MLB Star Power Index: In praise of Muncy roasting Bumgarner; Encarnacion's chances at 500 homers

Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly temperature reading that tells us which players are owning the baseball conversation right now. While one's presence on this list is often a positive, it's not necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you're capturing the baseball world's attention for one reason or another. The players listed are in no particular order. Thanks to Brad Botkin and our CBS Sports NBA compadres for letting us borrow the concept. 

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Edwin Encarnacion NYY • 1B •
BA.241
R48
HR21
RBI49
SB0

If there's such a thing as quietly getting to 400 career homers, then Edwin Encarnacion may have done. Did you realize he was at 400? Here's recent proof: 

Yep, 400. Color-television footage and everything. What stands out about Encarnacion's journey to 400 is the extent to which he ramped up his pace at age an age when decline is often setting in. Following his age-28 campaign, Encarnacion -- on his third organization -- was at 177 home runs in 786 games with an OPS+ of 104. Since that (somewhat conveniently selected) point, Encarnacion has piled up 284 home runs in 1,086 games with an OPS+ of 139. You'll also note that EE has been highly productive in this, his age-36 campaign. At this writing, he boasts an OPS+ of 141, and his 21 homers leads the AL. Given that and Seattle's non-contending status, Encarnacion's name could be heavily bandied about as we approach the July 31 trade deadline. 

But what about 500? Let's get a thumbnail idea of Encarnacion's chances of reaching that dinger milestone (#dingermilestone) by turning to a Bill James concoction called the Favorite Toy. The Favorite Toy takes inputs like the players age and recent performance trends in order to project a career total for the statistical category in question and also rate of his chances of reaching a given benchmark. It's a quick-and-dirty tool, to be sure, but it's sufficient for these purposes. 

In order to complete this exercise, we'll need to forecast EE's homer total for the current season. Fortunately, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) is there for those with nowhere left to turn. At this juncture, SportsLine tabs Encarnacion for 20 more home runs this season, which would give him 41 for the year. Plug the relevant data into the Favorite Toy, and here's what you get: 

  • Encarnacion is projected to play three more seasons after 2019. 
  • He's tabbed for 533 career home runs. 
  • He's given a 92 percent chance to reach 500. 

Encarnacion's contract includes a team option for 2020, so he's not technically locked up beyond the current season. However, given his still-elite power production, he's almost certain to remain employed at the MLB level for 2020 and likely beyond. As long as EE staves off steep and sudden decline, he should stick around long enough to become the 29th member of the 500 home run club. (We're presently at 27 members, and Miguel Cabrera with 468 and counting figures to get there before Encarnacion.) 

In righteous conclusion, please imagine 500 loyal and abiding parrots ... 

As though you weren't already imagining 500 loyal and abiding parrots. 

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Lucas Giolito CHW • SP • 27
ERA2.28
WHIP.92
IP75.0
BB22
K89

Lucas Giolito has been one of the pleasant surprises of 2019 thus far. The 24-year-old right-hander was acquired from the Nationals as part of the December 2016 trade that sent Adam Eaton to D.C. The Nats by that point had somewhat soured on Giolito despite his being a former No. 16 overall pick and at one point a consensus top five overall prospect. 

Giolito, though, failed to translate his skills to the highest level. That's hardly unusual for a young arm in his first crack at the bigs, but adding to the concern is that Giolito in 2016 lost velocity and struggled with his command and mechanics. So they traded him. Coming into this season, things hadn't gone much better for Giolito on the White Sox's watch. Indeed Giolito last season was in the discussion for worst starting pitcher in baseball. 

The 2019 season, though? In 2019, he's been one of the best in all of baseball. He boasts an ERA+ of 198, and he backs that up with AL-best FIP (or fielding-independent pitching) of 2.47. On top of all that Giolito this season has struck out more than 30 percent of opposing batters. That's an excellent figure for a starting pitcher, and it suggests the strides he's made are legitimate. 

So what's he done? First and foremost, he's back to sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball. He'll probably never again be the why who registered triple digits as an amateur, but he's added almost two full ticks relative to his 2017 and 2018 levels. He's also ditched his fledgling two-seamer while stepping up use of his fastball and changeup. Given his skills and headiness, it's not surprising that Giolito would adjust and then adjust to the adjustments. Credit to the White Sox for letting him pitch through his deep struggles of last season. For their efforts -- and his, of course -- they may have a young ace on their hands. 

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Ketel Marte ARI • CF • 4
BA.284
R42
HR17
RBI47
SB3

Ketel Marte, what are you doing? The Snakes' center fielder/middle infielder had a bit of power breakout in 2018, as he tallied 14 home runs versus a pre-2018 career total of eight in 249 games. He also last season paced the majors with 12 triples. In 2019, though, Marte has reached new heights, as he's right now sitting on 17 home runs through 64 games. That puts him on pace to threaten 40 taters for the year. 

Legit? Yeah, it seems to be. He's in the 77th percentile when it comes to average exit velocity, and his quality of contact is such that he's got an expected slugging percentage of .513, which isn't far off of his actual mark of .536. That suggests the pop is both earned and sustainable. 

He's a plus defender at multiple premium positions, and as a runner he's taken the extra base a strong 56 percent of the time this season. It's Marte's power that draws you, though. It arrived in torrents this season, all from a player who's listed at 165 pounds. Is he on pace to set the single-season record for home runs per pound of body weight? I have no idea, but yes. Let's say yes. 

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Max Muncy LAD • 1B • 13
BA.278
R41
HR15
RBI40
SB3

Sure, Max Muncy is on here because he's a darned good hitter. He's also on here because not so long ago he looked like a quad-A journeyman who, after washing out of the A's organization, probably wouldn't be good for more than an occasional cameo at the big-league level. He rebuilt and worked and willed his way through that, and now he's got 51 home runs in a little more than a full-season's worth of plate appearances on L.A.'s watch. So, yeah, he's Star Power-worthy for all of that, but he's also here because of this: 

Yeah, so Muncy took some low-90s trash on a tee and turned it around in a hurry. It hit the bay on the fly, and then Madison Bumgarner proceeded to overreact to what really wasn't much of a celebration on Muncy's part. The two exchanged words as Muncy made his way around the bases, and adult words were possibly spoken. 

Speaking of words, please marvel at Muncy's: 

First, if you go full-bore pedant and while wearing four-button spats that the bay is not the ocean, then report directly to supermax prison. Functioning society needs things, but it doesn't need you. Second, please longingly admire one of the great moments in sports trash talk in full bloom. Go get it out of the ocean

Is this already a t-shirt?

People, this is already a t-shirt. Is it already at least one other t-shirt?

People, it is already at least one other t-shirt. Have his words already been honored with inter-sports cross-pollination?

People, his words have already been honored with inter-sports cross-pollination. 

Also, did you notice in the video above when Muncy pointed at Bumgarner after he rounded third? All is not as it seems: 

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
USATSI

No, Muncy isn't pointing at the terminally irascible lefty. Rather, he's pointing at the gol-dang ocean -- i.e., the place Bumgarner should report to posthaste. 

"Yonder," Max Muncy's index finger says. "Yonder is where you should journey if you cannot confront what I have authored, if you feel you must repair from these defeated lands. Yonder lies your false respite, your fallen assumptions (so cherished merest moments ago). Yonder are the holy texts that shall fail to solace you. 

"Those yonder waters, moundsman."

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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