Yesterday, I identified and discussed a slew of surprising names among the average fly ball distance (AFBD) leaders. Today, I’ll check in with the laggards. Which hitters finished closer to the bottom of the barrel than the top that we never would have expected?
Perhaps you don’t consider Lewis Brinson’s appearance on this list as surprising. That’s fair, considering he hasn’t proven any sort of ability to hit Major League pitching. But for a guy who earned Game Power grades of 50/60 and Raw Power of 65/65, it’s rather shocking to see him sitting with a paltry 9.2% HR/FB rate and measly .110 ISO over his short MLB career, which essentially spans one season’s worth of plate appearances. He’s a close-your-eyes, buy cheap, and hope, but hitting in Miami makes a breakout a bit more difficult than if he were still in Milwaukee.
Miguel Cabrera isn’t a surprise given that he actually posted an even lower AFBD mark the season prior in 2018. But this is just a reminder of just how much Cabrera has been limping to the finish line of his career. It almost makes us forget how great he was before this recent decline.
Stephen Piscotty isn’t anyone’s idea of an elite power hitter, but his AFBD has now slid each season since 2016, and this past year marked a serious tumble. Injury took a bite out of his at-bat total, but now 2018 really looks like the outlier, rather than a new established level of skill.
In his first full season, Brandon Nimmo enjoyed a breakout year in 2018, as he easily posted the highest HR/FB rate of his career. While his HR/FB rate only regressed marginally in 2019, his AFBD dropped more significantly to below the league average, while he pulled his fly balls at a dramatically lower rate. It all means he probably deserved a lower HR/FB rate than he posted. I’d say that he’ll need to get that fly ball pull rate back up again for any chance to maintain a 16%-18% HR/FB rate, or it’s coming back down into the low teens.
Jesus Aguilar was another disappointing Brewers hitter that makes this list and his trends look awful. His AFBD had already dropped by 15 feet from 2017 to 2018, and it then dropped another 18 feet in 2019. His barrel rate has also been in freefall. I would love to take a cheap gamble on a rebound here, but similar to my remark on Brinson, I would like him a lot better in a more hitter friendly environment!
I’m guessing the Padres are having major regrets about their big contract tendered to Eric Hosmer. He disappointed in his first season with the team and then posted an identical wOBA the next year. While his HR/FB rate doesn’t show it, Hosmer’s homer skills were actually the worst he has posted in the past four seasons, driven by a 14 foot decline in AFBD. His strikeout rate trend is terrifying and his steals have officially bottomed…at 0. Who wants to roster him?!
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.