They're Heating Up

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Offense of virtually every flavor improved over the last week. Batters hit for a higher average, struck out less, and mashed more taters. Overall, 195 home runs were hit, raising the seasonal pace to 4,571. In recent seasons, it was common for leaguewide homer totals to regularly check in around 230 per week. Hitters still have a ways to go before they catch up to the heady paces of 2018-2021. They have four-fifths of the season to dig their way out of this hole.

Weekly Leaders

Giancarlo Stanton, 5 HR
Colin Moran, 4 HR
13 Others, 3 HR

Stanton doesn’t hit half-measure home runs. When they go, they leave in a hurry. He’s absolutely locked in with eight dingers in his last 62 plate appearances. Teammate Aaron Judge – who likes exactly the same sorts of pitchers as Stanton – has binged for nine homers over the same time period. It’s a sign their recent opponents have not adequately game-planned for the pair. Stanton is now on a 50-homer pace. In a moment, we’ll see if that’s enough to get him on the Top 10 Projected list.

Moran is a roughly league average hitter whose fantasy output has always been weighed down by PNC Park. Swapping home venues for Great American Ball Park is a huge bonus for Moran. A .222 BABIP has tamped down his overall batting line. While he shouldn’t be viewed as a huge source of power, he could exceed 20 home runs for the first time in his career. He’s a perfectly viable temporary starter in 12-team mixed formats.

Of the 13 triple-dinger performances, five came from players who aren’t regularly featured in this column. They are Jean Segura, Brandon Drury, Josh Naylor, Brad Miller, and Gavin Sheets. Even of this group, the last three have made plenty of appearances on these pages. Naylor was in the Power Spotlight earlier in the season. He still projects for a pace of roughly 30 home runs per 650 plate appearances. Naylor is currently on the COVID-list.

Miller and Drury have written second acts as supporting actors. Dating back to 2019, Miller has 45 home runs over 798 plate appearances. Of course, that success has included careful usage against mostly right-handed pitching. Drury saw his hard contact rate spike in a small sample with the Mets last season. This year, he’s producing career-best hard and barreled contact rates. While I’m inclined to expect regression, it’s worth noting he’s still just 29. A late-career breakout is always possible in this era.

This past offseason, my scouting sources urgently recommended I divest myself of Sheets in dynasty leagues. They were nonplussed with his hitting ability, believing his .250/.324/.506 line from last season exceeded his ceiling. Projection systems don’t exactly disagree, offering lines ranging from nine percent below to seven percent above league average. For someone who was supposed to be a part of a top offense, that won’t cut it from the designated hitter slot. However, the White Sox haven’t exactly thrived. For now, he’s a regular contributor who bats fifth or sixth most days.

Segura has been a consistent profit source in fantasy for years. His standout category is batting average which tends to be underappreciated. Unlike others who hit for a high average, he contributes a bit in every category while qualifying for second base – a position which is forgiving to modest home run totals. Segura seems locked in at the moment, hitting .565/.643/1.000 over his last seven games. I don’t have any reason to believe it’s more than a hot streak.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Pete Alonso, 44 HR
Byron Buxton, 43 HR
Aaron Judge, 43 HR
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 43 HR
Mike Trout, 41 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 40 HR
Yordan Alvarez, 40 HR
Giancarlo Stanton, 40 HR
Hunter Renfroe, 39 HR
George Springer, 39 HR

The early season jockeying for position on my coveted Top 10 list continues. Alonso, Judge, Trout, Alvarez, and Renfroe were among those who hit three home runs in the last week. Alonso narrowly edged Buxton for the top spot (43.51 HR for Alonso to 43.37 for Buxton). Judge and Trout moved up a couple spots too while Alvarez and Renfroe leapt back onto the list. Joining them is Stanton who is now on pace for 50 home runs. Remember, pace and projection are not the same.

Falling from the Top 10 are Jose Ramirez (11th), Joey Gallo (13th), and C.J. Cron (14th). Shohei Ohtani (12th) is also lurking right below the fold. Depending on how much time Springer misses with his ankle sprain, they’re all a threat to jump right back up there next week.

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Injured

New

Ryan Mountcastle, wrist, late-May
Joey Votto, COVID, soon
Josh Naylor, COVID, soon
Andrew McCutchen, COVID, soon
Carlos Correa, finger, soon
Mitch Garver, elbow, late-May

Correa is expected to return when first eligible on May 16. Mountcastle and Garver are dealing with wrist and elbow strains, both of which are being downplayed as minor injuries. The speed with which they resume baseball activities will indicate how long they’ll be sidelined. Votto has been out with COVID long enough to require a rehab stint. He can probably use it too, he was off to a rough start.

Keep an eye on Springer. He isn't expected to miss much time with an ankle sprain.

Existing

Miguel Sano, knee, late-June
Kyle Garlick, calf, late-May
Jonathan India, hamstring, mid-May
Kris Bryant, back, mid-May
Mitch Haniger, ankle, late-July
Eloy Jimenez, hamstring, June
Clint Frazier, appendectomy, mid-May
Fernando Tatis Jr., wrist, mid-June
Kyle Lewis, knee, mid-May

Jimenez believes he is ahead of pace and will return in early June. Haniger updated the media on the severity of his injury, indicating a return around the All-Star Break is the goal. That’s a slower timetable than originally expected. Tatis has yet to resume swinging or throwing. If he hasn’t by next week, his timetable moves back.

Now is the time to stash Kyle Lewis. He’s making short work of Triple-A pitching on his rehab assignment and Jarred Kelenic was optioned to the minors yesterday. Lewis should return soon.

Returned

Wil Myers, thumb
Luke Voit, biceps
Carlos Santana, ankle
Brandon Belt, COVID
Yoan Moncada, oblique
Evan Longoria, finger

The Padres received a pair of reinforcements and signed Robinson Canó too. Voit contributed a double-dinger on Wednesday. Myers homered on Friday. The Giants also recovered two useful players from the injured list, neither of whom have homered yet. Moncada looks like his normal self, albeit with a couple extra swinging strikes. Santana returned to the lineup and hit cleanup. Despite a .152 batting average, he remains a useful player in OBP formats (.317 OBP). Use him for this weekend series at Coors Field.

Power Spotlight

Last week’s spotlight focused on a slumping slugger, Jorge Soler. His former teammate, Adam Duvall, is in an even deeper slump. He’s batting just .200/.260/.304 in 127 plate appearances. His two home runs fail to make up for strike outs in nearly one-third of plate appearances.

Despite this, Duvall seems to be fine. He doesn’t have much internal competition to worry about losing playing time. He’s a quality defender which helps him to stay in the lineup through slumps. More importantly, he’s continued to hit the ball hard at a high average launch angle. Those fly balls are dropping into gloves, but it’s only a matter of time before he starts hammering multi-homer weeks.

Duvall projects to hit roughly 34 home runs over the remainder of the season. That, of course, comes with caveats. Playing time could become more truncated when Eddie Rosario returns, especially if Travis Demeritte still merits regular starts. The Braves tend to be active on the trade market too. Fantasy managers should be leery of his batting average, minimal stolen base totals, and tepid run production. He’s purely a home run and RBI play. While he’s slumpy, he can probably be used as a waiver wire streamer in 12-team mixed formats.