Trade Deadline Power Fallout

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How about that trade deadline? Never before have so many high caliber players – both veterans and prospects – changed hands. What does this mean for home runs? Some specific individuals have gained or lost value. Big winners include Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo, and Patrick Wisdom. Gallo and Rizzo now have a new, friendlier home venue and a potent supporting cast. Wisdom is finally unchallenged for everyday reps. Counted among the potential losers are Javier Baez and the slew of outfielders acquired by the Braves. Baez must contend with Citi Field, a park which is among the most homer-suppressant in the league. Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario are stuck sharing up to three outfield spots with existing Braves Guillermo Heredia and Abraham Almonte. The four new acquisitions are all poor fits for center field, meaning they might be forced into strict handedness platoons in the outfield corners. For at least a couple weeks, there’s less pressure since Rosario is recovering from injury.

Generally, the increased concentration of good players on good teams means more offenses will benefit from network effects. Additionally, there are now more clubs with fragile pitching staffs. The upper minors were already tapped out of impact pitching talent. There aren’t any reinforcements to step up and stanch the bleeding. Expect home runs and lopsided scores to surge.

Against this backdrop of trading, sluggers continued to remorselessly pound baseballs. They launched 254 home runs in the league week, pumping the seasonal pace up to 5,847 dingers.

Let’s jump straight into the action.

Top Performances of the Week

Joey Votto, 9 HR
Austin Riley, 7 HR
Salvador Perez, 5 HR
6 Others, 4 HR
15 Others, 3 HR

We’ll skip the triple-dinger crew – they got left in the dust this week. Votto matched Kyle Schwarber for best single-week power performance. This may well be the hot streak that seals his eventual Hall of Fame induction. Perhaps the most (publicly) cerebral hitter of the last decade, Votto has produced career-highs in average and max exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard contact rate. His .278/.374/.563 batting line isn’t quite on par with his incredible peak, but it still stands as one of the top performances of this season. By one commonly used measure of hitter quality (wRC+), he ranks 14th in the league, tied with teammate Jesse Winker. Votto swings today for the Major League record of consecutive games with home runs.

Riley, who we profiled earlier in the Power Spotlight, is having his own fantastic campaign. It’s been a tale of four streaks – two cold and two red hot. The Braves cleanup hitter played in eight games this week. Ironically, the two ends of a doubleheader were the only games he did not homer. Perez would have led most weeks with his five-homer barrage. With Jorge Soler out of the picture in Kansas City, Perez could be primed for more designated hitter work. That should help to mitigate creeping fatigue associated with catching. There’s a reason even elite bat-first catchers rarely rank among the league leaders in home runs. The rigors of catching are inimical to power hitting.

The four-dinger club includes four you might expect and a couple pseudo-surprises. When the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Manny Machado, and Austin Meadows have themselves this sort of week, it’s just par for the course. As noted, Rizzo and Soler now have new homes. Meadows was in the hunt for the home run title early in the season. He ran afoul of a lengthy power slump. His current approach is prone to the sort of booms and busts associated with the likes of Schwarber and Joey Gallo. Since appearing in the Power Spotlight a few weeks back, Soler has hit six home runs in 46 plate appearances. Machado is on a binge of his own. Since early-June, he’s hitting .337/.393/.669 with 14 home runs in 191 plate appearances.

That leaves us with two more names to roll call, both of whom were traded this month. The first is Rowdy Tellez, a powerful and inconsistent first baseman who wore out his welcome in Toronto. After an initial slump upon joining the Brewers, he’s taken off in a big way. He’s hitting .448/.500/.931 in his last seven games. The other slugger of note is Abraham Toro. He was dealt mid-series, homering on July 26 against the Mariners then dealing blows to his former Astros teammates in the next two games. It’s an interesting tidbit overshadowed by the deadline.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, 37 HR, 53 projected
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 33 HR, 46 proj
Joey Gallo, New York Yankees, 25 HR, 43 proj
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, 27 HR, 42 proj
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, 31 HR, 39 proj
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, 26 HR, 39 proj
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox, 27 HR, 39 proj
Pete Alonso, New York Mets, 23 HR, 38 proj
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, 21 HR, 37 proj
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, 22 HR, 37 proj

Jared Walsh (injury) and Nelson Cruz tumbled off the list with Perez and Ramirez jumping to take their places. Tatis Jr. also slid down the projections due to another separated shoulder – the same one as earlier in the season. It’s never good to see a pattern emerge, especially for a player who dives as often as Tatis. He shook it off in record time earlier in the season. It’s also possible he’ll miss the remainder of the season. The proper recovery timeline is for at least six weeks and upwards of three months. Anything less risks reinjury and degradation of the joint – at least that’s what doctors tell me.

