Tatis Taters

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Sluggers combined for 236 home runs this week, bringing the season pace to 5,631. We’ve completed just over of two-fifths of the season. There are three reasons home run totals are likely to continue rising. We’re entering the hottest portion of the season. Pitcher attrition is also beginning to take a toll. The biggest effect could be the league’s action against grip aids. Not only might that increase pitcher injuries in the short term, it also reduces pitch effectiveness. Pitchers will need time to adapt to only using rosin for grip. We’re going to see more walks and mistakes over the heart of the plate in the coming weeks.

Let’s jump straight into the action.

Top Performances of the Week

Fernando Tatis Jr., 5 HR
Matt Olson, 4 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 4 HR
Shohei Ohtani, 4 HR
Jose Altuve, 4 HR
11 Others, 3 HR

Of the five hitters to tank four or more dingers, none qualify as a surprise. The closest is Altuve who has successfully shaken off a painful 2020 campaign. Diminutive hitters can fade faster than other profiles, especially with regard to power outcomes, so it’s encouraging to see him rebound in his age 31 season. He’s hit 10 of his 16 home runs in the 19 days since since May 31.

Tatis is now tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the season lead with 22 home runs. Ohtani is nipping right at their heels. He’s hit 21 taters. Olson ranks fourth with 19 deep flies. Schwarber isn’t quite on their level – he’s only hit 13 home runs on the season. His batted ball profile suggests he should do well in this high fastball-based meta. He projects to hit about 22 more home runs over the remainder of the season – that’s just north of our expectations from Guerrero, Austin Meadows, and Freddie Freeman.

The triple-dinger crowd includes more common sluggers – Bo Bichette, Randy Arozarena, Guerrero, Gary Sanchez, Adam Duvall, C.J. Cron, Marcus Semien, Jared Walsh, and Joc Pederson among them. Only two players stand out as unusual. Cavan Biggio was ice cold before suffering a neck injury in late May. Since returning on June 11, he’s hitting .375/.464/.833 with half his seasonal home run total.

The bigger outlier is Chas McCormick. He received a full week of action while Kyle Tucker recovered from illness. He’s also eating into Myles Straw’s center field role. McCormick doesn’t have top-end exit velocities, but he makes up for it with a lofty launch angle, frequent barreled contact, and a very forgiving home venue to meandering fly balls.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, 22 HR, 47 projected
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, 21 HR, 47 proj
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves, 18 HR, 44 proj
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, 19 HR, 44 proj
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 22 HR, 43 proj
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, 16 HR, 40 proj
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels, 16 HR, 40 proj
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, 15 HR, 38 proj
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox, 13 HR, 38 proj
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds, 17 HR, 38 proj

After holding the crown for several weeks, Acuna has been knocked from the top spot all the way down to third place. He actually projects to lead the league in home runs through the end of the season, but he’s only a fraction of one homer ahead of Tatis and Ohtani. He’ll have to catch up the old-fashioned way – by swatting baseballs.

Walsh keeps bouncing on and off the list, alternating feast and famine weeks. This time, he takes the place of Joey Gallo who slid several spots down to 16th. He still projects for 36 home runs which is only one big week shy of rejoining the Top 10. Also just missing the cut are Nelson Cruz, Salvador Perez, and Freddie Freeman. They all project for 37 dingers.

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Injured Sluggers

New

Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers, oblique, late-June
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, hamstring, early-July
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, quad, unknown

This was a tame week for fresh injuries. Even the pair of Dodgers listed here actually sustained their injuries prior to our last Homer Report column. The determination to put them on the Injured List came later. Muncy is expected to return in the minimum 10 days while Bellinger might need some extra time. The Astros are playing it coy about the exact nature of Bregman’s quad injury. Reading between the lines, it sounds like it’s probably a Grade 2 strain which could cause him to miss a month or more.

Jose Ramirez had a scare on Friday when a slider hit his foot. The hope is he’ll only miss a couple games rather than require a stint on the Injured List. Anthony Rendon (triceps) and Josh Donaldson (dread calf) are also hoping to avoid more time on the shelf.

