10 HR/FB Rate Surgers for 2018

You might recall that just three weeks ago, I shared 10 HR/FB rate surgers for 2018. At the time, I was still using my original Statcast-driven xHR/FB rate. Since then, I have developed a new and improved version of the metric, dubbed xHR/FB 2.0. So it’s time to redo the HR/FB rate surgers. A couple of the names are the same as on the original list, but there are some new faces as well.

As a reminder, this is a list of 10 fantasy relevant hitters whose xHR/FB rates were significantly higher than their actual HR/FB marks in 2017. While this doesn’t automatically mean a dramatic rise in HR/FB rate is coming in 2018, the underperformance does suggest better odds than most at a jump, assuming they maintain the skills driving that xHR/FB rate.

2018 HR/FB Rate Surgers
Player HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist PF*
Yandy Diaz 0.0% 11.0% -11.0% 19.0% 4.3% 78.3% 329 100
Clint Frazier 9.8% 19.9% -10.2% 28.2% 26.8% 34.1% 337 112
Devon Travis 9.3% 15.4% -6.1% 20.0% 31.5% 38.9% 325 99
Johan Camargo 6.8% 11.2% -4.4% 18.0% 22.0% 47.5% 315 101
Randal Grichuk 18.3% 22.6% -4.3% 40.0% 27.5% 35.8% 328 91
Rio Ruiz 11.8% 16.0% -4.3% 20.6% 23.5% 47.1% 328 105
Mitch Moreland 15.5% 19.6% -4.1% 34.8% 16.9% 49.3% 333 89
Bradley Zimmer 13.1% 16.8% -3.7% 32.1% 11.5% 45.9% 325 105
Miguel Cabrera 13.4% 17.0% -3.5% 32.8% 8.4% 49.6% 321 101
Manny Machado 15.1% 18.4% -3.3% 28.9% 29.2% 35.2% 331 109
*Home run park factor based on handedness

There’s no spot for Yandy Diaz in the Indians starting lineup, so you might be wondering why I bothered including him here. Zero homers over 156 at-bats is eye-popping, so it’s not really a surprise to find him amongst the top underperformers. But xHR/FB rate says he should have been knocking homers at a low double digit rate. His xHR/FB rate components are actually quite fascinating — check out that insane Pull/Oppo% split! He went the other way with his fly balls nearly 80% of the time! He easily led my 2017 player population in FB Oppo%, and you wonder if that’s one of the reasons for the lack of homers, even though my equation accounts for that rate.

Also noteworthy is his about average Brls/True FB rate, but better than average Avg FB Dist. He hits far too many grounders to be a real power threat, but he sports strong plate discipline and more power than the results showed. An AL-Only deep sleeper.

Clint Frazier appeared on my list of home run sleepers and his components of the new xHR/FB rate confirm that he owns serious power upside. Now finding him the playing time remains the only challenge.

Devon Travis and Johan Camargo both appeared on my original list of 10 HR/FB surgers and both of them have higher xHR/FB rates using the new equation than the old. That makes Travis, in particular, an intriguing choice, assuming he could hold off Yangervis Solarte.

Not only are the Blue Jays getting a known big power hitter in Randal Grichuk, but perhaps they are getting one even better than they thought. The move also provides a major boost from a park factor perspective, so I’m buy all Grichuk shares, as the down 2017 will likely depress his price.

Rio Ruiz figures to compete with Camargo for the Braves third base job and whoever wins could be a better source of home run power than expected. He probably won’t make a dent in shallow mixed leagues, but in deeper mixed and certainly NL-Only formats, he should not be forgotten if he wins the job.

It’s possible that Fenway Park hurt Mitch Moreland’s HR/FB rate more than the park factor suggests, as his his Brls/True FB was identical to 2015 and Avg FB Dist essentially the same for the past three seasons. And yet, his HR/FB rate hit a three year low. He’s as boring as it comes, I get it, but he should be a bit better in homers this coming season.

Man, talk about a prime sleeper, Bradley Zimmer saw his rookie campaign cut short by injury, but he showcased a tantalizing combination of power and speed. He has posted as high as a 21.2% HR/FB rate back at Double-A in 2016 and even a 17.9% mark at Triple-A last year, so his xHR/FB rate doesn’t seem out of his capabilities. This is especially true playing half his games in a home park that boost left-handed power. However, he rarely pulled his flies, so perhaps he didn’t benefit as much from the favorable park factor as if he had.

Oyyy vey, there’s Miguel Cabrera’s name again. There’s nothing else for me to add, so I’ll just link to Andrew Perpetua’s recent post trying to explain the divergence between his Statcast metrics and actual results (he thinks it’s the big, bad wind).

It’s hard to believe that Manny Machado is now just entering his age 25 season (well, he played half of 2017 as a 25-year-old), and he’s now coming off his worst offensive performance since his first full year in 2013. Most of that was BABIP-related due to a sudden inability to hit line drives, but his ISO and HR/FB rate also fell. Interestingly, this was actually the best xHR/FB rate he has posted in three years of Statcast. His Brls/True FB rose for a second straight season, while his Avg FB Dist was nearly identical to his mark in 2016, which was up from his 2015 mark, when he posted the highest HR/FB rate of his career so far. I agree with Jeff Zimmerman, he’s a bargain at his current NFBC ADP of 15.

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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Mario Mendoza
Mario Mendoza

So some of these would need drastic swing changes to increase their number of true fly balls; some would just need better luck. To adjust our expectations, it might be good to include an indicator for which is which. Yandy is obviously in the first camp, and machado in the latter… But what about Frazier? Zimmer?

Mario Mendoza
Mario Mendoza

Maybe career true fb% vs 2017 true fb% and career pull vs 2017 pull (including minors?)