Leaguewide fly ball rate is up again this year, though barely. Its current 35.6% mark is the highest since 2011, which is a reminders that this so-called fly ball revolution is merely pushing the rate back to where it had been after a temporary dip. As usual, there are individual players who have changed their swing to hopefully tap into their power. Let’s discuss the eight hitters who have enjoyed the largest fly ball rate surge from May to June. All else equal, more flies equals more homers, so from a fantasy perspective, a higher FB% is typically a good thing (though not always).
Alex Bregman was on fire in June, swatting 11 homers, and hitting fly balls at an absurdly high rate. Amazingly, he not only doesn’t strike out often for a power hitter, he doesn’t strike out often for any type of hitter. He has maintained a strikeout rate between 12.4% and 13.2% each month, which is mighty impressive for a hitter with a .242 ISO. His walk rate has also spiked into the double digits and he continues to steal bases. This former top prospect appears to be in full breakout mode and on his way to five category production.
With two homers yesterday, Mark Trumbo is quietly up to 10 over 199 plate appearances, which is around a 30 homer pace in a full season. His season FB% has been dragged down by that low May mark, but he’s back to normal after June. For a guy like Trumbo to deliver any sort of fantasy value, you need those fly balls.
Like Trumbo, you need Kyle Schwarber to be hitting fly balls. In June, he was. Encouraging is a reduction in SwStk% and strikeout rate, and that has paired with an elite walk rate. We should see his second straight 30 homer season, but unfortunately that’s where nearly all his value will come from in batting average leagues.
After a forgettable April and May, Manuel Margot finally picked things up in June, though all those fly balls led to just two homers. He’s precisely the type of hitter who hitting more flies isn’t necessarily a positive. He doesn’t have enough power to hit it out of the park frequently enough to succeed offensively. Instead, he should be hitting grounders and line drives to utilize his speed.
Why oh why did Nolan Arenado post a sub-30% fly ball rate in May?! He was back to his usual mid-40% FB% in June and everything else looks studly as usual. The only concern is an elevated strikeout rate, but if it comes with more power, that’s a reasonable trade-off, especially considering the BABIP-boosting abilities of Coors.
Jose Martinez is a great validation of the “buy skills, not roles” mantra I first heard from Ron Shandler. Even though he clearly owned the skills to be at least a solid regular, I wondered where the playing time would come from. He has proven that last year’s surprising power display was no fluke, and he’s even done it with a fantastic strikeout rate. He’s for real.
Man, speaking of hitters who shouldn’t be hitting more fly balls, is there anyone better fitting of that idea than Alcides Escobar? His career high HR/FB rate is a measly 4.3%, so all a higher FB% is going to do is reduce his BABIP. That won’t be offset by the additional homer or two. What I can’t understand is how Escobar has managed to hold an every day job when he hasn’t posted a wOBA above .278 since 2014! This year, it’s down to a pathetic .231. Since he never walks and has no power, it’s all about the BABIP, which sits at a career low. How is he still a starter?!
Miguel Andujar has displayed much more power than anyone would have expected, but it wasn’t sustainable with a low 20% fly ball rate. In June, he’s gotten that mark up to a better than average clip, which paired with a doubling of his HR/FB rate, led to a seven homer June. I would be concerned about his puny walk rate, but he has made good contact at least.
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.