2021 Review: Hitter Barrel FB% Leaders

It’s finally time to look toward the 2022 season by reviewing my plethora of xMetrics and where hitters finished in the various components of each. While these posts won’t include actual projections, the first step toward developing a forecast is understanding the past.

We’ll begin by diving into my xHR/FB rate equation and some of the variables driving it.

First, let’s have some barrel fun. Barrel FB% (BFB%) is the percentage of fly balls, as defined by Statcast, that are classified as a “barrel”. It’s an important variable in the xHR/FB rate equation as it accounts for both exit velocity and launch angle. You need an ideal combination of both for a home run that flies over the outfield wall.

So let’s find out who the 2021 leaders were, using a minimum of 20 fly balls, which is around a month’s worth of flies. We’ll discuss any interesting names on the list.

Barrel FB% Leaders
Player HR/FB Barrel FB%
Mike Trout 30.8% 55.0%
Fernando Tatis Jr. 32.1% 52.0%
Mike Zunino 30.3% 50.0%
Chad Pinder 12.8% 50.0%
Franmil Reyes 30.6% 48.5%
Bobby Bradley 28.6% 44.4%
Ryan Jeffers 23.7% 43.5%
Yasmani Grandal 28.4% 42.9%
Ramon Urias 14.6% 42.9%
Bobby Dalbec 22.1% 42.7%
Alex Kirilloff 16.7% 42.5%
Mitch Garver 20.6% 42.2%
Shohei Ohtani 32.9% 42.1%
Ryan Zimmerman 23.3% 42.1%
Kyle Schwarber 28.6% 41.3%
Adalberto Mondesi 17.6% 40.9%
Sam Hilliard 29.2% 40.5%
Rafael Devers 22.1% 40.3%
Joey Gallo 27.1% 40.2%
Max Muncy 23.1% 40.0%
Joey Votto 26.5% 40.0%
Tyler O’Neill 26.2% 40.0%
Bryce Harper 26.7% 40.0%
J.D. Davis 14.7% 40.0%
Population Average 13.7% 23.1%

This was easily Chad Pinder’s career best BFB%, as his previous career high was 37.3%. Oddly, it didn’t result in a HR/FB rate spike, as he finished with a mark well below his career average and the lowest mark of his career over a season with at least 200 at-bats. His ability to move around the diamond means he’ll remain a valuable super utility player for the Athletics. Don’t let the mediocre HR/FB rate fool you, as he still has serious power potential in his bat and could deliver some homers if he finds himself with regular at-bats temporarily.

While he struck out often, Bobby Bradley’s minor league power absolutely translated to the Majors. It’s no surprise to find his name on this list given his lofty HR/FB rate, so think of this more as validation that his power output was fully backed up by his underlying skills. He looks kind of like a Miguel Sano clone, which means home runs, perhaps RBI, and not much else.

Amazingly, the Twins sported a catching duo that absolutely crushed it in 2021. Both Ryan Jeffers and Mitch Garver posted 20%+ HR/FB rates supported by 40%+ BFB% marks. Jeffers hadn’t shown this type of power in the minors until a small sample at Triple-A in 2021, but with 60 grade Raw Power, this doesn’t feel like too much of a fluke. garver broke out in 2019, then battled injury and poor performance in 2020, before rebounded in 2021. Given that 2019, it makes one feel like his 2021 is closer to his actual talent level than his disappointing 2020.

Add Ramon Urias to your 2022 sleeper list! He’s shown good power here and there in the minors, while his BFB% suggests a higher HR/FB rate than he posted during his rookie campaign. Since he doesn’t steal bases, he’ll need to show that power to deliver fantasy value. The good news is he kept his SwStk% in single digits, so strikeouts shouldn’t be an issue, while there’s upside in his FB%, which finished in the mid-20% range. If he could raise that FB% into even just the low 30% range, 20+ homers is easy.

Bobby Dalbec was supposed to hit lots of homers, while striking out often, but he didn’t exactly get off to the greatest of starts. He actually finished July with just 11 homers, but did his best to make up for the disappointing first four months by swatting 14 homers over the final two months. His BFB% confirms he still owns massive power and his strong final two months might push him onto many sleeper lists.

The Twins had another barreler in rookie Alex Kirilloff, who never really showed a whole lot of home run power in the minors, despite earning a 60 Raw Power grade. His 16.7% HR/FB rate actually represents a professional high, but his BFB% suggests that mark should have actually been even higher. That doesn’t mean he’ll actually post that higher mark in 2022, but knowing his 2021 mark potentially should have been higher will help shape his 2022 projection. He could also afford to hit more fly balls.

Ryan Zimmerman?! I don’t think I even realized that not only is he still playing, but that he recorded 273 PAs in 2021. My xHR/FB rate file goes back to 2015 and this is the highest BFB% Zimmerman has posted. While he seemingly traded contact and strikeouts for power, he clearly still has excellent power in that bat. It’s something to remember next year in deep leagues if the free agent signs and figures to earn at least a part-time role.

We know that Adalberto Mondesi is a speedster, but did you realize he has legit power in that bat as well? This is a career best BFB%, but he’s posted a 36% mark before as well. Clearly his shoulder was healthy in 2021! There are obviously flaws here, plus the whole staying healthy thing has been a major problem. But if you simply multiply his 2021 PAs by four to get an idea of what he was on pace for over a full season, you end up with 24 homers and 60 steals! Based solely on the massive upside if he does play close to a full season, I have to imagine he’ll be worth gambling on. The shallower your league (where replacement level is higher), the better buy he’ll be as you won’t lose as much from a replacement player when he inevitably lands on the IL.

I wanted to marvel at Joey Votto’s amazing revival. This is a guy who posted a microscopic 12.8% BFB% in 2020, and since 2015, hadn’t posted a mark higher than 22.2%. So to say it was a surprise that the 37-year-old suddenly posted a 40% BFB% is one of the biggest understatements of the 2021 season. His strikeout rate jumped above 20% for just the second time to a career high, while his SwStk% surged into double digits for the first time since 2010. So it looks pretty clear this was an intentional change in approach to trade some contact for power. Since he posted his highest wOBA since 2017, it clearly worked. But what he’ll do for an encore as a 38-year-old is anyone’s guess.

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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7 months ago

I feel like I’ve been waiting for years for Chad Pinder to finally gets some playing time. Maybe it’ll finally happen in 2022.