5 Hitters With Major HR/FB Downside

Yesterday, I whipped out my xHR/FB equation and compared its calculation to every player’s actual HR/FB rate to come up with a list of eight hitters destined for a HR/FB rate spike off their 2015 marks. Today I visit those on the opposite end of the spectrum, the guys who outperformed their xHR/FB rates the most.

Before we dive into the list, I want to caution you about how you interpret the component data. First, remember this this is backwards looking and descriptive, not predictive. The hitter’s average absolute angle is much less stable from one season to the next, so if their xHR/FB rate was boosted or deflated by a high or low mark there, don’t get too worried about that player this season. More troublesome is a significant change in batted ball distance and standard deviation of distance, to a lesser extent.

With that caveat out of the way, here are your five hitters with severe HR/FB rate downside, compared to their 2015 marks.

5 Hitters With Major HR/FB Downside
Name Flyballs + HRs (won’t match FG!) Avg Distance Avg Abs Angle (AAA) SD Dist (SDD) xHR/FB Actual HR/FB Difference
Chris Colabello 50 283.7 19.9 66.0 17.1% 23.4% 6.3%
Michael Conforto 44 290.2 20.0 46.7 11.3% 17.0% 5.7%
Khris Davis 83 303.7 18.7 60.9 19.6% 24.5% 4.9%
Carlos Correa 65 294.3 22.5 63.1 19.9% 24.2% 4.3%
Hanley Ramirez 58 276.5 20.9 63.8 14.9% 19.2% 4.3%

Nobody expected Chris Colabello to wOBA .381 and earn significant value in AL-Only leagues, even despite amassing just 360 plate appearances. But, with the potential for lots of playing time and the real possibility he opens the season hitting fifth behind high OBP guys, there will be many that remain a fan. That batted ball distance is barely above league average and only a high SDD saves him from a low teens xHR/FB rate. Playing half his games in Toronto certainly helps, but he’s no 20% HR/FB rate guy. With Michael Saunders back and returning to left field, only 1B/DH at-bats are open, which he could lose to Justin Smoak if he doesn’t keep that power up. He may be too expensive for the risk.

So, Michael Conforto completely skips Triple-A, jumps straight from High-A to Double-A to the Majors in 2015 and then proceeds to post an ISO higher than he had at any previous level. That doesn’t happen often, especially from a Triple-A skipper. Though he obviously showed no issues adjusting to MLB pitching after hopping from Double-A, the lack of that experience still concerns me. After all, we’re still talking about just 194 MLB plate appearances. The problem here with regards to his xHR/FB rate is that puny SDD. The mark actually ranks 320th out of the 328 hitters on my spreadsheet! That’s bad, and surprising. The correlation between distance and SDD in this data set is about 0.50, so you don’t typically find such large discrepancies.

Since it’s clear that Conforto does have power, one would assume his SDD rises next season. But since the SDD does have a respectable year-to-year correlation of 0.50, it’s no guarantee his surges. That risk is highly unlikely to be baked into his draft day price and I’m guessing he’ll get a lot of sleeper love.

Khris Davis continued his Jekyll and Hide act. He debuted in 2013 with a bang, swatting 11 homers in just 136 at-bats for a huge 28.95 HR/FB rate, then fell back to Earth in 2014 by posting just half that mark, before rising back from the ashes in 2015 into the mid-20% range. I considered excluding him from this list because he certainly has the distance, it’s just the AAA holding back his xHR/FB rate. Though his SDD is only slightly above average itself. But his AAA was below average in 2014 also, so it might just be his level.

I apologize for saying anything negative about Carlos Correa, but despite what you may have read, it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. Correa made an earlier debut than expected and enjoyed a fantastic one. And he was only 20 years old for the vast majority of the season. But he had no business posting a mid-20% HR/FB rate. Not only was that well above any mark he had posted in the minors, it was above what his components suggested he should have finished at. He’s currently being selected sixth overall on average in NFBC drafts. SIXTH!!!!! A 21-year-old with 432 MLB plate appearances to his name. Do you realize how absurd that is? Can he earn that value? Sure. But there’s so much more downside risk here at this price, which factors in absolutely none of it.

