2022 Review: Hitter Barrel% Surgers

Since Barrel% has been recorded beginning in 2015, there’s a 0.82 correlation between the Statcast metric and HR/FB rate. That’s pretty big! While Barrel% theoretically includes all batted balls, the vast majority occur on fly balls, as 76% of barrels hit in 2022 were of this batted ball type. The rest came from line drives. So a quick shortcut to determine a hitter’s HR/FB rate potential is to simply look at his Barrel%. The higher the mark, the better. Let’s take a look at which hitters increased their Barrel% marks most versus 2021 and whether their HR/FB rates also increased.

Barrel% Surgers
Name 2021 HR/FB 2022 HR/FB 2021 Barrel% 2022 Barrel% Barrel% Diff
Aaron Judge 27.7% 35.6% 17.6% 26.2% 8.6%
Yordan Alvarez 21.4% 25.3% 15.9% 21.0% 5.1%
Anthony Rizzo 13.4% 17.8% 7.7% 10.9% 3.2%
Ryan Mountcastle 20.4% 13.3% 11.8% 15.0% 3.2%
Ryan McMahon 16.0% 16.5% 7.3% 10.4% 3.1%
Trent Grisham 12.0% 13.6% 5.2% 8.1% 2.9%
Gleyber Torres 6.9% 13.1% 7.8% 10.7% 2.9%

It was an historic season for Aaron Judge, whose 62 home runs rank seventh all-time for highest single season total. It was even more amazing considering the league hit the fewer number of home runs since 2015. Clearly, Judge didn’t receive the memo that power was down leaguewide. Obviously, Judge’s Barrel% has always been elite, but this was the highest mark ever posted in the Statcast era. Who ranked just behind him for second place? Aaron Judge, who posted another absurd 24.9% mark back in 2017. His 16 steals were also a shock and really made him an unbelievable fantasy monster. Will he be overvalued in drafts this year? Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Gosh, it’s not often a hitter is a star from his rookie season, but that’s been the case for Yordan Alvarez. It already feels like only health could get in the way of him finishing his career as one of baseball’s best hitters. Interestingly, his Barrel% was significantly higher than his 2019 rookie year, but his HR/FB rate finished well below. I actually think there’s more HR/FB rate upside here and we could see another 30%+ mark at least once again before his career is over.

Anthony Rizzo?! After seven straight seasons with amazingly consistent Barrel% marks that never exceeded 8.8%, he suddenly pushed into double digits for the first time. That was some good timing as he played his first full season as a member of the Yankees and their home run friendly park. He ended up posting a 19.8% HR/FB there versus a 15.5% mark away. What also really helped him tie a career high in home runs and post his first 30+ total since 2017 was becoming an extreme fly ball hitter. He set a new career high FB% and ranked sixth highest among qualified hitters. At age 33, it should be a pretty easy call to expect regression in both his Barrel% and FB%. With his batting average gone (though will the changes in shifting rules trigger a BABIP rebound?), he’s mostly just a power guy now, though does get a significant boost in OBP leagues.

Woah, Ryan Mountcastle is the first name on the list who lost HR/FB rate despite a jump in Barrel%. What happened? Easy, the changes made to Oriole Park took it from the second most right-handed home run friendly park in 2021 to the 10th worst. That’s an enormous swing. His HR/FB rate at home decline from 25% to just 12%! So he clearly benefited immensely from its previous cozy dimensions, and now the park is hampering his home run output. With such an increase in Barrel%, it’s hard to believe the park could have such a dramatic effect and that the increased Barrel% didn’t offset some of it. I see some sort of a power rebound this year, though getting back to the 20% range could be difficult.

Ryan McMahon did post a double digit HR/FB rate before, but that came during the short 2020 season. This was his first time in double digits over a full season, but it barely had any effect on his HR/FB rate. With Coors continuing to serve as home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get back into the 20% HR/FB rate range, but he would really need to keep that double digit Barrel% to make me believe it’s sustainable.

Ya know, I didn’t realize that Trent Grisham is still only his age 26 season, as he just feels like a long-time veteran who is on the downside of his career. Aside from a 20% HR/FB rate and .200+ ISO in 2020, his power has remained stable. The good news is the increased Barrel% hints at signs of working back to his 2020 level, which would definitely bring his HR/FB rate out from the low teens. His BABIP has nowhere to go but up and he still has some speed. In a deep mixed and NL-Only league, he seems like a nice target likely to be undervalued.

So we finally got a power rebound from Gleyber Torres…sort of. His HR/FB rate jumped back into double digits and ISO was knocking on the door of .200. But this still wasn’t close to the same version we saw during his first two seasons. However, the jump in Barrel% shines a glimmer of hope. In fact, this was the highest Barrel% of his career and the first in double digits. He only managed marks in the low-to-mid 9% range in 2018 to 2019, when his HR/FB rate sat in the high teens to low 20% range. Coming off a career high FB% too, and having stolen double digit bases two straight seasons now, there’s real upside here to become a five-category contributor.

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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1 year ago

Does the happy fun ball only appearing in Yankee games have anything to do with three of them making the list?

1 year ago
Reply to  ccoville

Shhhh…nothing to see here

Jon L.member
1 year ago
Reply to  ccoville

Judge played through injury in 2021 and didn’t really turn on the ball. Most of his 2021 power was to center and right.

Rizzo adjusted his swing for Yankee Stadium, as pulled fly balls by lefties really get rewarded there.

And Gleyber has been tinkering with his approach and trying to recapture his power ever since the rabbit ball went away.