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Let’s talk big flies. I’m not talking about those pesky insects that buzz around your picnic but rather the dinger, tater, long ball, round tripper. You know, the home run.
What follows is a list of 10 players on the verge of making a category impact in homers. We’ll leave out guys like Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano but we won’t get too obscure either. These are well known players that may be disappointing so far but should bust out the whopping stick sooner than later. As a matter of fact, a couple went deep as the column was being composed.
But first, let’s keep in mind power in general is waning. We used to talk about 30-HR hitters like they grew on trees but they are becoming a rare breed. In 2011 there were 24 players with at least 30 homers with 27 in 2012. This may seem like a lot but it’s less than one per team. Last season, the count plummeted to just 14. The point being, acquiring one of the few true sluggers can make a significant impact on your category totals. The top to bottom distribution is more tightly bunched with fewer balls leaving the yard.
Curtis Granderson, New York Mets – After missing most of last season, a slow start isn’t surprising for Granderson. His strikeout and walk rates are right at career norms which is a good thing. Troubling is fewer flies and a HR/FB below league average. Look for that to turn around as the weather warms in the northeast. Projected rest-of-season – 20 HR.
Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox – After being expected to platoon with Alejandro De Aza, the injury to Avisail Garcia has availed full time run for Viciedo. With regular playing time in 2012, Viciedo knocked 25 out of the yard but followed up with only 14 last year. As expected, an unusually high 21 percent HR/FB in 2012 dropped to a mark around league average last year. When in his prime Viciedo should project to above average power though the number of actual homers will be tempered until he raises his 35 percent fly balls. Especially since The Cell is homer-friendly, it won’t be long before Viciedo get the power stroke back. Projected rest-of-season – 15 HR.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians – Once we get past the likelihood Santana isn’t going to be the hitter once expected, what’s left isn’t too bad (especially in on-base leagues). His whiffs are up a bit though his walk rate is exceptional. Santana’s HR/FB is a bit low but what’s really croaking his pop is a paucity of balls put in the air. Anecdotally, the position chance could be a factor but chances are he just hasn’t gotten in a grove yet. The 27 bombs he swatted on 2011 are optimistic but the 19 he has averaged the past two seasons are well within expectations. Projected rest-of-season – 16 HR.
Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays – Joyce historically kills righties and should be back to his usual ways soon enough. All his metrics are within career norms except a HR/FB about four percent lower than usual. Joyce has ended the past three campaigns with homers in the high teens and he should do so again. Projected rest-of-season – 15 HR.
Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks – This could be a little heart sneaking in and interfering with the head but Hill has shown 25-plus HR power in the past. Health is usually the issue and at least now, Hill is fine. He’s lofting his usual high number of balls into the air; his HR/FB is down. Chase Field favors homers so as long as Hill can avoid the injury bug, power is on the way. Projected rest-of-season – 15 HR.
Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays – Granted, Lind’s inclusion may seem unfair since he just returned from the DL but it’s more a reminder that he’s an underappreciated source of cheap power that is often overlooked. The reason for this could be the sour taste left from the nightmare that was 2012 when Lind was sent to Triple-A and only had 11 homers for the season. However, after pounding 35 in ’09, Lind followed with 23 in ’10, 26 in ’11 and 23 last season. Another 20-HR season is well within the realm of possibility. Projected rest-of-season – 19 HR.
Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox – Strikeouts are still an issue but at least so far, Middlebrooks is taking more walks which often translates into power. His HR/FB is slightly above average but that’s lower than his usual baseline in the high teens. The weather is warming so the visits to the Monster seats should be more frequent. Projected rest-of-season – 18 HR.
Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals – Absolutely everything is right at career expectations save an anemic HR/FB of five percent. Holliday’s recent marks have been 18.5 percent in 2011, 16.4 percent in 2012 and 15.0 percent last year. Sure, it’s declining but five percent is too precipitous a drop; bet on a rebound into the low teens. Projected rest-of-season – 16 HR.
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians – Swisher is almost a mirror image of Holliday in that all the skills are right where they should be except a paltry four percent HR/FB as compared to a career make better than three times higher. Always bet on history. Projected rest-of-season – 15 HR.
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals – Gordon has knocked at least 20 over the wall two of the past three seasons. With only one so far, 3-of-4 seasons could be difficult but a two percent HR/FB will correct to Gordon’s normal league average mark. Projected rest-of-season – 15 HR.