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Injured Sluggers

New

Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers, COVID, soon
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers, hip, early-August
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels, intercostal strain, late-August
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers, COVID, soon
Luke Voit, New York Yankees, knee, August

These are five HUGE names on the shelf with three more below who could well join them. Betts and the two COVID cases can be expected back in short order. Voit is essentially in pain-management mode. He likely needs surgery or else more rest than the 2021 season can allow. That leaves Walsh. The severity of his intercostal strain is unknown. It’s a difficult injury because it’s so easy to accidentally tweak. Even a cough or sneeze could set him back to square one.

Note: Devers has missed a couple games with a quad injury. He may require a brief stint on the injured list. Rhys Hoskins is also at risk of missing time with a groin strain. Tatis Jr. has yet to be placed on the list as of this writing. A 10-day break, at minimum, seems inevitable.

Existing

Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins, sprained elbow, out for season
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins, wrist surgery, out for season

Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds, hand, mid-August
Francisco Lindor, New York Mets, oblique, mid-August
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves, knee, out for season
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees, hand, August
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox, calf strain, late-August
Eddie Rosario, Atlanta Braves, abdominal strain, late-July
Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels, hamstring, early-August
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks, hamstring, mid-August
EmManuel Rivera, Kansas City Royals, broken hamate, August
Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates, fractured wrist, August
Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers, fractured forearm, September
Kyle Schwarber, Washington Nationals, hamstring strain, August
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, knee inflammation, early-August
Daniel Vogelbach, Milwaukee Brewers, hamstring, mid-August
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, fractured hand, August
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, quad, early-August
Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants, shoulder, early-August
Kyle Garlick, Minnesota Twins, hernia, status unknown
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers, separated shoulder, August
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners, knee, out for season?
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
Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds, heel soreness, August
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds, knee surgery, August
Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox, hip, August
Sam Huff, Texas Rangers, knee surgery, July as DH-only
Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers, knee surgery, season-ending

Senzel and Moustakas are on rehab assignment together and could be activated this week. Robert is also nearing a return to a suddenly loaded White Sox club. So too are Marte, Belt, Longoria, and Moran.

Returned to Action

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, COVID
Jazz Chisholm, Miami Marlins, shoulder
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, broken hand
Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox, torn pectoral
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins, groin, mid-July
Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks, broken wrist
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants, oblique

Of the seven sluggers to return, Kelly was the lone surprise. He wasn’t supposed to be recovered from his fractured wrist until September. Expected muted power with a risk of another IL-stint if he feels too much discomfort.

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

Power Spotlight

The question I asked myself this week is: “which lesser-known players benefited the most from the trade deadline.” The answer is three players. A fourth, Patrick Wisdom, feels like he belongs spiritually even if his early-season homer-tirade made him a (fantasy) household name.

The first winner has the brightest future – and perhaps the shakiest present. Nationals middle infield Luis Garcia was recalled on July 29 to indirectly cover for Trea Turner’s absence from the lineup. What was to be a brief sojourn on the IL has turned into a permanent trip out west. Garcia is positioned to step in full time after hitting .303/.371/.599 with 13 home runs in 159 Triple-A plate appearances. Despite failing out of the Majors last season, this was the first taste of Triple-A for the 21-year-old. He certainly rose to the challenge. For now, Garcia remains an overly aggressive ground ball hitter who matches particularly well against fly ball pitchers. Folks in 12-team mixed leagues and shallower can plan to stream him.

Surprisingly, the Astros decided to discard Myles Straw, lest Dusty Baker continue playing him over Chas McCormick. While McCormick has certainly earned an expanded role, the Astros are quite thin up the middle. This was a risky decision by the GM to out-flank the manager. There’s risk of this blowing up galaxy brain-style.

McCormick’s credentials are simple. He has league average exit velocities and 93rd-percentile sprint speed. His bat plays up because he hits a high quantity of pulled fly balls. Since his home venue is Minute Maid Park, all it takes is decent contact to deliver a home run. McCormick has modest five-category potential and his plate discipline is trending in a positive direction as he gains more experience. His 32 percent strikeout rate is ungainly, but he never posted worse than a 16.3 percent strikeout rate in the minors. There’s growth potential.

Last up is Brent Rooker who has stepped in as the Twins designated hitter in this post-Nellie era. Rooker already has four home runs in 61 plate appearances buttressed by 19 home runs in 265 Triple-A plate appearances. He’s a classic high-whiff power hitter with enough fly ball contact to put up a 30-homer pace. He has more patience than others of this profile like Franmil Reyes. Other passable comps include the 2021 version of Matt Chapman, Adolis Garcia, Hunter Dozier.