Even through the injuries, somehow Hanley Ramirez managed to post a HR/FB rate that ranked third highest of his career. But his distance was actually his second lowest mark since 2007, the first year I have data for. Something clearly doesn’t add up. One might argue that his distance was suppressed by the shoulder injury and whatever other maladies he may have been playing through. This is probably true, but his distance is moot if we already know his HR/FB rate. He’ll have to dramatically improve the distance to legitimately post another 19.2% HR/FB rate this season. At age 32, I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

For some reason, this downside list was much more difficult to cobble together than the upside list. As you’ll see in the entire list below, the guys at the top of the outperformers list are all top tier home run hitters who posted near 30% HR/FB rates, but still deserved marks in the low-to-mid 20% range. Since formulas generally do poorly at the extremes, xHR/FB will almost always hint at regression for the league leaders. Obviously, you should expect some regression for Pedro Alvarez, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton, and Nelson Cruz, but writing about that isn’t very beneficial. We all know not to project another HR/FB rate that high, even if they have proven capable of posting one when everything goes right.

HR/FB Downsiders
Name Flyballs + HRs (won’t match FG!) Avg Distance Avg Abs Angle (AAA) SD Dist (SDD) xHR/FB Actual HR/FB Difference
Franklin Gutierrez 30 315.9 18.4 62.7 23.2% 35.7% 12.5%
Pedro Alvarez 71 307.6 18.1 66.8 22.5% 32.5% 10.0%
Chris Davis 122 313.8 22.4 58.3 22.9% 29.4% 6.5%
Giancarlo Stanton 60 323.2 16.3 67.3 25.8% 32.1% 6.3%
Chris Colabello 50 283.7 19.9 66.0 17.1% 23.4% 6.3%
Michael Conforto 44 290.2 20.0 46.7 11.3% 17.0% 5.7%
Tucker Barnhart 30 250.0 19.2 38.8 0.0% 5.5% 5.5%
Tim Beckham 32 279.6 20.3 65.4 16.0% 21.4% 5.4%
Nelson Cruz 103 304.2 22.5 70.0 25.0% 30.3% 5.3%
Khris Davis 83 303.7 18.7 60.9 19.6% 24.5% 4.9%
Carlos Correa 65 294.3 22.5 63.1 19.9% 24.2% 4.3%
Hanley Ramirez 58 276.5 20.9 63.8 14.9% 19.2% 4.3%
Mike Trout 114 293.4 22.4 67.7 21.4% 25.3% 3.9%
Justin Smoak 52 286.5 26.4 67.6 21.5% 25.4% 3.9%
Jeff Francoeur 57 272.0 19.9 56.0 10.3% 14.1% 3.8%
James Loney 70 244.5 22.2 42.5 0.0% 3.7% 3.7%
Mark Teixeira 92 292.7 23.6 62.8 19.9% 23.5% 3.6%
Steven Souza 51 290.1 22.3 58.3 16.9% 20.5% 3.6%
Russell Martin 84 291.3 21.0 60.4 17.4% 20.7% 3.3%
Alejandro De Aza 64 264.7 18.9 47.5 4.7% 8.0% 3.3%
Dustin Pedroia 71 279.3 18.2 47.5 8.1% 11.3% 3.2%
Billy Burns 61 239.6 19.9 52.7 1.0% 4.1% 3.1%
Miguel Montero 66 294.5 16.7 57.1 14.9% 17.9% 3.0%
Danny Valencia 54 291.0 20.0 67.0 19.4% 22.2% 2.8%
Joey Votto 92 300.6 18.2 61.4 18.8% 21.6% 2.8%
Chris Carter 95 289.0 16.7 63.8 16.1% 18.9% 2.8%
Ryan Howard 84 288.6 19.8 60.8 16.3% 18.9% 2.6%
