2020 Review: Surprising Average Fly Ball Distance Leaders

For obvious reasons, Statcast’s average fly ball distance correlates highly with HR/FB rate (0.64 in my calculations from 2015-2020). So let’s peruse this shortened season’s leaderboard and discuss any of the surprising names.

Below are the top 20 names that hit at least 10 fly balls according to Statcast.

Avg FB Dist Leaders
Player HR/FB Avg Dist FB
Bobby Dalbec 44.4% 370
Ryan McMahon 24.3% 356
Ronald Acuna Jr. 32.6% 352
Nelson Cruz 41.0% 352
Juan Soto 36.1% 351
Austin Hedges 15.0% 349
Kevin Kiermaier 15.8% 347
Chris Taylor 22.9% 345
Edwin Rios 28.6% 345
Teoscar Hernandez 32.7% 342
Marcell Ozuna 26.5% 342
Eric Hosmer 22.5% 341
Jose Abreu 32.8% 340
Matt Olson 24.1% 340
Ryan O’Hearn 8.0% 338
Miguel Sano 34.2% 338
Kole Calhoun 28.6% 337
Eloy Jimenez 31.1% 337
Jake Lamb 12.5% 337

What a debut for Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec. He displayed mammoth power, along with a crazy .394 BABIP (especially crazy given his batted ball profile)…and struck out 42.4% of the time. He just made the cutoff for the list with 10 fly balls, so obviously the sample size here is tiny. He’s always shown power in the minors, but didn’t struggle this much making contact, as his SwStk% was a skyhigh 21.2%. Expect his BABIP to fall back to Earth, which means he’ll join a long list of excellent power, low batting average options for next season.

Perhaps given his 20%+ HR/FB rates, Ryan McMahon’s appearance here isn’t all that surprising. I guess it surprised me, as I didn’t even realize he posted a 24.3% HR/FB rate this year. He was even on my shallow 12-team mixed league team for like a week or two and did nothing, so perhaps that’s why I thought he stunk all year. A career .317 wOBA shouldn’t cut it at the corner positions, which is where he belongs, but he keeps getting sent out to show off his poor defense at second base. He’ll continue to be at risk of losing playing time, even if the DH remains.

Man, look at Kevin Kiermaier showing off his power! It only led to a marginally higher HR/FB rate versus 2019 and was still below his career best in 2017. As usual, he couldn’t stay healthy all season as he missed a game here and there for a litany of reasons. Encouraging was his walk rate spike which more than doubled from his 2019 mark. If that’s maintained, it’ll be a big boost to his offensive contributions for the Rays and should result in more runs scored.

Oh Chris Taylor, your offensive progression has been a sight to behold.

As if the Dodgers weren’t already good enough, sure, let’s promote Edwin Rios to hit more bombs. Rios somehow managed to swing and miss a lot but still keep his strikeout rate below the league average, which isn’t going to happen again. But he’s got serious power. Just be aware that if lands a starting job, he struck out over 30% of the time during his last two Triple-A stints and his SwStk% suggests his contact ability hasn’t actually improved any. He’s still a deep league speculation that he gets playing time.

Given his mere two homers and .106 ISO, Ryan O’Hearn truly qualifies as a surprise on this list. It would seem to make him a deep, deep sleeper for next year, but you have to ask yourself whether the Royals are going to even bother giving him any more chances. His skill set does have several positives, so all hope definitely isn’t lost. His strikeout rate has risen, but his SwStk% is actually barely worse than the league average. He walks too. If he somehow enters next season as the starting first baseman, I’m not opposed to throwing a buck at him in a deep (probably only AL-Only) league.

Welp, the Athletics had to be thrilled with what Jake Lamb gave them in his 49 plate appearances. Lamb was once good, back in 2016 and 2017, but hasn’t sniffed a .300 wOBA since. Injuries are likely the culprit here, but at least he reminded us of what a healthy Lamb could still do. It’ll be interesting if his good Athletics play gives him an opportunity for a larger role heading into next season. Or, the tiny sample size won’t make much of a difference. We’ll have to see. But if he’s handed a role, he could very well be worth a speculative buy, as he will certainly come cheap.

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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