2021 Review: Hitter Average Distance FB+LD Surgers

Today, let’s look into the hitters whose average distance of fly balls and line drives (ADFBLD) increased the most versus 2020. Remember that 2020 was not only a short season, but also affected by COVID-19 infections and the effects of the pandemic.

Average Distance FB+LD Surgers
Player 2020 HR/FB 2021 HR/FB 2020 Avg Dist FB+LD 2021 Avg Dist FB+LD Avg Dist FB+LD Diff
Yandy Diaz 18.2% 10.6% 259 293 35
Adalberto Mondesi 11.3% 17.6% 293 324 32
Khris Davis 7.7% 10.3% 284 313 29
Ben Gamel 16.7% 8.5% 258 284 26
Shohei Ohtani 20.6% 32.9% 287 312 25
Jonathan Villar 7.1% 18.4% 262 287 25
Mike Tauchman 0.0% 11.4% 259 283 24
Hunter Dozier 13.6% 11.1% 280 300 20
Avisail Garcia 5.6% 26.1% 278 298 20
Carter Kieboom 0.0% 12.8% 259 279 20
Eduardo Escobar 6.1% 14.0% 273 291 18
Luis Garcia 11.8% 13.0% 264 280 16
Paul DeJong 6.4% 16.0% 286 301 15
Population Average 15.0% 13.7% 291 287

Somehow Yandy Diaz managed to pump his ADFBLD up, but suffer a significant HR/FB rate at the same time. That’s because his 2020 HR/FB rate was a complete fluke — it’s what happens when he hits so few flies + liners that it’s almost total randomness what percentage of those jumps over the wall. Diaz still has power potential, he just needs to keep his FB% over 30% to take advantage. He’ll be entering his age 30 season, so at some point, we all need to just accept that this is who he is, which is a fine OBP league contributor, but that’s about it.

There’s Adalberto Mondesi again, who keeps appearing on these power lists. 30 homers and 50 steals? One can dream.

Yeah, Shohei Ohtani was pretty good last year. Excluding 2020, his xHR/FB rates have been between 28.6% and 30.4%, so there’s no flukiness here. My only concern is the injury factor, which is greatly increased for as long as he pitches too.

After a down 2020, Jonathan Villar’s power fully rebounded, but his speed took a big hit. While he still was a positive in both homers and steals, he swiped two fewer bases in nearly 300 more PAs compared to 2020! He’s a free agent now and it’ll be interesting to see if he signs with a team as a full-timer. He’s still a fantasy asset, but it’ll be an open question as to whether his steals rebound at all.

This was actually Hunter Dozier’s highest ADFBLD, and yet his HR/FB rate slid to a career low. Overall though, he showed his best power skills during his first two seasons, but those skills deteriorated in 2020, and didn’t improve this past season. The Royals really shouldn’t remain patient here as they have young corner outfielders and a potential slugger in Nick Pratto waiting to take over at first base.

Woah, this was quite the rebound for Avisail Garcia. This was actually his highest ADFBLD going back to 2015. He probably had one of the quietest mid-20% HR/FB rates in baseball. Unfortunately, it wasn’t totally real, as his xHR/FB rate of 21.2% was right in line with his 2018 and 2019 seasons. 2022 will be a real test as he’s played in home run friendly venues nearly his entire career. LoanDepot Park (I cannot believe I just typed that) is one of the league’s most unfavorable parks for right-handed home runs, so the move to Miami is likely to hurt his home run power.

To life, to life, Carter Kieboom! It was only 165 PAs entering 2021, but Carter Kieboom had done nothing, and showed little power, during that time. He wasn’t much better over another small sample in 2021, but at least he barreled a fly ball, something he failed to do in 2020. His minor league history doesn’t exactly get me excited, but he is definitely better than his results so far and will likely earn you a profit in most leagues, given an expected cheap price.

Buying 2020’s disappointments was a valid strategy and Eduardo Escobar delivered on that rebound promise. All his power metrics returned to normal, but now he joins yet another team. The Mets made a bunch of offseason signings and so Escobar is projected to hit seventh in the lineup, assuming a DH. That’s not great for his counting stats, though there could be opportunity to move up a spot or two with a hot start.

Luis Garcia’s surge was off a tiny 2020 sample and while the improvement was nice, it still wasn’t as impressive as his 2021 Triple-A power spike suggested he might now be capable of. Since Garcia has only stolen two bases over his last 545 PAs since 2020, he’ll need to show power for fantasy owners to care about him. That Triple-A power surge is exciting, but it’s over a small sample, so you have to wonder how real it was. Still, I’m happy to speculate as he should come pretty cheap.

Paul DeJong’s HR/FB rate collapsed in 2020, but his power skills didn’t — his xHR/FB rate still sat in the mid-teens, so he was an easy bounceback call. Unfortunately, a terrible BABIP cost him playing time, and he might not have a starting job to open the season.

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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