Yesterday, I identified and discussed six hitters who appeared near the top of my barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB) leaderboard. As a reminder, Brls/TFB is one of the primary components of my xHR/FB rate equation and is calculated by taking the Statcast Barrels count and dividing by the batter’s fly balls minus infield flies. Today, let’s check in on the hitters who surprisingly ranked closer to the bottom of the leaderboard, rather than the top.
Willie Calhoun was a popular sleeper heading into the 2018 season. Many were a bit surprised when he didn’t make the team out of spring training, but we all figured he would be called up a month or two into the season and hit. Neither of those happened. Through 2017, aside from his small sample stint at Single-A in 2015, Calhoun had always posted HR/FB rates in the mid-teens, and ISO marks well above .200. But his power disappeared in 2018 in the minors and failed to reappear when he was eventually called up to the Rangers. His microscopic Brls/TFB confirms the complete loss of power. What the heck happened?!
I loved his combination of contact ability and the power he had shown pre-2018, but was cautious given his serious penchant for popping up, which would reduce his BABIP and offset the benefits he receives from the low strikeout rate. Now, I don’t know what to think. He’s once again no lock to open the season with a starting job, and if he does, is he going to be part of a platoon? I’m fine buying low, but not totally sure what to expect.
Remember how hot Didi Gregorius opened the 2018 season? He hit 10 homers by the end of April, and then 17 over the final five months. Though he did settle in to a HR/FB rate only marginally higher than the league average, his Brls/TFB was far below it, ranking just 312th. If you’re screaming “BUT…YANKEE STADIUM!”, you’re absolutely right. Didi’s home HR/FB rate is nearly double his away mark. Obviously, he’ll continue to call Yankee Stadium home, so we don’t need to care about his stark home/away splits. But just be aware that his power output is fueled mostly by his home park, rather than his actual underlying power skills.
Speaking of fast starts, remember Ozzie Albies‘? He hit nine homers by the end of April, and another five in May. He then hit just 10 over the final four months. All said and done, Albies posted a HR/FB rate a bit below the league average, but his Brls/TFB was significantly below. It would seem that Albies’ power didn’t actually take much of a step forward like he teased early in 2018.
Kyle Seager had been as consistent as can be, but at age 30, his offense suddenly deteriorated immensely. He still managed a HR/FB rate in double digits, but that Brls/TFB rate was not what you would expect from the typically consistent Seager. Couple with a spike in strikeout rate and career low BABIP, literally everything went wrong this year. It doesn’t seem like it was bad luck, so a buy here is based on the hope this was just a one year blip and not the beginning of the end.
Speaking of the end, is this it for Adam Jones? His HR/FB rate was nearly cut in half, finishing at his lowest mark since his first full season in 2008. His terrible plate discipline always seemingly made him super risky, but his offense remained as consistently solid as it gets. A career best strikeout rate was the lone bright spot. Heading into his age 33 season, a power rebound is less likely. But does he get that HR/FB rate back into double digits or is he now a high single digit guy?
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.