2020 Review: Barrels Per True Fly Ball Surgers

With fewer games for extreme performances to regress back toward player and league averages, it stands to reason that surger and decliner lists are going to be pretty lengthy and more surprising than normal. In addition, the degree in which the metric being analyzed surged or declined is likely to be much greater than in past, full seasons. So let’s remember that when reviewing 2020 numbers and put much less stock into the fact that a player doubled or tripled some rate from 2019, and instead simply consider that the player may have enjoyed skills growth that could potentially carry over into 2021. Today, let’s review the barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB) surgers. Many of these same names appeared on the leaders list posted on Tuesday, so I’ll try discussing only those not on that list.

Brls/TFB Surgers
Player 2019 HR/FB 2020 HR/FB 2019 Brls/TFB 2020 Brls/TFB Brls/TFB Diff
D.J. Stewart 10.8% 33.3% 22.6% 62.5% 39.9%
Jedd Gyorko 7.4% 27.3% 13.6% 46.4% 32.8%
Juan Soto 22.2% 36.1% 34.9% 67.6% 32.7%
Jesse Winker 23.2% 40.0% 18.2% 50.0% 31.8%
Chris Taylor 13.6% 22.9% 17.4% 45.5% 28.0%
Colin Moran 11.5% 27.8% 25.5% 53.1% 27.6%
Trent Grisham 12.5% 20.0% 13.3% 40.5% 27.1%
Willi Castro 3.8% 20.7% 4.5% 31.0% 26.5%
Eloy Jimenez 27.2% 31.1% 41.0% 65.0% 24.0%
Dylan Moore 12.5% 21.6% 16.9% 39.4% 22.4%
Corey Seager 12.3% 21.7% 19.6% 41.2% 21.6%
Max Stassi 3.6% 25.9% 12.0% 33.3% 21.3%
Brandon Belt 8.8% 19.1% 19.7% 40.4% 20.8%
Teoscar Hernandez 22.8% 32.7% 31.0% 50.0% 19.0%
Dominic Smith 22.4% 22.2% 22.2% 40.9% 18.7%
Tim Anderson 16.7% 23.8% 19.4% 38.1% 18.7%
Rio Ruiz 12.5% 18.0% 9.5% 27.3% 17.7%
Ben Gamel 11.5% 16.7% 13.6% 31.3% 17.7%
Jeimer Candelario 8.5% 15.2% 16.5% 33.3% 16.9%
Kevin Kiermaier 14.0% 15.8% 20.9% 37.5% 16.6%
Evan Longoria 15.5% 14.0% 21.1% 37.5% 16.4%
Jorge Soler 28.1% 22.9% 44.9% 60.7% 15.8%
Lewis Brinson 0.0% 13.0% 13.0% 28.6% 15.5%
J.T. Realmuto 15.7% 23.4% 25.5% 40.5% 15.0%

I arbitrarily included all hitters who raised their Brls/TFB by at least 15 percentage points versus 2019. That resulted in 24 players and of those, 21 of them also increased their HR/FB rates. Clearly there’s a strong correlation between the two!

D.J. Stewart ranked fourth on Tuesday’s leaders list and he ranks first as the biggest surger, and it wasn’t all that close. Given that his SwStk% and strikeout rate both surged, it certainly looks like he may have tried selling out for more power, but over a tiny sample size, you just don’t know. His overall line is pretty hilarious as a genuine three true outcomes hitter. The speed and stolen base prowess he showed in the minors might be gone, so that’s going to cap his fantasy potential.

LOL, and we assumed Juan Soto couldn’t get any better! Seriously, how is a 21-year-old this good at hitting a baseball? This is what the beginning of a Hall of Fame career looks like and perhaps even what ends up being one of the best offensive careers in history.

After showing limited power in the minors through 2018, Trent Grisham enjoyed a power surge in 2019 at Double-A and Triple-A. Was it a fluke or true power growth? It was the latter, clearly. With power and speed, and perfectly acceptable (small sample) performance against lefties, there are no red flags here.

Wowzers, Willi Castro! Who saw that coming? With meh power in the minors and no such expectations of any serious power in the future, Castro was suddenly a barrel machine this year and his HR/FB rate hopped over 20%. He also posted an elite batted ball distribution en route to a crazy .448 BABIP. How much of this was real and how much just the randomness of 129 at-bats? We shall find out more next season!

