Alas, we have reached the final 2018 pair of recaps of the primary components of my xHR/FB rate equation, fly ball pull percentage (FBP%). Simply, it’s easier to hit a homer to the pull side. Why? Because the fences are closer down the lines than to center field. Plus, hitters are typically able to generate more power when pulling the ball, so they hit their pulled flies harder, plus those pulled flies don’t have to travel as far to jump over the fence for a dinger. So let’s find out which hitters with at least 30 fly balls enjoyed a FBP% surge of at least 10%.
And the winner for most significant FBP% spike is…Brandon Nimmo! And whaddya know, his HR/FB rate jumped en route to a breakout first full season. Is this sustainable? My crystal ball isn’t working, but it’ll be the key to his 2019 power output.
Sitting fifth on our list is another breakout in Jesus Aguilar. But unlike Nimmo, Aguilar’s HR/FB rate only inched up from 2017. However, the fact that he pushed his FBP% to well above the league average from below it is a good sign moving forward for his power…if he could sustain the spike. Unfortunately, the Brewers have no need to remain patient with him as they still have Eric Thames to take Aguilar’s place if the power isn’t repeatable.
Jeimer Candelario failed to post a respectable barrel rate, but at least he improved in one area en route to improved power. He’s still young enough to improve that barrel rate though, so if he could maintain this new FBP% level, there’s further upside here.
From the lowest FBP% of his career in 2017 to the highest, it’s not surprise that Avisail Garcia posted his first HR/FB rate above 20% with that shiny new FBP% level. He also raised his fly ball rate over 30% for the first time, as he seemingly transformed as a hitter. If he played a full season, he would have easily eclipsed 20 homers for the first time. He now moves to Tampa, which is quite the park downgrade. With his playing time up in the air and this new version of himself not very good offensively, he’s not exactly recommended.
Manuel Margot was a popular sleeper heading into the 2018 season, but he failed to pan out. His HR/FB rate actually plummeted despite a jump in FBP%. The thing is, I don’t really care for Margot to try to tap into more power. I want him running! There’s really no excuse for the guy who ranks 26th in Statcast Sprint Speed to swipe just 11 bags and only succeed 52% of the time. The Padres have some exciting young power in their outfield, so Margot’s playing time outlook appears rather cloudy.
Eddie Rosario enjoyed a HR/FB rate spike in 2017, but it was driven by a jump in barrel rate. He actually maintained that barrel rate in 2018, all the while his FBP% spiked. You’d expect his HR/FB rate to surge again, right? Nope, it fell right back to his 2016 level. Judging by his xHR/FB rates, the moral of the story is he was a bit lucky in 2017 and unlucky in 2018. That he maintained his barrel rate breakout and also now brings the potential for a high FBP% means there’s additional home run upside here.
Rafael Devers pulled his flies significantly more often, but oddly the average distance of those flies fell from his 2017 mark. So overall, his xHR/FB rate barely budged, as did his actual HR/FB rate. I’m more concerned about his BABIP skills given his lowly line drive rate and high IFFB%, along with inability to hit lefties so far. His value is likely to continue coming from his name and prospect pedigree, rather than reasonable expectations for his performance.
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.