Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM) - Asdrubal Cabrera ruined Jason Hammel's night by hitting his 9th and 10th homeruns of the season. Before you go running to your waiver wire thinking you have the next "big" thing, consider that Cabrera has hit more than 16 homeruns just once in his 10 major league seasons. If this was 2005, we probably would have ended this piece on that statement and skipped over Cabrera on our waiver wire. Lucky for you, this isn't 2005. Today we have a multitude of our statistical measurement gems that can help us quantify the change in power we are seeing from Cabrera that helps us better understand what's real and what isn't. Yes, Cabrera has only hit more than 16 homeruns once before. Yes, Cabrera's average batted ball speed on his homeruns are just 100 MPH (3 MPH below the league average). But has Cabrera ever posted a hard hit rate of 35.7% before? Nope. Has Cabrera ever pulled the ball 50% of the time? Nope. It just so happens that when you pair the latter two statistics together, you can make up for a slower batted ball speed, which in turn can help you boost your HR/FB rate even if you lack the raw power (like Cabrera). If you have ever played little league baseball or slow-pitch softball, you know that it's easier to hit a homerun when you leverage your entire body and pull the ball. The same principle applies to major league batters who start pulling the ball more. Cabrera is showing signs of a very real change of approach at the plate, shifting from a contact oriented middle infielder seeking high average to a power-hitting middle infielder seeking run producer-like numbers (drop in contact rate, rise in chase rate, among the others mentioned previously). The home park is terrible for him, but there's a very real possibility that there's more power in Asdrubal Cabrera that what we normally would expect from a 30-year old shortstop with 110 career long balls.
Jay Bruce - Jon Heyman reported on Thursday night that Jay Bruce would be willing to waive his no-trade clause if he were dealt to the Indians. The Reds are certainly going to be sellers at the deadline and Bruce is a logical piece to be moved, but finding the right place for him has been a challenge. The Indians have been torrid over the last few weeks and in fact, they haven't lost a game since the Cavaliers won the NBA Finals. With a gaping hole in their outfield thanks to the multitude of injuries to Michael Brantley, Jay Bruce would fit in nicely on the Indians, who could use a little more pop in the middle of their lineup. Bruce is currently slashing .279/.325/.569 with a .302 BABIP. The BABIP is definitely higher than his career .288 mark, but his hard hit rate is also up 4% to 38% over his career average. Nonethless, the .279 batting average still seems a little high, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a little regression there. His 19% HR/FB rate is definitely propping up his 17 homeruns in the first half, and a move to the roomy Progressive Field may take a chunk out of those homerun totals a bit. Then again, based on the ballpark overlay on HitTrackerOnline, only 1 of Bruce's 17 homeruns wouldn't have cleared the fences in Cleveland.
Brandon Maurer (SD) - Padres manager Bud Black told the media on Friday that Brandon Maurer would get the first crack at save opportunities in San Diego with the departure of Fernando Rodney. So who is Brandon Maurer and should you care about him? The answer to that question is "it depends". Maurer isn't exactly a lights out reliever, so there's no guarantee he can take this job and run with it. He's primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, but he does mix in an above average change-up. The right-hander misses a ton of bats (12.6% swinging strike rate), but he walks 11% of the batters he faces (league avg is around 8%) and on top of that, batters hit the ball hard nearly 40% of the time they make contact against him. Knowing this, it's no wonder his strand rate is a really low 65% and his ERA is 5.75 (xFIP is still 4.03). Even though a lot of it can be based on hit sequencing, I hate targeting relievers with a low strand rate, especially if they also have a high strikeout rate. Generally players with high strikeout rates also have higher than normal strand rates because they get themselves out of jams. Ryan Buchter is another name to watch with this situation, but he has excelled in the 8th inning and he's left-handed, so Black may be more apt to keep him where he's dong well.
Odubel Herrera (PHI) - Odubel Herrera continues to stuff the box score each and every night. On Friday, Herrera went 2-for-4 with a homerun, a stolen base, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI. On the season, he's rocking a .306/.396/.439 line with 9 HRs, 46 R, 30 RBI, and 12 SB. Even more impressive is his 12.5% walk rate and 17.6% strikeout rate. Playing for the Phillies, he's flying a little under-the-radar, but his current pace puts him on a track very similar to the 2015 version of Mookie Betts. While he only hits the ball hard about 27.5% of the time, he hits the ball up the middle 38% of the time and to the opposite field 37% of the time, a combination that works very well for a speedster, like Herrera. I see very little reason to expect a steep drop-off in the second half.
Bud Norris (LAD) - Bud Norris dazzled in his Dodgers debut with 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, and 8 K. Norris was acquired from the Braves earlier this week after Clayton Kershaw went on the DL. Once viewed as a former top prospect, Norris failed to stick in either Houston or Baltimore, two very hitter friendly ballparks that didn't play nicely with his line drive/flyball tendencies. We've seen Norris post HR/FB rates above the league average for most of his career, so hopefully a move to roomy Dodger Stadium will help that number go down. In general, unfortunately, no ballpark will help his declining swinging strike rates, contact rates and chase rates. Norris has been a popular grab in many leagues and will be even more so after last night's performance, but I'm avoiding him in most 12-team standard mixed leagues.