10 2017 HR/FB Decliners

On Monday, I introduced my new Statcast fueled batter xHR/FB rate, adjusted for home park, and then yesterday, I shared a list of six batters with significant HR/FB rate upside for 2017, given the gap between their 2016 xHR/FB rate and actual HR/FB rate. Today I’ll discuss 10 hitters with major downside.

First, a reminder — this was a crazy year for power. The leaguewide homer surge made it a little more difficult for the equation to work well, so as a group, batters outperformed their xHR/FB rate. Obviously, everyone didn’t get lucky! So if you manually run an xHR/FB rate on a player and see he overperformed by 2%, that’s not really a big deal. The below list includes just the most extreme overperformers, giving us lots of cushion if this league HR/FB rate spike is repeated.

2017 Home Run Decliners
Name Pull% + Oppo% Brls/BBE  HR/FB Park Adj xHR/FB HR/FB – Park Adj xHR/FB
Gary Sanchez 64.0% 18.8% 40.0% 27.3% 12.7%
Ryan Braun 57.7% 10.2% 28.8% 16.4% 12.4%
Jung Ho Kang 56.7% 9.7% 23.3% 14.6% 8.7%
Keon Broxton 51.4% 11.1% 25.7% 17.1% 8.6%
Domingo Santana 62.5% 12.1% 27.5% 19.1% 8.4%
Tyler Naquin 63.5% 8.0% 22.2% 13.9% 8.3%
Christian Yelich 59.6% 10.2% 23.6% 15.3% 8.3%
Willson Contreras 62.8% 9.4% 23.5% 15.6% 7.9%
Jonathan Villar 58.8% 6.4% 19.6% 11.9% 7.7%
Max Kepler 63.4% 3.6% 15.2% 7.8% 7.4%

Well whaddya know, it’s none other than Gary Sanchez at the top! Technically, two hitters were above him on the list (Alex Avila and Dae-Ho Lee), but he was the first name you actually care about. Funny, he was fourth on the 2015-2016 Brls/BBE leadeboard as well. So ignoring the question of whether this level of power is sustainable, it’s clear he showed a monstrous amount of it. However, that doesn’t mean it should equate to a 40% HR/FB rate. No one has those skills! But even a 27.3% mark is sky high and I wouldn’t bet a dime that even that is sustainable over an entire season.

Who would have thought that Ryan Braun, dealing with so many injury issues in recent years, including the always scary back injury, would easily set a new career high in HR/FB rate?! Braun’s Brls/BBE actually declined slightly from 2015 and his Pull% + Oppo% dropped as well, yet his HR/FB rate jumped by 8%. He has literally no chance of a repeat. However, bet on that FB% rebounding, which would help offset some of that HR/FB regression.

Jung Ho Kang pulled the same thing as Braun, as both components of my xHR/FB rate equation dropped marginally, yet his HR/FB rate surged. Though that’s obviously bad news, the good news is that his FB% rocketed nearly 10% and now he’s at a more normal power hitter level.

Keon Broxton recorded just 244 plate appearances, but his 600 PA pace would have put him at 22 homers and…56 steals! That would be cool if that power output was any bit for real, but sadly, it was not. Then again, even at his xHR/FB rate, he’d still be at a 15 homers pace to go along with all those steals. He’s going to need to cut down on all those strikeouts, but luckily, he showed excellent patience, boosting his OBP, and his awesome defense should keep him in the lineup. He’s an intriguing one for this season.

I was a fan of Domingo Santana last season, but injuries limited him to just 281 plate appearances. His xHR/FB metrics are excellent…just not excellent enough to justify a HR/FB rate nearing 30%. Also, he needs to hit more fly balls.

Man, where’d that power come from Tyler Naquin?! On the surface, he appears to be an exciting fantasy prospect for this year, contributing power and some speed as well. But all is not what it seems as his minor league stats suggested none of this, while his Brls/BBE was on par with guys like Adam Jones, Carlos Correa, and Victor Martinez, all of whom posted HR/FB rate marks in the mid-teens, not above 20%. But I’m not sure that Brls/BBE level is even sustainable to begin with!

I’ve been waiting for that Christian Yelich power spike, but this far exceeded even my expectations! He did double his Brls/BBE, which is fantastic, but it’s still not enough to support a mid-20% HR/FB rate mark. And now he’s into single digits in steals, so he needs that power to sustain top tier fantasy value. That his homers are now at risk of decline, he’s a surprise candidate to disappoint his owners.

Wil(l)son! Willson Contreras came out of nowhere to bust out the power, beginning in Triple-A and then translating to the Majors. But it wasn’t totally real and now he’s being drafted as the fourth catcher off the board. He also needs to hit more fly balls, and assuming he hits at the bottom of the order, his run production ain’t going to justify that cost.

Jonathan Villar probably helped many teams win a championship last year, but naturally, his performance was seemingly aided by Lady Luck. That Brls/BBE of 6.4%? Exactly league average. He shared that level with power luminaries such as Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rendon, and Howie Kendrick, all of whom posted HR/FB rates between 10% and 11%. Since he’s also not going to BABIP .373 again, more than just his homer total is going to come crashing down in 2017. He also stinks defensively. Think that’s too much risk to select 21st overall? Yeah, I agree.

Time to remove Max Kepler from your sleeper lists folks. Check out that tiny Brls/BBE! He had no business posting a double digit HR/FB rate, let alone a mid-teens one. Who else posted a Brls/BBE mark around 3.6% you ask? Yonder Alonsoo, J.J. Hardy, and Josh Reddick, with a high of an 8% HR/FB rate between the three of them. He’s no more than a bottom tier outfield option in 12-team mixed leagues.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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7 years ago

If you’re drafting Villar on the basis of the extra 8-9 HR he got from luck, then you’re nuts. The guy had 60 SB and has posted a ~.360 BABIP in 3 of the last 4 years. He’s money even if he had 0 HR.

7 years ago
Reply to  AlexTheGreat

I agree, although I also wont be taking him 21st overall. Ill be very happy even if he only replicates his steamer projection, the positional flexibility is an added bonus.