Michael Busch Homers in Five Straight: Ryan’s Reflections

by Ryan Kirksey
Alec Burleson Takes Over St. Louis

Chicago Cubs first baseman Michael Busch took a second-inning pitch from Merrill Kelly and deposited it near the swimming pool of left-center field of Chase Field on Monday night. Immediately, the headlines screaming "Michael Busch Homers in Five Straight Games" began flying around social media as Busch joined Christopher Morel, Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, and Hack Wilson as the only Cubs players to ever accomplish that feat. After hitting that home run (his sixth on the season), Busch has now established himself as one of the best power hitters on the season. But can it continue and what will Busch do over the next five months?

Michael Busch has only been a Chicago Cub since January 12th, 2024. In a preseason trade, the Cubs traded highly-rated pitcher Jackson Ferris and another prospect to the Dodgers for Michael Busch and reliever Yency Almonte.

Since the Dodgers have Freddie Freeman at first for the foreseeable future, there was not much need for Busch in the Dodgers system. But considering Jackson Ferris has a 7.11 ERA in High-A ball this year and Busch has six bombs, I bet Los Angeles would rethink this trade if they could.

After his home run barrage, Michael Busch is rostered in most fantasy leagues (although just 66% in Yahoo leagues entering Monday's game). He is at the absolute peak of his value right now, so trading for him will likely cost you more than he is worth. If you're holding Michael Busch, should you expect this home run binge to continue? Let's dive into MLB's hottest hitter to see what to expect.

Michael Busch Homers in Five Straight Games

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Michael Busch showed prodigious power through the high levels of the minor leagues in the Dodgers' organization. Beginning with AA in 2021, Busch had three straight seasons with more than 20 home runs, including 32 in 2022 and 27 in 2023 before getting a 27-game cup of coffee in the Major Leagues last year. He was always a 35%-40% flyball hitter before coming up to the big leagues. Consistently, more than 65% of his balls in play were pulled to the left or hit to straightaway center field.

Busch learned to supplement his power with an uncanny patience at the plate. He never had below a 10% walk rate once he passed rookie ball and that is a skill that has followed him every step of the way. One of Busch's greatest strengths has been his ability to discern the best pitches to use his powerful stroke on and maximize the output. Busch would struggle in his 81 plate appearances last year (.167/.247/.292 with two bombs home runs). However, the change of scenery and solidified job has brought his power roaring back to life.

On the season, Busch (still just 26 years old) is among the league leaders in almost every hard-hit measurement, according to Baseball Savant. His 19.4% barrel rate and 93.1 average exit velocity are among the best in the league. His expected slugging percentage (XLSG, .756) shows that his real-life number of .760 this season is no fluke. And just like he did in the minors, his 10% walk rate followed him into the season. He is also only striking out 25% of the time (33% last season).

What else has contributed to Busch's powerful debut is his commitment to pulling the ball when he hits it hard. Below is a spray chart of Busch's hits heading into Monday night's game. His sixth home run of the season was also to left-center field and you can see seven of his eight extra-base hits have been to that side. The hard hits, combined with a pull-heavy approach, Busch may have unlocked the secret to keeping his power display running all year.

Michael Busch could have the potential to see more power emerge this season. The pieces are in place for a very special season ahead.

What to Expect From Michael Busch the Rest of 2024?

Will Michael Busch homer in the Cub's next 148 games to finish the season? Of course not. But is this a Chris Shelton in 2006 type of thing, or can Busch reach 30+ home runs this season? Just looking at the numbers that are available to analyze through three weeks, this could be legit.

The first thing to check is batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Right now, Busch's number is .355. The Major League average this year is .294, so Busch is high, but not so high that we would expect a steep drop-off. Busch has been able to maintain a high BABIP because of his good eye (10% walk rate), which allows him to only swing at the best pitches. As mentioned before, Busch has lowered his strikeout rate from 33% last year to 25% this year.

His flyballs are up from 33% last season to 47% this year. His HR/FB rate of 29% is about double what power hitters normally have, so that will inevitably come down. However, with only a 25% groundball rate this year, the line drives and fly balls will propel extra-base hits. Busch has improved his barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and max exit velocity and is approaching numbers in those categories that match his most powerful days in the minors.

It will be his power that keeps fantasy managers happy this year. But it's the little things that the Cubs are falling in love with. In the 11th inning on Monday, Busch showed his batting eye, drawing a walk and setting up the go-ahead run being driven in. He didn't try to do too much and win the game himself. He got a runner moved over, setting up the Nico Hoerner game-changing hit.

Michael Busch, Christopher Morel, and Nico Hoerner make up the exciting young core of the Cubs. These young guys pair well with Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, and Ian Happ to represent a lethal Chicago offense. So while there are signs Busch's pace will slow down some, the Cubs might have found their next great power hitter in trade from Los Angeles. If Busch is available in your league, run to grab him off waivers immediately.

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