2018 Surprise Average Fly Ball Distance Laggards

Yesterday, I identified and discussed five hitters who made surprise appearances near the top of the average fly ball distance leaderboard. Today, I’ll talk bottom dwellers. Let’s find out which surprising hitters found themselves bringing up the rear. Like I did with the leaders, I won’t include the hitter if he also appeared on the surprise barrels per true fly ball laggard list as well.

Surprise Avg FB Dist Laggards
Avg FB Dist Rank (out of 410) Player HR/FB Avg FB Distance
324 Brandon Crawford 11.0% 308
318 Ryan McMahon 14.3% 308
310 Willson Contreras 9.3% 309
288 Odubel Herrera 13.9% 311
287 Ronald Guzman 16.0% 311
286 Tim Anderson 14.2% 311
281 Jonathan Schoop 15.9% 312
Population Average 12.9% 319

Remember when Brandon Crawford had that power breakout in 2015, driving his ISO above .200 and HR/FB rate into double digits for the first time? Yeah, that wasn’t sustainable. And even though he boosted his HR/FB rate back into double digits again, he still wasn’t hitting his flies very far. He’s deep mixed and NL-Only league fodder only.

Ryan McMahon was an intriguing name heading into 2018, despite the fact that his playing time situation was murky. Any power hitter with the potential for significant playing time and calling Colorado home is someone fantasy owners salivate over. But McMahon failed to hit his flies anywhere near a league average level, even though the thin air allows balls to travel further even when hit with the same exit velocity versus other parks. Obviously, the sample size was small, so there’s no reason to give up on him. But once again, there’s no job waiting for him.

A plunging of his Avg FB Dist was one reason Willson Contreras‘ HR/FB rate went into free fall, which is odd considering his barrels per true fly ball was well above average. He was the only one on this list who actually underperformed his xHR/FB rate, which is why you shouldn’t rely solely on one of the xHR/FB rate components, as they need to all be considered by using the full equation. Though I wouldn’t expect him to return to the 20%+ HR/FB plateau, he’s close to a lock for a dramatic rebound.

Odubel Herrera posted a career high HR/FB rate, but his Avg FB Dist remained well below average. Also interesting is that his SwStk% increased for a second straight season to another new career high, but his strikeout rate improved to tie for his best mark. For a guy who previously relied on an inflated BABIP and also once stole bases, the downside here is someone not even worth positive value in shallow mixed leagues.

Ronald Guzman was a nice little surprise in the power department for the Rangers, as he found his way into over 400 plate appearances. But even though the guy is huge, he managed to post an Avg FB Dist well below the average. It’s surprising that given his size, his minor league power output has been quite weak. I would not expect a repeat of that 16% HR/FB rate given his current power skills, but I feel like a guy his size should possess much greater power than he has displayed. So he could easily prove me wrong if the light bulb suddenly turns on.

Tim Anderson finally showed off his wheels, officially becoming the power/speed threat fantasy owners dreamed of. But the power isn’t totally real. He doesn’t barrel his flies often enough, nor does he hit those flies far enough. I think he’s a better bet for 20 steals again than high teen home runs.

You would never know it by his power output, but man, what happened to Jonathan Schoop? Not only did his Avg FB Dist tumble to the lowest mark on my spreadsheet (going back to 2015), but his barrels per true fly ball did as well. At least he’s making up for the loss of raw power by pulling his flies at a high rate. Don’t expect much of a BABIP rebound, as a guy who pops up as often as he does had no business BABIPing over .300 for three straight seasons to begin with.

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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