Batted Ball Distance Surgers

Last week, I discussed the hitters whose average batted ball distances suggest significant HR/FB rate upside. This time, I’ll share a list that is to be used for validation purposes. Is that batter currently enjoying a power spike hitting the ball much further than last year? Let’s find out.

Name 2015 Distance 2014 Distance Diff
Kelly Johnson 326.0 284.7 41.4
Charlie Blackmon 315.7 274.8 40.9
Zack Cozart 297.5 256.9 40.6
Brandon Crawford 315.5 278.2 37.3
Bryce Harper 322.5 286.6 35.9
Yangervis Solarte 289.6 255.7 33.9
Justin Turner 318.8 285.8 33.0
Scott Van Slyke 322.4 290.7 31.7
Ender Inciarte 280.6 249.5 31.1
Jean Segura 296.6 265.8 30.8
Anthony Rizzo 318.6 288.5 30.1

Thought that last year was a fluky performance by Charlie Blackmon? He’s proving that he might actually have room for even better. But the concern is that he still can’t hit lefties, so a strict platoon situation could eventually develop. He’s an interesting player to shop around as a result. His strong start to the season is likely making believers out of the many doubters, and given the possibility of decreased playing time in the future, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see if you could sell high at his current value.

Heading into the 2014 season, I wondered whether Zack Cozart was the dreaded zero-category contributor. This year, his advanced metrics are essentially all in line with his history, he’s just simply hitting the ball further. Whether this is actually sustainable or just a hot couple of weeks, I have no idea. He has shown some pop in the past though and in the minors, so it’s not like power is a completely new skill. I doubt anyone is buying here, so might as well hold with fingers crossed if you happen to own him.

What’s up with shortstops with historically middling power suddenly enjoying a surge?! Brandon Crawford is another experiencing a power breakout and his HR/FB rate is about triple what he has posted the past two seasons. Oddly, his O-Swing% is way up to a career high, while he’s swinging and missing more than ever before. Perhaps it’s a conscious decision to sell out for power? It hasn’t pushed his strikeout rate up, but given that ugly SwStk%, you have to think there’s risk it increases.

Do we finally see a full healthy season from former uber prospect Bryce Harper?! Harper has now swatted one more homer than last season in less than half the plate appearances. A peek at his advanced metrics suggests this is the superstar breakout we have all been waiting for. A 20%+ walk rate is insane, his line drive rate is at a career high, he’s hitting fly balls more than 40% of the time for the first time and he’s pulling half his balls in play. He has even pushed his SwStk% below 10% for a career best. No, he won’t maintain a HR/FB above 30%, but if I were an owner, it would be extremely difficult to convince myself that it would be profitable to sell high.

Man do I want to see what Scott Van Slyke could do as a full-timer. If he ever got the chance, he’d be a sleeper deluxe with serious profit potential (assuming he was given a job in the pre-season).

Anthony Rizzo clearly wasn’t satisfied trying to clear the 30 homer barrier again. He’s now looking to leap over the 10 steal hurdle as well. Rizzo has had an even more incredible year than it even seems. Check out that small 10.5% strikeout rate and tiny 4.9% SwStk% mark! Combine that with his .264 ISO and you get one of the best hitters in the game. Then throw in a 28.6% line drive rate and a walk rate over 10% and you could see how this season could end up being even better than last year.

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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Justin Turner is one that jumps out to me for keep-many or contract based dynasties. Of course the sample size is small, but after reading Eno’s article on his Marlon Byrdian self-reinvention and seeing the BB data, what do you think of the chance he has a post-30 breakout?

With Guererro’s contract nuances, isn’t there a decent chance the Dodgers trade him as part of a deal for pitching? Turner in a full-time 2B spot has a shot at being a very tasty proposition over the next few years…


Guerrero has that opt-out at the end of the season if he gets traded – it would be tough for LA to get a good pitcher back for him.