Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing various hitter lists focused on the components of my xHR/FB rate equation. Today, I want to share yet another list. This time, we’re not going to look at the individual components, but rather the xHR/FB rate itself. Just like every other year, there were breakouts and busts. Some of them lucked their way into surprising HR/FB rates, while others seemingly deserved such results. The opposite is true as well, with some batters suffering from poor luck, which dragged down their HR/FB rates, while others suffered a real decline in power.
Let’s begin by discussing some of the surprise HR/FB rates that were actually validated by similar xHR/FB rates. Remember, an appearance here doesn’t mean these hitters should be projected to repeat, as this is merely a backward-looking analysis. We need to account for additional factors when making a projection. But all else equal, the guy with an xHR/FB rate validating his breakout HR/FB rate should be expected to have a better chance of repeating than the guy who seemingly lucked his way into that breakout.
|Player||HR/FB||xHR/FB||HR/FB – xHR/FB|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||31.9%||27.9%||4.0%|
You’ll notice I took some liberties here in describing these gents as posting xHR/FB rates that “validated” their actual HR/FB rates. All but one posted a HR/FB rate higher than their xHR/FB rate. The point of this exercise wasn’t to split hairs as to whether the hitter “deserved” a 20% or 25% HR/FB rate, but really compare the bucket of power he displayed versus expected.
As usual, many of the names I chose to highlight were rookies. This was one heck of a year for freshman hitters! You got Yordan Alvarez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Pete Alonso, Aristides Aquino, Eloy Jimenez, and Keston Hiura all mashing in their first taste of big league action.
These guys are going to cost a pretty penny in 2020 drafts and auctions, and for good reason. While pitchers might adjust and they’ll have a tougher time hitting for power this year, they truly displayed elite power in 2019 and earned nearly all of their HR/FB rates.
Our first non-rookie to appear on this list is Mitch Garver, one of several Twins who took his power to a new level. He outperformed his xHR/FB rate the most on this list, but no one projected a mark above 20% anyway, so he deserves to be here.
We hoped the Jorge Soler breakout would eventually happen, but I lost hope when he went to the Royals and their pitcher friendly home park. This was a legit breakout.
Jorge Alfaro owns one of the most interesting skill sets in baseball. He possesses lots of power, strikes out a ton, doesn’t hit many fly balls, rarely pops up, and barely walks. Talk about living on the extremes!
Where the heck did this come from, Danny Santana?! This was truly out of nowhere, which makes it even more amazing that his xHR/FB rate was still a shocking 19.1%. Since he steals bases too, even if his homers were cut in half, he’d still produce plenty of fantasy value.
So including his small sample 2016 debut, Josh Bell’s HR/FB rate has gone from around 9% to nearly 20%, back down to around 9%, and back up above 20%. That doesn’t make projecting him for 2020 easy! But at least his xHR/FB rate confirms his rebound in 2019 was real. It doesn’t, however, confirm his 2017 HR/FB rate as real.
For the first time in his career, Jose Altuve hit more home runs than he stole bases. And it was actually just over five times as many homers as steals. Altuve’s power creeped up in 2016 and 2017, but then stalled and regressed. So this makes 2019’s output a surprise. I can’t wait for him to regress back to his career average and read all the media reports chalking it up to the team getting caught stealing signs.
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.