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May 23, 2011
In a season where offense is tough to come by, fantasy owners are looking in every nook and cranny and under every rock looking for power. Power hitters can effect three of the scoring categories in one swing of the bat, hence the premium price for it on draft day. The quick and dirty way to find power sleepers has traditionally been to look at players’ Isolated Power score, and find those batters who had a score of .200 or better. However, that is just one way to find your surprise power, because an attractive ISO this time of year may not be sustainable based on other peripherals. Here are a few players that are going to pop up on your ISO radar as you go searching for help.
Alex Avila , Detroit Tigers
Looking at 300 plate appearances is enough sample size to judge that particular ratio, according to the work presented by Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin in The Book, so it is reasonable to assume Avila’s rate will come down a bit. In fact, if we go back to 2010 to get 300 plate appearances, Avila has hit nine home runs in his last 76 plate appearances which computes to a 12 percent rate. Avila already has six home runs, but he may not hit ten the rest of the way through the season.
Matt Joyce , Tampa Bay Rays
Over his past 300 plate appearances, Joyce’s home run to fly ball ratio has been 12 percent, more in line with his overall 2010 effort than his current pace in 2011. A mix of an inflated home run to fly ball rate as well as a .412 BABIP will make it tough for Joyce to sustain his current production in both the power and the average departments, making him more of a sell candidate than a buy candidate at this time.
Russell Martin, New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium does not get all of the credit here as Martin has hit four home runs on the road and four at home; overall, he has been more productive on the road. He hit six home runs in his first 16 fly balls but has hit just two more home runs in his last 21 fly balls so his rate is already starting to cool off. He is on pace to potentially eclipse his previous season high of 19 home runs (back from 2007), but the early home run binge is looking more like an outlier, meaning he will likely end up with double of what he has right now.
Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals
This is the same Francoeur that is playing for his fourth team since the 2009 season, but here he is with 22 extra base hits including eight home runs and a .229 ISO, 40 points higher than anything he has done in previous seasons. In 2005 and 2006, Francoeur had home run to fly ball rates of 17 and 15 percent, but that rate was between seven and ten percent from 2007 to 2010.
This season, he has rediscovered that 15 percent rate, so there are two diverging thoughts in play here. One is that he has done this before and he should be able to do it again while the other thought is that his rate is roughly one-third higher than what he has done in his previous 300 plate appearances. The rest of his metrics are in line with his career norms, so any fantasy undoing Francoeur is going to have will happen if he cannot maintain this home run to fly ball rate.
Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
Before this season, his highest home run to fly ball ratio was 19 percent, over fewer than 200 plate appearances in 2005. Since then, he has been somewhere between 12 and 15 percent, with a career rate of 13 percent. This season, his ratio has ballooned up to 23 percent, but this is not a new trend. You will recall that he had extra time with hitting coach Kevin Long last year to rework his old approach at the plate, one that left him susceptible to left-handed pitching. Since then, the results have been rather dramatic. If we go back to last season and look at his home run to fly ball rate by month, we get: nine, zero, 13, 10, 15, and 28 percent.
If you combine his final 117 plate appearances from last year with the 186 he has had in 2011, we get a 25 percent home run to fly ball rate, slightly better than what he has done in 2011. Of all of the hitters reviewed in this piece, Granderson’s efforts, in theory, should be the most sustainable given that his current performance is not any kind of flukish short-term success.