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“Just Enough” Home Run Laggards: Impending Power Surge?

On Monday, I looked at the five hitters with the highest percentage of “Just Enough” (JE) home runs according to ESPN Home Run Tracker. Today, I will look at the other side of the coin, those hitters who have posted the lowest percentage of JE home runs, with a minimum of 10. The minimum is just to ensure our sample size isn’t too small. As a reminder, the latest data we are given for the league average JE percentage is 27% back in 2006. As such, we should expect these hitters to see an increased numbers of home runs that just get over the wall, leading to a rise in HR/FB ratio, all else equal.

Michael Cuddyer is the only hitter with at least 10 home runs who has yet to hit a JE shot. After following up his 32 home run campaign of 2009 with just 14 last season, he has seen his HR/FB ratio rebound by more than 50% this year. This is pretty impressive considering every single home run he has hit this year has been considered “Plenty” or a “No Doubter”. Given his history and lack of JE home runs, he might still have some additional power upside.

Carlos Pena got off to an excruciatingly slow start, hitting 0 home runs in April, while posting a .159 average. He has made up for it though with 7 home run May and June months and now his HR/FB ratio is right back in line with what was to be expected. Last season, 9 of his 28 home runs were of the JE variety, but to date he has just 1. When he was struggling in April, the talk was that he continued to hit warning shot bombs that fell just short. This seems to match up with his lack of JE home runs, and it would seem his luck in that department is due for a turn around.

We are still waiting for that enormous breakout we all know Justin Upton is capable of. Given his obvious prodigious power – he has hit the second longest home run in baseball this season – it would seem a 40 home run season is not too far away. With just 12 so far this year, it would obviously be quite difficult to reach 40 this year. But the best contact rate of his career, as well as a 44% fly ball rate and just 1 JE home run all suggest that he could enjoy a huge second half of the season. But if not, a huge full season is definitely coming, it is just a question of when.

Mark Trumbo has actually hit the third longest home run in baseball this year, just 6 feet shorter than Upton. After hitting 36 home runs in 532 at-bats at Triple-A last season, he clearly has a ton of power. Hit 15.6% HR/FB ratio is not as low as Upton’s, but he might be able to bump that up a smidge. Of course, he needs to do something about that pathetic .304 OBP first to ensure he continues receiving regular playing time.

Here is another reason to be bullish on Matt Joyce that was not mentioned by Eno Sarris. With an average home run distance barely better than the AL league average, it is rather surprising a couple more shots were not of the JE kind. That distance on its own does not give us much optimism of a power surge. But odds are he sees a couple more shots just squeak over the wall, pushing his HR/FB ratio up a bit.