Existing

Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants, shoulder, late-July
Kyle Garlick, Minnesota Twins, hernia, early-July
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins, groin, early-July
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers, separated shoulder, August
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins, back, late-June
Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians, oblique, mid-June
Luke Voit, New York Yankees, oblique, early-July
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners, knee, out for season?
Darin Ruf, San Francisco Giants, hamstring, late-June
Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves, domestic violence, out for season?
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees, wrist strain, out for season

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, calf, late-July
Michael Conforto, New York Mets, hamstring, late-June
Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies, right elbow impingement, mid-June
Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds, heel soreness, late-June
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, broken hand, late-June
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds, knee surgery, August
George Springer, Toronto Blue Jays, quad strain, mid-June
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets, finger, mid-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
Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox, torn pectoral, September

Moustakas went out on rehab last week. Unfortunately, his painful heel remained a problem. He returned to Cincinnati for further treatment and will be in a boot for at least a week. The Mets could get a big boost soon. Conforto is out on rehab assignment. Nimmo is scheduled to join him this week. George Springer completed an entire Triple-A game without setback.

Returned to Action

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, hip
Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals, fractured rib
Trent Grisham, San Diego Padres, bruised heel
Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds, fractured hamate
Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics, groin
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins, hamstring

Buxton was activated for today’s game. He’ll join Kepler in a suddenly reinforced Twins outfield. Recall, prior to his injury, Buxton was on track to challenge for the MVP Award and the home run title. We’ll see where he picks up and if he can avoid another injury.

Aquino is a fun-to-watch slugger who has the misfortune of playing behind Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos. That doesn’t stop the Reds from using Aquino in center field on occasion, but he’s not really cut out for the position. He feels like an obvious trade candidate – he’d fit great on the White Sox.

Grisham keeps falling afoul of injuries. He’s performed well when healthy. Laureano blasted a moon ball in his return on Wednesday. DeJong technically made it back prior to our last episode – I just missed it!

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

Power Spotlight

Entering the 2020 season, Ryan Mountcastle was a popular prospect target. He wound up hitting .333/.386/.492 in 140 plate appearances with five home runs and some concerning peripherals. In particular, he relied upon a .398 BABIP. He demonstrated below average plate discipline consistent with his minor league performances. His 16.2 percent swinging strike rate hinted that his decent 21.4 percent strikeout rate could worsen.

Those concerns came home to roost in April when he hit .198/.229/.286 with a 31.3 percent strikeout rate and .279 BABIP. Since then, he’s turned things around… sort of. His most recent 150 plate appearances include a welcome .289/.313/.521 triple-slash, seven doubles, a triple, and eight home runs. He’s also running eyesore walk (2.7% BB%) and strikeout (32.0% K%) rates. Part of his extended hot streak is a .375 BABIP. His batted ball profile suggests such BABIPs might not be unusual for Mountcastle. He has a fairly tight launch angle which means he’s not especially prone to choppers or lazy pop ups. He’ll also occasionally wallop a ball as his 114.6-mph max exit velocity demonstrates. In fact, his career 14.0 percent HR/FB ratio appears to be low.

Combine all these traits and we get an extremely aggressive, potentially streaky hitter with enough fly ball and hard contact to challenge for 30 home runs. The champion of this batting profile is Javier Baez. Another positive comp is Salvador Perez. However, there’s serious downside risk too. Of the many players who fail to make any sort of impression in the Majors with this approach – most wash out at Double- or Triple-A – Michael Taylor is one of the best. He’s built a career as a fourth outfielder around twin pillars of potential and athleticism. While Mountcastle could possibly fill a four-corners role early in his career, he feels destined to fall into a first base or designated hitter job long term. Perhaps he can stick in left field.

Worried about position are beyond the scope for now. He’s of fantasy relevance so long as he maintains premium BABIPs and especially if he starts hitting for more power. If he ever develops a modicum of discipline, he could even turn into a Nick Castellanos type.