2020 Forecast — HR/FB Rate Surgers

Finally, it’s time for the main event! After weeks discussing the various xHR/FB rate components and reviewing 2019 performance, we now set our sights toward 2020. Today, I will identify and discuss a handful of fantasy relevant names that underperformed their xHR/FB rates most significantly. Remember that this doesn’t automatically mean we should be projecting a higher HR/FB rate this season. But perhaps rather than take the hitter’s actual HR/FB rate at face value, we should substitute our xHR/FB rate mark when reviewing his historical marks and making a 2020 projection.

HR/FB Rate Surgers
Player HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist
Josh Rojas 6.3% 14.7% -8.4% 20.0% 18.8% 40.6% 346
Lewis Brinson 0.0% 7.1% -7.1% 13.0% 15.7% 45.1% 307
C.J. Cron 19.5% 25.9% -6.4% 44.9% 24.2% 40.6% 338
Adalberto Mondesi 9.3% 15.6% -6.3% 27.3% 23.7% 33.0% 322
D.J. Stewart 10.8% 16.2% -5.4% 22.6% 35.1% 29.7% 329
Mike Zunino 11.7% 17.1% -5.4% 30.2% 28.6% 32.5% 335
David Dahl 17.2% 22.0% -4.8% 32.9% 20.7% 39.1% 347
League Average 15.4% 14.9% 0.6% 23.5% 24.1% 39.2% 324

It’s too bad the Diamondbacks felt the need to block Josh Rojas, as he would have been a prime sleeper and potential highly profitable investment. While his barrel and pulled fly ball rates were a bit below the league average, his fly ball distance was impressive. He enjoyed a power breakout in the minors in 2019, and the small sample Statcast power metrics suggest he was able to sustain that new level in the Majors, even if his HR/FB rate didn’t show it. I love his plate discipline as well and he’s even got speed. If he finds himself with an every day job at some point, grab him.

LOL at Lewis Brinson appearing here, but with just an xHR/FB rate of 7.1%. But hey, it’s better than 0%, right?! There’s nothing really in his current skill set suggesting a turnaround to make good on his prospect status is imminent. But he’s the kind of player you just close your eyes, buy cheaply, and cross your fingers. It’s not like the Marlins are loaded with alternatives that could quickly push Brinson out of a job.

C.J. Cron posted his first HR/FB rate over 20% in 2018, but was able to sustain most of that jump in 2019. Amazingly, xHR/FB rate suggests it could have been better. That is one heck of a barrels rate, and he could do even more damage if he pulled more of his flies. Now on the Tigers, we’ll see how the park affects him, as we’ve been through this song and dance before with Tigers power hitters underperforming their Statcast metrics.

After a spectacular half fantasy season, Adalberto Mondesi didn’t really lose as much power as you would think by just looking at his HR/FB rate. His components all settled in around the league average with a slightly higher barrel rate. In pitcher friendly Kansas City, that might mean a low-to-mid teen HR/FB rate, but certainly not sub-10%. The shoulder surgery makes things cloudier for this year, but if he is fully healthy, a 20 homer season is easily in reach. I just can’t speculate on he’ll perform following the surgery.

A possible sleeper heading into the season, DJ Stewart ended up with all of 126 at-bats, even for the lowly Orioles. Offseason ankle surgery clouds his playing time outlook, but during his short time with the Orioles in 2019, he showed the power skills displayed back in the minors. His xHR/FB rate was primarily driven by an heavy pulled fly ball tendency, which he’ll have to repeat to have a chance at a mid-teen HR/FB rate if he doesn’t raise his barrel rate or distance. He’s another nice little sleeper and shouldn’t cost anything, even in deeper leagues.

When Mike Zunino’s fly balls aren’t flying over the wall, a disastrous offensive season happens, like in 2019. And although his xHR/FB rate did dip to its lowest mark since 2015, it was still robust and well above his actual mark. That said, even a 20-homer Zunino isn’t worth a whole lot to fantasy owners given his putrid batting average.

Will David Dahl ever put in a full season? Although his HR/FB rate dropped below 20%, his xHR/FB rate actually rose to a career best, thanks to a surging barrel rate and fly ball distance. In a shallow league, this is exactly the type of hitter I want — should be fantastic when healthy, and if/when he hits the IL as usual, you’ll have a decent enough replacement to use as a stopgap until his return.

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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4 years ago

The more I look at Cron, the more I think I might end up taking a flyer on him late in our draft (shallow league so he should be there). I’ve been playing around with Baseball Savant’s search feature a bunch this offseason and Cron hits the ball as hard as anyone when he hits it. He tied Judge for most batted balls over 113 mph last year with 15. The entire list down to #22 is guys who are going at least in the top half of drafts with most higher than that – Judge, Alonso, Sanchez, Yelich, Vlad, etc. His overall EV was not impressive but that’s because he doesn’t hit his ground balls hard, his EV on FB/LD is very good.

He still doesn’t walk much but he pared his K% last year to basically league average-ish. His home park won’t help but he has an unimpeded path to playing time hitting 4th.

4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Although I do break them down, I have always wondered, how much “control” does a hitter over a certain batted ball type’s exit velocity.

4 years ago
Reply to  Anon

One positive for Cron is he’s a little more of a pull hitter than Castellanos (and a lot more than Miguel Cabrera), at least in his post-Angels stops.

Comerica’s actually not that cruel to dead-pull right-handed power.