Seemingly every season, a hitter comes out of nowhere to enjoy an insane couple of month stretch. In 2015, it was Franklin Gutierrez, of all hitters. In 2016, it was Gary Sanchez introducing himself as the next top catcher. In 2017, it was Matt Olson and Rhys Hoskins as the newest pure power hitters. And last year of course, it was Luke Voit and Ryan O’Hearn (and one might be inclined to include Max Muncy who did it over a larger sample size). This year with power settling in at record levels, we have several candidates. The best of these candidates is the guy easily leading all batters with at least 120 plate appearances in ISO (.422) and slightly leading in wOBA (.441). His name is Aristides Aquino and unless you’re a fantasy player or Reds fan, you probably never heard of him.
Aquino has been such a surprise that he wasn’t even ranked as one of the Reds top 33 prospects heading into the season! He was included in the “Huge Power, Tough Defensive Profile” section of the rankings, which isn’t a profile that is currently in high demand, and at the very least, sounds like someone best suited as a designated hitter, which doesn’t exist in the National League.
Well hey, the prospect boys got the “huge power” thing right. Aquino owns a 37.5% HR/FB rate, which has driven that absolutely absurd .422 ISO. His 15 homers have nearly matched the number of singles he has hit! He’s also been taking full advantage of his ability to turn his flies into dingers, as 47.1% of his batted balls have been in the air, which is well above the 35.7% league average. So how real does it appear his current HR/FB rate is? Let’s first determine whether the underlying skills he has displayed validates the mark by diving into his xHR/FB rate components and calculating it.
|Brls/True FB||FB Pull%||FB Oppo%||Avg FB Distance||HR/FB||xHR/FB||HR/FB – xHR/FB|
With a 25.9% xHR/FB rate, Aquino has certainly deserved an inflated HR/FB rate. With a huge fly ball barrel rate, a penchant for pulling his flies, and an ability to hit his flies a far distance, he owns legit power. Of course, 25.9% isn’t the 37.5% mark he has actually posted. There was little chance he was posting the skills to support such an outrageous mark.
The question now becomes whether there’s any chance he could sustain the skills of a mid-20% HR/FB rate guy. He’ll need to, because as an extreme fly ball hitter who hits a ton of pop-ups, he’s going to kill your average if those flies hop over the wall at a decreased rate in the future. Amazingly, before 2019, he had never posted a HR/FB rate above 17.8% at any minor league level. He even posted single digit HR/FB rates at four different minor league stops, all over reasonable sample sizes!
The power breakout actually began at Triple-A this season, as he nearly doubled his HR/FB rate from his Double-A mark posted last year. Doubling that mark brought his HR/FB rate up to 30.1%, which is high enough to get excited about. He was always a fly ball hitter, so a strong HR/FB rate was really the only thing missing if he was going to become another pure power guy.
From a skills perspective, he’s basically Khris Davis (when he was good), but his SwStk% is worrisome and suggests there’s more strikeout rate downside. I think Davis is a good comp of the best case scenario for next year and since you have to account for the risk that he fails to reach that upside during his second tour of the league, he clearly shouldn’t be paid what Davis has been during drafts and auctions in previous seasons. With only one real strength, there’s lots of risk here and his poor defense won’t allow him to remain in the lineup when he hits an extended slump.
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.