2021 Review: Hitter Barrel FB% Laggards

Yesterday, I began my 2021 review of my xMetrics and its variables, by reviewing the hitter Barrel FB% (BFB%) leaders and discussing the more interesting names. Today, we’ll flip over to the BFB% laggards. As you could guess, this list is going to include more obvious names then the leader list. Hopefully there are at least a couple worth highlighting.

Barrel FB% Laggards
Player HR/FB Barrel FB%
David Fletcher 1.3% 0.0%
John Nogowski 2.3% 0.0%
Magneuris Sierra 0.0% 0.0%
Ronald Torreyes 7.6% 1.6%
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 5.6% 2.4%
Eric Sogard 2.0% 2.6%
Nicky Lopez 2.1% 2.7%
Joshua Fuentes 7.4% 2.9%
Tim Locastro 4.7% 3.0%
Austin Nola 3.6% 3.1%
Tony Kemp 6.9% 3.4%
Andrelton Simmons 3.2% 3.4%
Luis Guillorme 3.3% 4.2%
Gerardo Parra 8.0% 4.5%
Myles Straw 2.7% 4.5%
Nico Hoerner 0.0% 4.5%
Adam Frazier 3.3% 4.8%
Billy Hamilton 6.3% 5.0%
Didi Gregorius 9.4% 5.0%
Sandy Leon 6.7% 6.4%
Kevin Newman 2.9% 6.7%
Max Schrock 6.7% 6.9%
Austin Wynns 11.8% 7.1%
Brock Holt 3.6% 7.1%
Nick Madrigal 5.6% 7.4%
Victor Robles 2.4% 7.4%
Zack Short 10.3% 7.5%
Andrew Knapp 6.5% 7.7%
Danny Mendick 4.7% 7.7%
J.P. Crawford 5.8% 7.7%
Joe Panik 4.5% 7.7%
Santiago Espinal 3.0% 7.7%
Population Average 13.7% 23.1%

It wasn’t a good first full season in San Diego for Austin Nola. He missed the first month of the season due to a fractured finger and then missed nearly two months with a sprained knee. He wound up with just 194 plate appearances and his power disappeared. Surprisingly, his BFB% was actually well below the league average in both 2019 and 2020, but he still managed to post league averageish HR/FB rates. This year, his BFB% tumbled to less than a third of what he posted in 2020.

I would think we should completely chalk it up to his injuries, but my xHR/FB rate suggests he was super lucky in 2019, meaning he’s only shown double digit HR/FB rate power in less than a third of his MLB at-bats. Expect a rebound, but I’m not sure I would be betting on another double digit HR/FB rate.

Sure, we never thought of Andrelton Simmons as a power guy, and he’s knocked double digit homers just three times, with a HR/FB rate never higher than 8.4%. But now that he has stolen just three bases over his last 578 plate appearances, fantasy owners are going to need him to contribute something to earn a place on rosters. Since his BABIP also collapsed in 2021, he was one of the worst roster slot clogs imaginable.

Nico Hoerner’s page tells us he was recently the Cubs top prospect, ranking 44th overall. But so far, 378 plate appearances in, spread over three seasons, he’s given us a paltry .303 wOBA, weak .078 ISO and 4.2% HR/FB rate. His low BFB% suggests it hasn’t just been bad luck that resulted in zero homers. Heck, it’s just nice to see him recording a barrel at all considering he posted a 0% BFB% in 2020! Since he has shown solid plate discipline with a low strikeout rate, stolen eight bases, and batted a respectable .272 without a skyhigh BABIP, there’s real fantasy potential here. But that power needs to appear at some point.

Didi Gregorius battled elbow issues all season, which may very well have contributed to his lowest BFB% since 2015. That was the year before he enjoyed a power spike and his HR/FB rates jumped into double digits, where they stayed until 2020. Gregorius is interesting because he has consistently outperformed his xHR/FB rates. Normally, I would assume it was due to Yankee Stadium, but he has continued to outperform even with the Phillies. I am always a little more skeptical of the consistent outperformers, because you never know when that mysterious skill that’s being missed in my equation disappears.

Victor Robles was a big disappointment for me. Coming off a poor 2020 drastically reduced his cost, making me a first time owner. I then became super bullish when he looked to open the season as the Nationals leadoff hitter. Unfortunately, his power fell even further, while his BABIP dropped to a career low.

What’s interesting here is that this BFB% isn’t lower than what he has posted in the past. He actually failed to barrel a fly ball in 2020, giving him a 0% BFB%, and then posted just a 7.7% mark in 2018 over a tiny sample size. His only solid barrel year was 2019 when he posted a mid-teen mark. So it’s hard to say right now whether that was a fluke or still lay sleeping in his bat. He might not open the season with a starting job, but there was a bunch of things to like from his 2021 performance, including a rebound in strikeout rate, career best walk rate, and a continuation of his consistently high line drive rates. I’m buying on the cheap in deep leagues.

J.P. Crawford also failed to hit a single barreled fly ball in 2020, so it was nice to see him rebound and hit seven of them this year. That said, his BFB% remains low, and finished below both his 2018 and 2019 marks, both of which sat in double digits. Like Simmons above, Crawford essentially stopped stealing bases this past year, though it wasn’t totally due to lack of trying. Instead, he got caught on two-thirds of his attempts! Without strong stolen base skills, we wait patiently for a power spike that we hope eventually comes.

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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Joe Wilkeymember
2 years ago

Robles had quite a few 2B+3B on FB, probably more than expected. This is a super basic methodology, but if you simply take the league average rate of (2B+3B)/FB (with FB defined by StatCast) and apply it to Robles, you would expect him to have three 2B+3B. He had seven, four more than expected. If you do the same thing with his HR, he has about seven less than expected (nine to two). If you just look at his FB that are doubles/triples, there’s more than a few where you don’t really have to squint very hard to understand how they could be home runs.

Now, I’m not saying that Robles is going to go set the world on fire in 2022. His average EV on FB is 1.3 mph below league average, so he’s not going to get as many HR as a league average hitter. He had 28 pop ups last year as defined by Statcast, which is 64% above league average. His average launch angle on batted balls is a full five degrees above league average, which is fine if you hit the ball hard, but he paired a high launch angle with the second lowest average exit velocity among players with at least 1000 pitches. Nobody with his speed should ever produce a .272 BABIP, which he’s doing by hitting the ball in the air.

He only turns 25 in May, so there’s still a bit of time to improve, but it’s running out. I’m not sure he ever becomes fantasy starter material without extreme changes to his approach. I think his ideal outcome for fantasy would be for him to stop trying for power, become a doubles machine with a good-ish batting average and a good amount of R/SB. He has good plate discipline for his age, but at a certain point, pitchers are just going to challenge him in the zone and make him fly out/pop out.