Dylan Moore, whaaaaaaaaaat?! At age 27m Moore wasn’t a prospect, and last appeared as the 26th best prospect in his respective organization back in 2017. With a touch of power and some speed, he was a perfectly acceptable reserve rounder in deeper leagues in his utility role, but he surprisingly stepped it up to become a real fantasy contributor as a full-timer. I have no idea how much of this is real, but the amazing thing is there is a path for addition upside. His strikeout rate was up at 27%, but a SwStk% of just 10.7% suggests the potential for a much improved mark next year. Outside of his professional debut in 2015, he never posted a strikeout rate above 20%, so it’s just a matter of being more aggressive in the strike zone and swinging at more strikes, rather than letting them pass by for a called strike, resulting in a bunch of looking strikeouts (his looking strikeout rate has been worse than the league average in his first two stints with the Mariners).

Corey Seager’s postseason performance is going to make it easier to believe his power spike during the regular season was real. It’s surprising though that as often as he swings and misses, he isn’t striking out more, which is a hidden downside here.

If only Max Stassi didn’t get hurt, he could have been this season’s Mitch Garver.

The Brandon Belt power spike finally happened and he didn’t even need a new team! For once, he actually posted a significantly better HR/FB rate at home than in away parks. There were changes to AT&T Park over the offseason and judging solely by Belt’s improved power performance there, seemingly made the park much less pitcher friendly, to the delight of hitters.

Although Teoscar Hernandez crushed it this year, I think he’ll be overvalued thanks to an inflated .348 BABIP and six steals, a pace he’s unlikely to maintain again over a full season. That said, perhaps he proves he could sustain a high 20% HR/FB rate, rather than see that mark regress back to the low 20% range where his career mark sits. Then he’ll join a group of 30+ homer, low batting average guys.

Man, Tim Anderson’s power just keeps rising, as his ISO has now risen every season since 217. I still don’t understand how he’s posting such a ridiculous BABIP, but with speed, power, and a low IFFB%, he definitely deserves a well above average one. I have to think this is it for his growth and it’s only downhill from here. I also worry about his strikeout rate given all his swinging strikes, and since he rarely walks, the whole skill set looks very risky to bet on.

If it weren’t for a .244 BABIP, Rio Ruiz would have earned some value in shallower mixed leagues. His defense turned negative this year though, so if he isn’t contributing on the field, then he’ll need to keep his wOBA over .300 to keep a starting job.

Ben Gamel showing off his power! It’s too bad last season’s strikeout issues persisted this year, even though his SwStk% suggests much better results. I’m surprised he remains a fourth outfielder as he seems good enough to be a low end starting outfielder for some team.

After a disappointing 2019, Jeimer Candelario rebounded strongly this year, driven by both a spike in power and a major surge in BABIP. The BABIP won’t last, of course, so the power jump is most encouraging. Perhaps he’s put himself back on the map as a cheap speculation at the corner spot in shallow mixed leagues.

Man, you would hope Lewis Brinson would rebound dramatically off last year’s lowly Brls/TFB, and while he posted a better than league average mark this year, his power was still underwhelming. He still swings and misses often, but since he swings so frequently, his strikeout rate isn’t as poor as it could be, and he doesn’t even give himself the chance to take a walk. With this skill set, he needs to show more power and get that BABIP over .300 or he has no chance of avoiding the bust label.

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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How do we not discuss Dom Smith here? Former top prospect who had a strong 2019 in limited at bats gets and opportunity and increases his barrels significantly without increasing his homer rate. That seems more interesting than half the guys mentioned. Are the barrels an outlier? Should we expect more power given the hard contact?


In 2019, 9 of Smith’s 10 barrels went for home runs. League-wide, just less than 60% of barrels went for Home Runs. This year, 9 of Smith’s 18 barrels went for home runs, and league-wide, just over 56% of barrels went for home runs. Smith’s balls in play were nearly identical between years (133 in 2019, 135 in 2020). I suspect that 90% HR/Barrel was likely unsustainable, so I’m thinking the 2020 Smith is at least closer to what to expect.

It is interesting, however, that now his doubles/barrel rate is nearly double the league average…