Yesterday, I identified and discussed the hitters who increased their fly ball pull percentage (FBP%) most from 2017 to 2018. Pulling the ball more frequently typically fuels power growth, so a significant decline could be the cause of a power dip. So let’s find out which hitters with at least 30 fly balls enjoyed a FBP% decline of at least 10%.
|Tommy La Stella||29.7%||15.2%||-14.6%|
|Steven Souza Jr.||31.6%||18.8%||-12.9%|
Why did Ian Happ’s HR/FB rate take a dive in 2018? Look no further than the halving of his FBP%. Both his barrel rate and average fly ball distance remained stable, so the only change was his ability to pull his flies. With such a small history to work with, we don’t yet know which is closer to his true talent pulled fly ball rate level. The good news is that the stable skills remained comfortable above average, so the pull rate will determine whether his HR/FB rate stays in the high teens or bounces back up into the 20% range.
Wait, so Chris Davis appeared on the average fly ball distance decliners list and now also shows up here? So to summarize, Davis hit his fly balls a shorter distance on average and also pulled those flies less frequently. No wonder his HR/FB rate plunged to a career low.
Obviously Matt Olson wasn’t going to repeat that 41.4% HR/FB rate. But did you know that one of the primary reasons his mark fell below 20% this season was because of the collapse of his FBP%? Like Happ, we don’t have enough history to determine what kind of bounce back potential there is.
Salvador Perez offset the decline in FBP% by raising his barrel rate, leaving him with a near identical HR/FB rate. Given the dearth of quality catcher options, he still remains a top choice.
Like Perez above, Joey Gallo offset his FBP% decline by boosting his barrel rate, which is pretty amazing considering how high it already was in 2017. Since he’s such a three true outcomes hitter and an extreme fly baller, he really needs to make the most of those fly balls. That means pulling as many as he can.
What was behind Elvis Andrus‘ 2017 power breakout? Not just a jump in barrel rate and average fly ball distance, but a career high in FBP%. While he was able to maintain his barrel rate gains, his FBP% came tumbling back down, matching his career average. The fact he was able to sustain the barrel gains is a good sign though, so I think there’s a strong chance he could post the second highest HR/FB rate of his career in 2019.
As expected, Starlin Castro’s power took a hit upon moving to Miami from hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. He could have counteracted the change in park effects by pulling his flies, but he failed to, driving a decline in HR/FB rate to his pre-Yankees days.
His shoulder concerns me, as does a yo-yo like HR/FB rate history in the minors, but I really like Jesse Winker, despite his appearance here. He strikes me as the type of player with a profile (fantastic plate discipline with a low strikeout rate and nearly as many walks as strikeouts + solid batted ball profile) that should eventually result in a major power breakout. He’s just a good hitter and the power will come.
What on Earth happened to Addison Russell?! He’s an excellent reminder of why it’s a mistake to expect automatic improvement each season from a young player. And this young player was a top prospect. Both his barrel rate and FBP% easily hit career lows. But don’t give up as you have to remember he’s still just 25 (in six days).
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.