2020 Review: Barrels Per True Fly Ball Decliners

Last week, I listed and discussed the barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB) surgers versus 2019. I apparently totally forgot to review the decliners, instead moving on to average fly ball distance leaders and laggards. So let’s get back to Brls/TFB analysis and check out the biggest decliners.

Brls/TFB Decliners
Player 2019 HR/FB 2020 HR/FB 2019 Brls/TFB 2020 Brls/TFB Brls/TFB Diff
Jake Cave 28.6% 23.5% 57.1% 17.6% -39.5%
Aaron Judge 35.1% 32.1% 62.7% 28.6% -34.1%
Joey Gallo 37.3% 16.7% 63.5% 30.2% -33.3%
Josh Donaldson 25.7% 30.0% 49.2% 21.1% -28.2%
Ji-Man Choi 17.8% 8.3% 35.0% 10.7% -24.3%
Victor Caratini 22.0% 3.7% 36.2% 12.0% -24.2%
Avisail Garcia 17.2% 5.6% 39.1% 15.6% -23.5%
Nick Solak 20.8% 3.4% 36.4% 14.8% -21.5%
Jorge Alfaro 25.4% 17.6% 45.1% 25.0% -20.1%
Shohei Ohtani 26.5% 20.6% 51.5% 33.3% -18.2%
Yandy Diaz 17.5% 18.2% 36.1% 18.2% -17.9%
Austin Meadows 19.3% 8.9% 32.5% 14.6% -17.8%
Yoan Moncada 20.2% 12.5% 37.6% 20.5% -17.1%
Christian Walker 20.1% 12.1% 38.6% 21.6% -17.0%
DJ LeMahieu 19.3% 27.0% 30.5% 13.5% -17.0%
Gleyber Torres 21.5% 7.1% 26.5% 9.8% -16.8%
Ketel Marte 19.0% 3.8% 29.2% 12.8% -16.5%
Jonathan Villar 16.7% 7.1% 24.1% 8.0% -16.1%

Looking solely at HR/FB rate, you would never have guessed that Aaron Judge’s Brls/TFB fell so precipitously. Of course, he missed time to injury so the sample size here is pretty tiny. He also was coming off a near league leading 2019 Brls/TFB, so that would have been difficult to maintain anyway, even though his history has been around that rate because he’s superhuman.

Sheesh, a sub-20% HR/FB rate Joey Gallo is not a Gallo anyone wants on their fantasy team. Like Judge, his Brls/TFB fell dramatically after being near MLB highs in recent years, but this came in a much larger sample size. If there’s a silver lining, his SwStk% fell again, which continues the trend of an improved mark during every subsequent season in the Majors. At just age 27 next year, I doubt he just lost a significant amount of power. I’ll be buying at a discount next year, especially in OBP leagues. However, the one caveat is that the new ballpark may have been much less hitter friendly and that could have cut down his home runs. That said, it’s highly unlikely the park explains the entirety of his HR/FB decline, and the park has nothing to do with his Brls/TFB, since exit velocity and launch angle wouldn’t be affected, unless it’s a psychological effect.

So Josh Donaldson appears as a big Brls/TFB loser as well, after surprisingly appearing on my average fly ball distance laggards list. Perhaps this is the first sign of a dramatic decline coming.

I rode Avisail Garcia in my shallow mixed league for several weeks because the Brewers kept on having weeks with more than seven games. Oops, Garcia did absolutely nothing for me, and his power was out all season long. Since 2013, he has never posted a HR/FB rate in the single digits, so this marks the first year, though it was one third of a season. Since he also only swiped one base, it’s hard to bet on a rebound because even a rebound wouldn’t produce much shallow mixed league value. In NL-Only leagues, sure, he’s young enough still to believe this was just a small sample fluke.

Nick Solak was hoped to be a nice power/speed threat, but while he did steal seven bases, his power metrics collapsed and he swatted just two homers. That new park may have been quite pitcher friendly, as he actually failed to hit a home run there in 100 at-bats. I’m not sure he’ll automatically be handed a starting job next year coming off a .297 wOBA, but if he is, I’m still willing to speculate on what should still be a pretty cheap price.

Despite a significant drop in Brls/TFB, Shohei Ohtani still managed to keep his HR/FB rate over 20%, so his disappointing offensive output was mostly due to that .229 BABIP. That should rebound and while his future pitching career is up in the air, he’s had nearly two season’s worth of plate appearances to prove that he could really hit at the MLB level. Don’t forget about him, especially because he continues to steal bases, making him an exciting power/speed threat.

It’s bad enough that Yandy Diaz reverted back to hitting too many grounders and not enough flies, but the flies he did hit were less productive as his Brls/TFB was cut in half. It makes it much harder to believe in his 2019 now as I did heading into 2020. Perhaps you should speculate here only in OBP leagues because at least if his power doesn’t return, he’ll be an excellent OBP contributor.

Man, Austin Meadows is a tough one because on the one hand, we all wondered how real his 2019 breakout was. Was he due for major regression this season anyway? On the other hand, he tested positive for COVID-19, so you almost have to give him a complete mulligan on the season, as the disease affects everyone differently, and it could have hampered his ability to be productive at the plate. The biggest issue for next season is that the Rays are now more likely to platoon him, so that’s going to limit his counting stats, even though he performed admirably against lefties in 2019. His fantasy appeal is going to be greatly determined by his price.

Predictably, Yoan Moncada’s BABIP plummeted back to Earth, but his power spike seemed believable. Instead, he posted a weak .309 wOBA with only six homers, and didn’t even steal a base. He was definitely overvalued heading into 2020, so was this short season performance enough to push his price back into fair territory?

Somehow, DJ LeMahieu’s HR/FB rate surged again to a new career high, despite the fact his Brls/TFB was more than cut in half. Since his fly ball rate is always so low, he needs a high HR/FB rate to really contribute in home runs, especially considering he barely adds value via the stolen base. Of course, no one is complaining given that he batted .370, but I’m pointing out the warning signs so you don’t pay the going rate thinking you’re getting a guy on a 30-homer pace. It’s a shortened season small sample size, but at his age, you never know when the early signs of age decline start showing up.

Gleyber Torres marks the third Yankees hitter on this list. Unlike Judge and LeMahieu, Torres’ HR/FB did plummet. Given all the other positives (walk rate spike, strikeout rate & SwStk% improvements, increased maxEV), I’m going to chalk this up to a small sample slump and expect whatever you did for 2020 to happen in 2021.

From 32 homers and 10 steals to a same at-bat pace of six homers and three steals, Ketel Marte was quite the disappointment. Though he did hit .287, so at least he was a positive in one category. I’m eager to see how he’s valued next season as he could either be a bargain or at a price that requires a more significant rebound toward 2019 than I’m willing to pay for.

Did Jonathan Villar’s disappointing short season cost him a full-time job next year? He still swiped 16 bases so he delivered some fantasy value, but everything else was awful. He’s not exactly over the hill, so you wouldn’t expect his power to just disappear after he posted six straight seasons of double digit HR/FB rates.

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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3 years ago

Yoan Moncada also dealt with COVID-19 this year.