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Homer Report

Trevor Story Awakens

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: May 22, 2022, 11:39 pm ET

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Now we’re back to our recent home run standards. This time last week, sluggers were on pace to hit 4,571 home runs. After bopping 220 over the previous seven days, the pace has risen to 4,735. If this continues, we should see somewhere around 5,500 home runs this season. Hopefully, you banked a strong foundation in your pitching statistics because the bats are coming!

Weekly Leaders

Trevor Story, 5 HR
Kole Calhoun, 5 HR
Christian Walker, 4 HR
Marcell Ozuna, 4 HR
7 Others, 3 HR

What a week for Story! When we last convened, he was hitting .202/.276/.294 which equated to 34 percent below league average. There was widespread concern the Red Sox invested in a broken player. Fast-forward just six games, and he’s batting .231/.315/.431 good for 15 percent above league average. That’s quite the value swing. Much of the improvement occurred on Thursday night when he delivered a triple-dinger as part of a four-hit, five-run, seven-RBI tirade. He even stole a base. In fact, he stole four bags in the last week! Nor was this a case of just one good game. He also hit a grand slam on Friday.

Calhoun has his own version of the Story story. Last week, he was batting .205/.241/.277 – 47 percent below league average. Now he’s swatting .243/.293/.458 which rates as 20 percent above average. We’ve seen these streaky binges from Calhoun before. Clamber aboard the wagon while he’s red hot and jump off once he cools.

Walker binged for power in the 2019 juiced ball season. It initially looked like an outlier in a mostly powerless career. This season, he’s rewriting the script with 10 home runs in 158 plate appearances. His barreled contact rate is among the best in the league, and he hits more than enough fly balls to continue his power surge as long as he continues producing high quality contact.

Like Story and Calhoun, Ozuna had a pitiful .203/.246/.336 triple-slash a week ago. After six big games, he’s up to .224/.268/.414. While not exactly thriving, that’s respectable output for a slugger. He’s one more good week away from his career norms. While his peripherals aren’t quite on par with his spicy 2020 campaign, I see no reason to expect less than something like his 2018-2019 output.

Among the three-homer crowd, we have a mix of expected and unexpected contributors. It’s no surprise seeing Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, or Jorge Soler. Nor are Bobby Witt Jr. or Anthony Santander surprising inclusions here. Josh Rojas and David Peralta went bananas on Friday. Peralta had a triple-dinger game while Peralta pitched in his own double-dinger. Peralta is a swing-change guy who’s worth an investment in anything deeper than 12-team mixed. Rojas is useful for his positional flexibility and modest production across all five categories.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Aaron Judge, 44 HR
Pete Alonso, 44 HR
Byron Buxton, 43 HR
Mike Trout, 41 HR
Jose Ramirez, 40 HR
Yordan Alvarez, 39 HR
Giancarlo Stanton, 39 HR
Hunter Renfroe, 39 HR
Shohei Ohtani, 39 HR
Kyle Schwarber, 39 HR

Judge claimed the top spot on our projected leaderboard with another good week. Rejoining the list are Ramirez and Ohtani. George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. dropped off. I’ve readjusted Vladito’s projections to account for the lower fly ball and contact rates he’s produced this season. As we only have his early seasons and explosive 2021 to judge, we don’t yet have a complete picture of his “normal” statistical outputs. There’s far more variance in his projection than with a veteran like Judge or Alonso. Thus, a good week or two might lead me to walk back the adjustments I’ve made today.

Injured

New

Austin Meadows, illness, late-May
Salvador Perez, thumb, late-May
Willy Adames, ankle, late-May
LaMonte Wade, knee, early-June
Tyler O’Neill, shoulder, late-May
Brandon Lowe, back, late-June

Quite a few notable hitters landed on the injured list this week. Fortunately, only Lowe is expected to miss much more than the minimum. He’s dealing with a stress reaction in his back which sounds like a generic way of describing an injury with which I’m personally familiar. The L4 and L5 vertebrae are prone to stress fractures. The treatment is to build core strength which has the happy consequence of improving play.

A catcher can’t catch with a sprained left thumb. Perez could return as a designated before he’s ready to resuming catching. Meadows is experience what’s being termed as an illness. The symptoms are the same as post-concussion syndrome. While we’re not aware of a concussive event for Meadows, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. It doesn’t even need to be recent – PCS can recur at any time.

O’Neill has a shoulder impingement which usually isn’t too serious for non-pitchers. He might need some designated hitter time before returning to the field. A rehab stint in Triple-A might be advisable to get his bat going again.

Adames has a simple sprain. Wade’s knee inflammation is mildly concerning.

Existing

Ryan Mountcastle, wrist, late-May
Miguel Sano, knee, late-June
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

Bryant is expected to return today. Lewis has almost completed a full 20-day rehab. He has to be activated by Monday if not sooner. Fortunately, he appears to be ready. He hit .324/.410/.647 in 39 Triple-A plate appearances complete with three home runs, a 10.3 percent walk rate and 15.4 percent strikeout rate.

The latest timetable for Tatis has him set to return in late-June. Historically, he’s shattered any timetables set on his behalf, though this isn’t the sort of injury that can be rushed.

Returned

Mitch Garver, elbow
Kyle Garlick, calf
Andrew McCutchen, COVID
Carlos Correa, finger
Joey Votto, COVID
Josh Naylor, COVID

Three COVID-havers and three Twins (one former) returned from injury this week. In deference to Correa, the Twins optioned Royce Lewis. He’s now making starts at third base. Votto doubled in his first game back following a rehab stint where he made alterations to his swing.

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Power Spotlight

The timing wasn’t quite right to put the spotlight on Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman. Adley Rutschman is getting the call, but he’s more of an all-around talent than a power hitter. Following the explosions of Story, Calhoun, and Ozuna, let’s briefly check in on a few other sluggers who got off to icy cold starts. These are guys who could salvage their seasons with one big week. We covered Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall recently, so let’s skip over them. They’re buys for home runs if you can stomach the accompanying low batting averages.

Max Muncy has just three home runs in 144 plate appearances. He did something like this last season before alighting for 33 home runs over his final 476 plate appearances. His outburst began on May 5 last year. The light bulb needs to click on soon. For now, he’s being too passive. A 20.1 percent walk rate is too many walks for a hitter of his talents.

As mentioned above, Votto worked on a swing overhaul while on rehab. He’s yet to homer in 94 plate appearances. We’ll see if the new approach bears fruit or if he’s reaching the end of the line. The 2023 season is his final guaranteed campaign of his long contract with the Reds.

Citizens Bank Park plays similarly to Great American Ballpark from a home run perspective so it’s not as if joining Philadelphia affected our expectations for Nick Castellanos. Still, many of us hoped for more than five home runs through 159 plate appearances. His quality of contact is down slightly – not enough to think anything has changed. He’s still producing plenty of loft too. Some huge weeks lie ahead.

Last up is Nelson Cruz who has just four home runs through 154 plate appearances. Cruz’s plate discipline remains static, and he’s making plenty of hard contact. The issue is a career-worst launch angle. Basically, he’s hitting too many ground balls. I’m buying low. I think he’ll solve his ground ball woes soon.