Last week, I listed and discussed the barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB) surgers and decliners. As a reminder, Brls/TFB is one of the main components of my xHR/FB rate equation. Today, let’s review some of the surprising Brls/TFB leaders. We’ll define surprise as hitters we didn’t predict to appear anywhere near the top tier in the rankings. I’ll only call out fantasy relevant names.
Let’s begin by grouping the rookies:
Phew, it was quite the year for rookie power! On the one hand, all of these hitters were expected to display power once reaching the Majors. However, I don’t think anyone expected them to be among the best power hitters in baseball already in their rookie season. But that’s what happened.
The good news is that seeing these names on this list supports their freshman power display. The question now becomes what do they do for an encore? We used to throw around the term “sophomore slump” to label the second year hitter who fails to improve and actually suffer a decline in performance. While I think every hitter is different, it’s a lot to ask of these youngsters to repeat such elite performance.
Now let’s get to the rest of the names on the list. Jason Castro was a one-time top catching prospect, but he hasn’t hit in years. Though injuries slowed his season down and he had to split time with fellow breakout Mitch Garver, he barreled the heck out of his fly balls, en route to his first .200+ ISO since 2013. He should get more playing time now in Anaheim.
We knew that Jorge Alfaro does have power, but he took it another level higher this year. Oddly, he doesn’t take full advantage of that power as he has failed to exceed the 30% fly ball rate for the second straight season. It’s a strange skill set, as it also comes with few walks and lots of strikeouts.
C.J. Cron followed up his 2018 power breakout nicely and actually raised his Brls/TFB. He has a good chance of setting a new career high in plate appearances this year with the Tigers with no one nipping at his job.
Finally! This was the Jorge Soler we have been waiting years for. I’m just shocked it came in a Royals uniform, as that park is not home run friendly. We always knew he had this kind of power in him, so now he just needs to stay healthy.
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.