2018 Potential HR/FB Surgers

With about a month of the season in the bag, it’s finally time to analyze my newest version of xHR/FB rate unveiled last year. This is the best method publicly available for calculating an expected HR/FB rate, so ignore any analysis solely revolving around Brls/BBE or exit velocity. So let’s find out which hitters have posted xHR/FB rate marks at least 10% above their actual marks. These hitters are due for imminent improvement.

Please click on the introductory article linked to above to refresh your memory on what each metric means.

HR/FB Rate Surgers
Player Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Distance HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB
Trey Mancini 61.1% 5.0% 60.0% 304 10.0% 26.6% -16.6%
Joe Mauer 33.3% 0.0% 75.0% 311 0.0% 14.9% -14.9%
J.D. Martinez 68.2% 13.6% 59.1% 339 22.7% 37.3% -14.6%
Adam Duvall 40.0% 27.3% 21.2% 328 9.1% 22.3% -13.3%
Domingo Santana 26.7% 6.3% 50.0% 320 0.0% 13.3% -13.3%
Paul Goldschmidt 64.7% 20.0% 40.0% 366 20.0% 33.2% -13.2%
Willson Contreras 30.8% 21.4% 35.7% 302 3.6% 16.4% -12.8%
Carlos Santana 27.3% 33.3% 20.5% 332 5.1% 17.9% -12.8%
Freddie Freeman 37.1% 20.0% 51.4% 340 11.4% 24.2% -12.8%
Marcell Ozuna 36.4% 26.1% 43.5% 314 8.7% 20.9% -12.2%
Kole Calhoun 37.5% 5.9% 64.7% 316 5.9% 18.0% -12.2%
Nicholas Castellanos 34.6% 14.8% 66.7% 316 7.4% 19.5% -12.1%
Jackie Bradley Jr. 50.0% 23.5% 41.2% 333 11.8% 23.8% -12.1%
Yasiel Puig 20.0% 20.0% 40.0% 326 0.0% 11.0% -11.0%
Jon Jay 16.7% 21.1% 57.9% 306 0.0% 11.0% -11.0%
Yolmer Sanchez 25.0% 15.0% 40.0% 328 5.0% 16.0% -11.0%
Jose Pirela 18.8% 15.0% 65.0% 321 0.0% 10.5% -10.5%
Matt Carpenter 32.0% 16.0% 36.0% 324 8.0% 18.3% -10.3%
Amed Rosario 16.7% 5.3% 52.6% 342 0.0% 10.3% -10.3%
Population Average 26.4% 22.6% 40.9% 320 13.0% 15.4% -2.5%

Note that I’m using the 2017 park factors still.

First, you’ll notice that I included a line depicting the population averages. That includes 173 batters who qualify for the batting title at the moment. Brls/True FB is way up this season, as it sat at 19.9% last year. However, Avg FB Distance is nearly identical, meaning barreled balls aren’t traveling as far. There could be any number of reasons for this, two of the possible explanations include the cold weather and a change again to the baseballs. Batters are pulling their fly balls slightly less frequently, while going the opposite way a bit more often. Overall, xHR/FB rate suggests the whole league has massively underperformed. Man, this formula has gotten crushed by serious seasonality in these metrics. So, sticking with making calls on the players at the extremes is the safest bet.

Trey Mancini enjoyed a surprise breakout season last year, but he hasn’t been able to repeat the magic. Look at that Brls/True FB rate! The super odd thing is that all those barrels haven’t done him much good and have barely cleared 300 feet on average. That’s well below the league average. He’s also sporting a pathetic 5% FB Pull%, and we all know it’s much more difficult to hit the long ball to the opposite field. I have mixed feelings here.

I feel like Joe Mauer is a perennially underperformer. He also has an opposite field problem that might be weighing more heavily on his output than xHR/FB is accounting for.

It appears that a major J.D. Martinez homer barrage could be coming soon.

Adam Duvall homered yesterday, which will reduce the gap between actual and expected HR/FB marks. He’s comfortably above average in all metrics and had no business sitting in the single digits. Unfortunately, with four outfielders for three spots, playing time is going to remain a question mark.

The Eric Thames doesn’t really open up guaranteed playing time for Domingo Santana, since the Brewers have simply slotted Jesus Aguilar at first. He’s not doing anything well this year, but he obviously lands here simply because he has yet to hit a dinger.

Just by looking at the Diamondbacks home/road splits (which isn’t exactly the most accurate way to do it), it would appear that the humidor has had a major effect on offense, including HR/FB. So Paul Goldschmidt’s xHR/FB is going to be slightly inflated by last year’s park factor. However, park factors don’t have as big an impact as you might expect, so even dropped it to 98, for example, still keeps him above 30%. Perhaps he’s a good target if his owner is nervous about the pitcher friendliness of the new park conditions.

I thought Willson Contreras was overvalued heading into the season, but he’s a clear buy right now.

If I was in a deep mixed or NL-Only league, I’d be all over Carlos Santana, who is currently one of the best buy lows in baseball when you also consider his .176 BABIP.

Freddie Freeman is the new Joey Votto and owners should expect a home run surge shortly.

I thought Marcell Ozuna was overvalued heading into the season and this slow power start could be making owners nervous he’s incapable to the repeat they paid for. So I’m down with doing a 180 with the idea that perhaps you could buy last year’s breakout at a discount. Those are the rare buy low opportunities I think might be possible.

Gee, this wouldn’t be an underperformer list if Nicholas Castellanos wasn’t on it!

Jackie Bradley Jr. is crushing it, but the homers haven’t been flying out just yet. I’d bet more on his xHR/FB skill components regressing before thinking his actual HR/FB rate climbs toward his expected mark.

Yasiel Puig is another who finally had his best fantasy season last year, but has failed to homer so far this season. And now he’s on the DL. At least he has four steals, but nothing else has gone right and he was popping up like crazy again.

I really bought into Jose Pirela’s power surge last year, but he has yet to go yard this year and his metrics aren’t very impressive. His playing time looks pretty secure now with Wil Myers back on the DL, but given his history, I’m not sure how much longer I’d want to be betting on the power returning.

Sheesh, I thought Matt Carpenter was undervalued in all my leagues, but luckily didn’t end up rostering him, and he has been a disaster so far. His batted ball profile remains sterling, but he’s striking out more than ever before thanks to a SwStk% spike. I’m guessing it’s health related. Either various maladies dog him all season, or he’s an excellent buy low (he’ll come pretty cheap).

Amed Rosario really needs to work on his plate discipline, and if he’s not hitting any homers, he should be stealing bases, which he hasn’t done so successfully just yet.

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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OddBall Herrera
OddBall Herrera

Yeah, not buying it on Mancini either – you should add the ground ball ratio to this so you can just throw out guys who aren’t hitting the ball in the air, because a guy like Mancini with his average exit angle of 7 isn’t going to be doing any home run surging without some mechanical or approach changes.