertigo, and issues with both Achilles, he's had a rough go of it. He'll spend the offseason mentally recovering from this lost season. Belt has also opted to sit out the remainder of the season rather than push his damaged knee in a non-competitive campaign. He'd likely still be out there were the Giants contending.
The Mets got back Escobar and simultaneously lost Baty. Story is hitting .400/.429/.450 in 21 plate appearances since returning from a month-and-a-half absence. Grandal missed the minimum and roped a homer on Friday, his third game back.