10 HR/FB Rate Decliners for 2018

Yesterday, I used my new and improved xHR/FB rate equation to discuss 10 hitters whose xHR/FB rates sat significantly above their actual marks in 2017, suggesting serious 2018 upside. Today, I’ll talk about the other end of the spectrum, hitters whose xHR/FB rates were well below their actual marks, hinting at real downside risk in 2018, assuming the same underlying skills.

Because of the HR/FB rate spike in 2017 and the fact that my xHR/FB rate equation didn’t quite match the league average mark with the actual league average, there are more guys who outperformed than underperformed. It’s why I stay away from making a call on the guys in the middle and just stick with the players on either end of the list.

2018 HR/FB Rate Decliners
Player HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist PF*
Matt Olson 41.4% 26.0% 15.4% 40.4% 37.9% 37.9% 344 94
Domingo Santana 30.9% 21.1% 9.8% 35.8% 10.3% 58.8% 340 104
Nick Delmonico 22.5% 13.2% 9.3% 16.7% 27.5% 30.0% 329 110
Rhys Hoskins 31.6% 22.9% 8.7% 32.7% 35.1% 28.1% 338 117
Michael Conforto 27.3% 19.4% 7.9% 37.1% 14.1% 48.5% 332 99
Chris Iannetta 21.5% 15.1% 6.4% 24.3% 21.5% 43.0% 324 110
J.D. Martinez 33.8% 28.0% 5.9% 48.4% 18.8% 46.6% 356 101
Carlos Correa 22.6% 16.9% 5.7% 31.3% 12.3% 41.5% 330 103
Giancarlo Stanton 34.3% 28.6% 5.7% 53.1% 32.6% 34.3% 358 90
Kevin Kiermaier 16.7% 11.0% 5.6% 19.0% 18.9% 41.1% 317 99
*Home run park factor based on handedness

Matt Olson’s appearance on this list make for a good test on whether or not you read the article or just quickly browsed the table. That’s because while he does appear at the top of the overperformance list, check out his xHR/FB rate…it’s still elite! Of course he isn’t going to sustain a HR/FB rate above 40%, but he finished seventh in my population set in xHR/FB rate, which is impressive.

That said, there are enough red flags to make me believe I won’t be owning any shares this season. First, as a left-handed fly ball hitter who hits tons of grounders into the shift, he’s going to hurt your batting average, even if he didn’t in 2017. Second, he could easily lose playing time against southpaw starters, which would cut into all his counting stats. Last, his career best HR/FB rate in the minors was 21.9%, just set at Triple-A in 2017. How often do hitters immediately hit for far more power in the Majors than the minors? I think even his xHR/FB rate is going to very difficult to sustain.

Domingo Santana was one of my head-scratchers when using my old xHR/FB rate equation before the light bulb went off that ultimately led to my new version. For a power hitter, he hits a shockingly low rate of fly balls. This lack of flies was reducing his opportunities for “barrels”, and depressing his xHR/FB rates, making him appear quite fortunate every year. The new equation corrects for this and he now looks much better…but still overperformed in 2017. I know this formula has it right finally because in the previous two seasons, his xHR/FB rate were pretty close to his actual marks. His Brls/True FB has actually tumbled each season since 2015, and yet his HR/FB jumped to a career high. Something isn’t adding up, which means he’s got more downside than you realize this year. If he gets traded away from Milwaukee and into a more pitcher friendly venue, he’s an obvious bust candidate.

Is Nick Delmonico one of your sleepers this year? He certainly enjoyed an impressive short stint with the White Sox in his first taste of Major League action. Too bad the power wasn’t real. That Brls/True FB rate was actually below the league average, but he did manage to post an above average Avg FB Dist mark. His power had been on a roller coaster ride in the minors, so there’s no telling what he may provide this year absent of any good or bad fortune.

I love Rhys Hoskins like everyone else, but let’s not get too carried away. All his xHR/FB rate metrics actually look good, with above average marks in both Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist, but he clearly benefited from some good fortune. And let’s not forget that he never posted a HR/FB rate above 20% in the minors, and was at 18.2% at Triple-A before he got the call to light it up in the Majors.

Michael Conforto was already going to have to battle the regression monster, and now he has to also battle the injury and recovery monster as he returns from shoulder surgery. I almost automatically stay away from hitters returning from a shoulder issue, so I’m not going to touch Conforto.

Lucky for Chris Iannetta, he moves from one excellent home run park to another, but that still is unlikely to be enough to stave off regression. His Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist marks were only marginally above the league averages.

It’s kind of silly to include J.D. Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton, as any regression equation by nature is probably going to be light on the guys at the top and too optimistic on the guys at the bottom. These two finished fourth and fifth in xHR/FB rate in 2017, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Unless, of course, Martinez signs with the Pirates, Royals, or Giants.

I’m sorry in advance to all you Carlos Correa fans, but I think he’s pretty overvalued now since he only swiped two bases last season. Then throw in the fact that his xHR/FB components were nearly identical to his marks in 2016, yet his HR/FB rate spiked above 20%, and you have a recipe for a decline back below 20%. It’s certainly possible that he improves his underlying xHR/FB rate skills to make a 20% and change mark sustainable, but unlike most others, he needs to improve dramatically just to earn the HR/FB rate he just posted.

Kevin Kiermaier is a weird name to find here, but who realized he posted a mid-teen HR/FB rate in 2017?! That was easily a new career high for him, but it was wholly underserved. Like Correa, Kiermaier’s xHR/FB components were nearly identical to his 2016 marks, resulting in the same xHR/FB rate. His Brls/True FB rate rose this past season, while his Avg FB Dist declined, essentially cancelling each other out. Since he steals bases too and there’s playing time upside given that he still hasn’t recorded more than 535 plate appearances in a season, he’s likely not a bad buy.





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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NickGerli
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NickGerli

Great and informative post.

However, in regards to comment regarding players hitting for more power in the majors than the minors – aren’t we seeing that a lot lately? Olson’s teammate Chad Pinder doubled his ISO from AAA to the MLB. We all know how Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge turned out. Tommy Pham. Cody Bellinger. All these guys beat out their minor league HR/FB rates in the MLB last year, sometimes significantly.

Given the juiced ball I think we need to start accounting for the fact that .200 ISO / 14% HRFB guy in AAA, depending on his stadium, might be a .230 ISO / 18% guy in the MLB.

J.D. Martin
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J.D. Martin