2021 Review: Hitter Barrel FB% Surgers

Today, I’ll continue my 2021 reviews of hitter Barrel FB% (BFB%). This time, we’ll take a look at the BFB% surgers compared to 2020. Remember that not only was 2020 a short season, but it was marred by irregular preseason training and interrupted by COVID-19 infections. So this is going to be a weirder list than usual with small sample marks in 2020 as hitters had less time for regression toward their career means.

Barrel FB% Surgers
Player 2020 HR/FB 2021 HR/FB 2020 Barrel FB% 2021 Barrel FB% Barrel FB% Diff
Ketel Marte 3.8% 15.6% 0.0% 33.9% 33.9%
Avisail Garcia 5.6% 26.1% 4.3% 36.7% 32.3%
Shohei Ohtani 20.6% 32.9% 13.6% 42.1% 28.5%
Yasmani Grandal 18.6% 28.4% 14.8% 42.9% 28.0%
Joey Votto 19.6% 26.5% 12.8% 40.0% 27.2%
Mike Trout 23.0% 30.8% 29.4% 55.0% 25.6%
Adalberto Mondesi 11.3% 17.6% 16.1% 40.9% 24.8%
Corey Seager 21.7% 16.5% 6.8% 31.4% 24.6%
Javier Baez 17.0% 28.2% 14.3% 38.8% 24.5%
Starling Marte 11.8% 13.6% 11.4% 35.5% 24.1%
Max Muncy 19.7% 23.1% 16.7% 40.0% 23.3%
Gregory Polanco 15.9% 10.5% 7.7% 30.9% 23.2%
Willson Contreras 15.9% 22.3% 14.3% 37.1% 22.9%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 17.6% 26.5% 12.5% 35.2% 22.7%
Luke Voit 34.9% 20.0% 17.1% 39.6% 22.4%
Yan Gomes 11.1% 14.3% 4.2% 25.8% 21.6%
Kyle Schwarber 25.6% 28.6% 20.0% 41.3% 21.3%
Rafael Devers 19.3% 22.1% 19.4% 40.3% 21.0%
Kyle Tucker 13.2% 16.1% 7.5% 28.4% 20.9%
Austin Hays 12.9% 15.0% 4.5% 25.2% 20.7%
Donovan Solano 5.5% 8.1% 0.0% 20.3% 20.3%
Population Avg 15.0% 13.7% 13.7% 23.1% 9.4%

Before diving into the names, I wanted to point something out that you may have noticed in the table. If you look at the Population Avg, you might be wondering how the entire population (this is all players on my file, not just those in the above table, and not all of MLB) increased its BFB% from 13.7% in 2020 to 23.1% in 2021. The whole league went power crazy! Nope, instead it looks to have been some wacky Statcast classification issue in 2020, as BFB% was above 20% in both 2018 and 2019. Furthermore, Barrel LD% doubled in 2020 as BFB% collapsed, so something may have been going on classifying fly balls and line drives. Or perhaps the small sample size just resulted in craziness, who knows.

Anyway, atop the list is Ketel Marte. If you recall, he broke out the power in 2019, as his HR/FB rate nearly doubled, while his ISO shot above .200 for the first time. We all wondered how much of those power gains he would sustain in 2020. The answer was — barely any. He failed to barrel even one fly ball! Even though we acknowledged 2020 wasn’t a season to weight heavily, it was hard not to given Marte’s pre-2019 performances, which were much lighter on power. So naturally, his power bounces right back up as if 2020 never happened, and his BFB% actually spiked to a new career high, the first time it finished above 30%. It seems pretty clear that he’s a legit mid-to-high teens HR/FB rate guy now.

I’m not particularly enthused about Avisail Garcia in Miami, but this was a nice bounceback after a disappointing 2020.

I talked up Joey Votto in Monday’s surprise leaders post and I’m eager to see what he does for an encore.

LOL at Mike Trout. That’s the highest BFB% in 2021 of those with at least 10 fly balls. Coming off a serious leg injury, and strikeout rate and SwStk% spikes (albeit over a small sample size), how much cheaper is he in 2022 than he has been?

Just another reminder that Adalberto Mondesi isn’t just a one-dimensional speedster. I should probably keep those reminders to myself though as I’d be delighted to once again roster him in multiple leagues, at what I imagine will be cheaper than I did for 2021.

Corey Seager is just one of three on this list whose HR/FB rate actually fell in 2021, despite a massive surge in BFB%. You might wonder if his 2020 HR/FB rate was a fluke, but he was a good example of the potential classification issue between flies and liners. While his BFB% was shockingly in single digits in 2020, his Barrel LD% actually skyrocketed to over 40%! So he actually matched his xHR/FB rate as a result. He has posted a HR/FB rate 2.7% higher at home than away over his career, so I’m curious how his new park in Texas will affect his home run power.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. experienced a similar trend as Seager did in 2020, as his BFB% was more than cut in half, but his Barrel LD% nearly tripled to make up for it. Amazingly, even though his BFB% fully rebounded in 2021 and jumped even higher, he barely lost any of the Barrel LD% gains he enjoyed in 2020. So he was just going barrel crazy, which is what his fantasy owners were betting on, as his draft day cost was far greater than the value he had delivered during his first two seasons.

After an amazing power display over the short 2020 season (where he also apparently traded barreled flies for barreled liners like Seager and Guerrero), Luke Voit battled injuries and ultimately disappointed in 2021. However, if you followed my xHR/FB rate, you would have known that his 2020 HR/FB rate was a complete fluke. In fact, his xHR/FB rates have remained incredibly consistent since 2019, tightly ranging between 20.6% and 21.7%. Perhaps he’ll benefit here and there by the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field, but my equation thinks he’s about a 21% to 22% true talent HR/FB rate guy.

While Rafael Devers also experience the same classification issues I keep noting, he easily posted a career high BFB%, and it came with the second highest Barrel LD% of his career as well. There’s really nothing to question in his profile.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Kyle Tucker’s BFB% and Barrel LD% nearly reversed (back to normal) in 2021. I still feel like he’s capable of an even higher BFB%, which would make him even more valuable if it happens, especially given his stolen base contributions.

This was a solid performance for Austin Hays in his first full season. While he could afford to walk more, he could do a bit of everything, while not standing out anywhere and playing for Baltimore, which could potentially make him undervalued.

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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