Schwarber Rings the Bell

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Sluggers hammered 55 home runs on Friday as part of a 240-homer week. The seasonal pace surged again to 4,944. We’ll likely see the pace eclipse 5,000 next weekend. That’s because offense has reverted to the standards of 2021, just as expected if the new humidors account for the majority of the early-season power outage.

Conspiracy theorists still prefer the hypothesis that MLB introduced another new ball in mid-May. For anyone familiar with the manufacturing process, if the baseballs magically changed, it was something decided upon some six to 18 months ago – the typical time it takes between when a baseball is made and when it’s used.

Weekly Leaders

Kyle Schwarber, 4 HR
Lane Thomas, 4 HR
14 Others, 3 HR

While it was a big week for leaguewide power production, only Schwarber and Thomas surpassed the three-dinger threshold. Schwarber is someone whose offensive outbursts tend to come in frenzied weeks like this. Aside from his three-homer game on Friday, Thomas is in the midst of a miserable season. Prior to the triple-dinger, he had just one hit, also a home run, in his previous 27 plate appearances. Dating back to May 20 (44 PA), eight of his last nine hits have gone for extra bases including five home runs. Perhaps he’s turning a corner.

Of the remaining 14 batters, half are guys we expect to see in this section on a regular basis, namely Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, Willson Contreras, Corey Seager, Austin Riley, Yordan Alvarez, and Aaron Judge. Nolan Gorman should quickly gain a reputation for this sort of output. A full week at high altitude helped Brendan Rodgers. Jesus Sanchez also mashed two of three taters at Coors Field.

Evan Longoria has picked up where he left off last season. The once superstar looked to be fading from relevance after four indifferent seasons from 2017-2020. Then, he suddenly learned to make considerably more hard and barreled contact. It’s helped to salvage his career.

Speaking of salvaged careers, Matt Carpenter was among those with three home runs. The Rangers couldn’t find a place for him on their roster so he landed with the Yankees. Carpenter overhauled his swing over the offseason. He’s batting .263/.391/.895 in 23 plate appearances after hitting .275/.379/.613 in 95 Triple-A plate appearances. Yankee Stadium is an excellent venue for his batted ball profile.

That leaves two more – Victor Caratini and Jose Miranda. Sometimes, it’s just a fluke when a hitter contributes three home runs in a week. That’s the case with Caratini. He’s a slightly below average batter who generally makes too much low-angle contact to contribute much power. It feels like Miranda has been flailing for awhile now, but it’s only been one month. His first 56 plate appearances resulted in a putrid .094/.143/.189 triple-slash. Since then, he’s batting .357/.357/.786 in 28 plate appearances. He contributed multiple hits in five of his last eight starts. He might finally be putting the early season slump behind him.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Aaron Judge, 46 HR
Pete Alonso, 43 HR
Mookie Betts, 41 HR
Jose Ramirez, 41 HR
Mike Trout, 40 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 40 HR
Byron Buxton, 40 HR
Christian Walker, 39 HR
C.J. Cron, 38 HR
Yordan Alvarez, 38 HR

In the past, I’ve noted some quirks of my home run calculator. To simplify, it projects remaining home runs based on frequency of balls in play, fly ball rate, and home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB). That last component is difficult to design in an objective way. Due to an update, Shohei Ohtani’s HR/B dropped three percentage points since the last Homer Report. He now projects for 36 home runs and ranks 15th overall. George Springer also dropped off the list to 11th. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jorge Soler, and Patrick Wisdom are right below the fold. Climbing back onto the list are Schwarber and Alvarez.

Injured

New

Seiya Suzuki, finger, early-June
Tyler Naquin, quad, early-July
Max Muncy, elbow, early-June
Edwin Rios, hamstring, early-July
Carlos Correa, COVID, soon
Royce Lewis, knee, mid-June
Wil Myers, knee, mid-June
Kyle Lewis, concussion, uncertain
Dylan Carlson, hamstring, mid-June

Nine new injuries constitute a bad week, but the good news is these are mostly minor problems. Muncy is already rehabbing, and we should see Correa again within the next few days. Rios and Naquin will require about a month for their upper-leg injuries while most of the others should make it back after a minimum stay on the injured list.

Existing

Brandon Belt, knee, early-June
Anthony Rendon, wrist, early-June
Hunter Renfroe, hamstring, early-June
Kris Bryant, back, early-June
Franmil Reyes, hamstring, soon
Tom Murphy, shoulder, mid-June
Tyler O’Neill, shoulder, early-June
Brandon Lowe, back, late-June
LaMonte Wade, knee, soon
Willy Adames, ankle, soon
Austin Meadows, illness, soon
Miguel Sano, knee, late-June
Jonathan India, hamstring, soon
Mitch Haniger, ankle, late-July
Eloy Jimenez, hamstring, soon
Fernando Tatis Jr., wrist, mid-July

Jimenez is rehabbing in Triple-A. He’s yet to make much noise with the bat. We can expect him to return within the next week. Meadows might be activated on Tuesday. Adames could return today.

Returned

Clint Frazier, appendectomy
Salvador Perez, thumb
Josh Donaldson, shoulder
Giancarlo Stanton, ankle

Donaldson rejoined the Yankees on Friday. Stanton will make his way back today. Perez is back in the lineup as well, though lingering thumb soreness has him serving as the designated hitter.

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Power Spotlight

Twins outfielder Max Kepler is currently on the restricted list for an unknown reason. This could make for a prime opportunity to acquire him. His current .253/.357/.429 batting line is the best of his career by wRC+. From a fantasy perspective, just six home runs, two steals, 23 runs, and 25 RBI aren’t anything spectacular.

Better days await. Kepler is producing the best exit velocities of his career along with an excellent 15.9 percent strikeout and 12.6 percent walk rate. These are all slight improvements on his normal output, made better by above average barreled and hard contact rates. His selectivity remains above average, and he’s adjusted his launch angle to be less prone to easy fly outs. This has helped him to fix career-long issues with balls in play (career .249 BABIP, this season .273 BABIP).

The short of it is this: he’s hitting the ball hard enough to project for well over 30 home runs per full season. That he’s underperformed this pace makes him a buy-low target. Additionally, other improvements to his game should allow him to contribute modestly to the other four categories too. The Twins typically use him within the top five hitters in the lineup. Those in daily moves leagues might want to use him as a platoon bat against right-handed starters. Historically, Kepler has struggled against fellow southpaws.