Kyle Schwarber 53 307.5 19.7 62.5 21.6% 24.2% 2.6%
Albert Pujols 146 286.5 19.5 60.1 15.3% 17.8% 2.5%
Zack Cozart 41 281.8 21.8 47.7 10.5% 12.9% 2.4%
Carlos Ruiz 41 250.3 20.1 43.4 0.1% 2.5% 2.4%
Bryce Harper 99 298.8 23.1 72.7 25.0% 27.3% 2.3%
Miguel Sano 56 298.8 21.4 72.7 24.2% 26.5% 2.3%
Billy Hamilton 64 241.2 18.9 53.4 1.1% 3.4% 2.3%
Evan Gattis 116 289.0 19.6 54.3 13.8% 16.0% 2.2%
Mike Aviles 51 256.2 20.7 47.9 3.6% 5.7% 2.1%
Carlos Gonzalez 97 301.5 19.6 72.1 23.8% 25.8% 2.0%
Ben Revere 84 245.3 16.2 48.0 0.0% 2.0% 2.0%
Ryan Braun 80 300.5 21.1 57.3 18.5% 20.5% 2.0%
Hank Conger 37 281.7 23.9 59.6 16.1% 18.0% 1.9%
Yan Gomes 67 268.2 16.1 60.8 9.4% 11.3% 1.9%
Edwin Encarnacion 135 283.7 20.8 67.6 18.1% 19.9% 1.8%
Shin-Soo Choo 83 296.9 22.5 54.0 17.0% 18.8% 1.8%
Travis Shaw 52 283.8 22.6 60.1 16.1% 17.8% 1.7%
Devon Travis 30 296.5 22.9 46.7 14.3% 16.0% 1.7%
Jason Castro 64 271.0 21.9 56.6 11.3% 12.8% 1.5%
Dee Gordon 57 251.3 18.7 51.4 2.8% 4.3% 1.5%
Justin Bour 71 289.2 21.8 67.7 20.0% 21.5% 1.5%
Paul Goldschmidt 96 310.6 19.8 58.4 20.9% 22.3% 1.4%
Jackie Bradley Jr. 42 292.1 21.4 57.1 16.5% 17.9% 1.4%
Nori Aoki 35 268.6 20.9 46.7 6.4% 7.7% 1.3%
David Ortiz 124 300.8 19.0 61.2 19.1% 20.4% 1.3%
Kole Calhoun 115 283.2 18.9 60.7 14.4% 15.7% 1.3%
George Springer 60 294.5 19.2 61.0 17.5% 18.8% 1.3%
J.D. Martinez 142 303.6 21.0 58.1 19.6% 20.8% 1.2%
Ichiro Suzuki 41 243.1 18.3 41.8 0.0% 1.2% 1.2%
David Murphy 72 269.9 18.0 55.5 8.7% 9.7% 1.0%
Wilmer Flores 100 261.8 20.2 60.0 9.5% 10.3% 0.8%
Mike Napoli 82 287.6 20.4 55.0 14.1% 14.8% 0.7%
David Peralta 60 295.7 18.8 59.2 17.0% 17.7% 0.7%
Adonis Garcia 36 289.4 27.7 62.7 21.0% 21.7% 0.7%
Delino DeShields 65 241.3 19.6 53.1 1.3% 1.9% 0.6%
Francisco Lindor 59 275.2 22.4 56.3 12.4% 13.0% 0.6%
Jose Altuve 133 273.7 20.0 45.9 6.9% 7.4% 0.5%
Welington Castillo 60 296.7 18.6 62.2 18.3% 18.8% 0.5%
Tyler Moore 31 279.4 19.7 48.7 9.3% 9.8% 0.5%
Gordon Beckham 39 259.3 27.6 52.3 9.4% 9.8% 0.4%
Logan Forsythe 118 277.1 19.5 50.6 9.3% 9.7% 0.4%
Yoenis Cespedes 147 290.9 20.3 64.0 18.3% 18.6% 0.3%
Geovany Soto 35 290.2 22.6 61.1 18.1% 18.4% 0.3%
Brian McCann 115 283.6 21.3 58.1 14.7% 14.9% 0.2%
Carlos Perez 45 265.2 19.1 46.9 4.7% 4.9% 0.2%
Eric Hosmer 93 283.4 19.0 61.7 14.9% 15.1% 0.2%
Alex Guerrero 43 299.1 21.9 53.4 17.0% 17.2% 0.2%
Michael Cuddyer 56 279.5 21.2 52.5 11.5% 11.6% 0.1%
Jose Abreu 89 304.4 21.6 56.8 19.6% 19.7% 0.1%
Joey Butler 30 280.7 30.8 67.5 22.1% 22.2% 0.1%
Eric Sogard 59 249.8 16.8 49.5 0.8% 0.9% 0.1%
Clint Barmes 42 251.4 21.8 51.2 4.2% 4.3% 0.1%
Matt Carpenter 137 284.7 19.6 62.1 15.7% 15.8% 0.1%
Chris Young 57 274.0 23.2 55.1 12.0% 12.1% 0.1%
Alexei Ramirez 87 264.9 18.0 53.2 6.5% 6.6% 0.1%
Andrelton Simmons 64 266.1 16.2 47.2 3.7% 3.7% 0.0%





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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Thanks! (BTW headline says 4 not 5)