Tellez's Rowdy Week

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On Thursday, the Wordle of the day was “homer.” It’s unknown if Wordle intended to refer to home runs, the Greek author, the cartoon icon, a certain type of sports fan, or a more esoteric definition. I used it as an opportunity to promote this column among my friends, many of whom are not baseball fans and had some trouble with solving the word. Ironically, the New York Times, which owns Wordle, will not publish the term “homer” in their flagship newspaper – at least not in the baseball context.

Returning to the topic at hand, sluggers managed just 174 home runs in the last week. Weather played a factor. Temperatures were down and several games were postponed. The leaguewide seasonal pace is just 4,492 home runs. Temperatures are due to warm up in the coming weeks.

Incidentally, research points to the new humidors – not changes or inconsistencies with the baseball – as the main culprit of the power outage. If true, then we should observe an acceleration in home run rates soon. Prior to the installation of humidors, baseball storage rooms tended to be warm and dry during cold weather months. When temperatures rise, those rooms became relatively cool and damp. The reason? Heating and air conditioning. Beginning sometime in June, the humidors should have a net positive effect for home run production.

Weekly Leaders

Rowdy Tellez, 4 HR
Manny Machado, 4 HR
6 Others, 3 HR

Last week’s Power Spotlight was very nearly about Tellez. I opted for Travis Demeritte only because Tellez has already appeared in the spotlight multiple times since I started the column in 2018. Tellez’s mashtastic tater casserole sealed his fate as a most-days starter. The Brewers even banished Keston Hiura to Triple-A. With seven dingers already in the bank, my home run projection model expects another 28 blasts over the remainder of the season. Notably, this projection assumes Tellez will start against left-handed pitchers too. Historically, he’s run a small platoon split so this shouldn’t be an issue.

Machado is proving unphased by changes to the baseball. He’s an early candidate for real and fantasy world MVP, amassing seven home runs, six steals, and a .382/.458/.657 batting line. As for the triple-dinger crowd, they’re all guys you’d expect to hit home runs: Byron Buxton, Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Kyle Schwarber, Eugenio Suarez, and Willy Adames. Since joining the Brewers, Adames has 28 home runs in 532 plate appearances – a pace of 34 homers per 650 plate appearances.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Byron Buxton, 43 HR
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 43 HR
Pete Alonso, 42 HR
Aaron Judge, 41 HR
Jose Ramirez, 41 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 40 HR
George Springer, 40 HR
Mike Trout, 40 HR
C.J. Cron, 40 HR
Joey Gallo, 39 HR

Slow starts from Salvador Perez and Shohei Ohtani have dropped them out of the Top 10. They’re just one good week away from reclaiming a spot. Gallo is running out of time to defend his place on this oh-so-important and extremely prestigious list. Rejoining the Top 10 are Schwarber and Cron. Schwarber mashed his way on while Cron simply didn’t fade as much as the others. Nolan Arenado, Perez, Yordan Alvarez, and Ohtani lurk just off-screen.

Injured

New

Jonathan India, hamstring, mid-May
Carlos Santana, ankle, mid-May
Miguel Sano, knee, late-June
Kyle Garlick, calf, late-May

India’s hamstring tightness returned, necessitating another step back to uncover the culprit. When Grade 1 strains recur, it can be a sign of an issue elsewhere in the kinetic chain i.e. some other muscle is too strong/weak and the hamstring is overcompensating.

The Royals might not mind Santana missing some time. They have quite a few corner infielders to test in the Majors. Then again, they’re wasting this opportunity by starting Ryan O’Hearn. Sano has a torn meniscus and will need about two months. It’s a chance to get him back on track after a deep slump to start the season. Garlick was hitting well in a limited role, one that was quite beneficial to the few fantasy managers who bothered to track his playing time.

Existing

Kris Bryant, back, mid-May
Mitch Haniger, ankle, late-June
Brandon Belt, COVID, soon
Wil Myers, thumb, mid-May
Luke Voit, biceps, early-May
Eloy Jimenez, hamstring, June
Clint Frazier, appendectomy, mid-May
Yoan Moncada, oblique, early-May
Fernando Tatis Jr., wrist, mid-June
Evan Longoria, finger, mid-May
Kyle Lewis, knee, late-May

Belt, Moncada, and Voit should return early this week with Myers not far behind them. Bryant and Longoria also could find their way back to the Majors. The public details of the rehab plans for Lewis and Haniger were amended to incorporate longer time tables. Seattle could really use them.

Returned

Jose Altuve, hamstring
Mike Yastrzemski, COVID
Luis Urias, quad
Teoscar Hernandez, oblique
Alex Kirilloff, wrist

The Blue Jays activated Hernandez today. Today also marks Kirilloff’s first game back. He’ll man first base. Wrist pain may continue to bother him, though doctors believe the joint is structurally sound – at least that’s what the Twins told the public. Urias returned after a fairly brutal rehab assignment. I want to see a pulse before I start him. Altuve is hitting .400/.526/.800 in 19 plate appearances since he was activated.

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Power Spotlight

Today’s spotlight shines a well-known veteran, Marlins “outfielder” Jorge Soler. Since his masterful 48-homer performance in 2019, Soler has compiled 887 plate appearances with a .217/.314/.418 batting line and 38 home runs. Basically, he’s been a league average hitter which generally rates as below average for fantasy purposes. For a second straight season, he’s off to an icy start, batting just .167/.279/.302 with three home runs in 111 plate appearances.

There’s good news to report. His exit velocities remain top-of-the-charts. He’s already produced a 117.6-mph batted ball, good for fourth-best in the league. There are a number of red flags which could just as easily be small sample fluctuations. His launch angle, barreled, and hard contact rates are below norms. The discrepancy amounts to two missing barrels and a handful of absent well-struck balls. It’s nothing to merit alarm just yet.

My advice is to buy low, especially if you can afford to plop him on the bench in the short term? Why bother? Consider last season. Through early-July when he began to catch fire, Soler batted just .183/.279/.309 in 307 plate appearances. The extent of the slump is both a warning and cause for optimism. Just when he seemed unplayable, he awakened to the tune of a .264/.355/.559 triple-slash over his final 295 plate appearances. He bashed 21 homers over the span. While he mostly produced those numbers after a trade deadline move to the Braves, he was beginning to smolder even before the trade.

Given the extent of his slump, the acquisition cost for Soler should be low in all formats. When deciding whether to pursue him, it’s essential you have somewhere you can stash him without damaging your stats. Once he shows some life, then you can try to use him.