Hitter Average FB/LD Exit Velocity Surgers – 8/3/20

It’s still super early, with only some teams playing as many as 10 games. And yet, those 10 games already represent 16.7% of the season! CRAZY. So yes, it’s still super early to evaluate most performances, but by the time we have enough of a sample to make better judgments, the season will have ended. So like I discussed last week with pitcher fastball velocity, let’s look at another underlying skill metric that stabilizes more quickly than a results-based metric — exit velocity. I like barrels more, but with the tiny samples so far, one more or less barrel will make a significant difference in barrel rate, so it’s simply too soon. So we’ll stick with average fly ball/line drive exit velocity, as it’s pretty straightforward — all else being equal, the faster the bat meets the ball, the further the ball will travel.

Here are all the names that have increased their FB/LD EV by at least five miles per hour.

FB/LD EV Surgers
Player 2019 FB/LD EV 2020 FB/LD EV Diff
Chris Taylor 90.1 101.6 11.5
C.J. Cron 96.2 105.1 8.9
Kolten Wong 89.3 97.9 8.6
Miguel Cabrera 92.3 100.7 8.4
Corey Seager 93.3 100.9 7.6
Eloy Jimenez 96.6 103.5 6.9
Hunter Renfroe 94.6 101.2 6.6
Colin Moran 93.3 99.8 6.5
Ian Happ 95.5 101.8 6.3
Elvis Andrus 90.6 96.1 5.5
Brian Goodwin 91.1 96.4 5.3
Trent Grisham 91.0 96.3 5.3
Shed Long Jr. 91.2 96.4 5.2

It amazes me that Chris Taylor doesn’t have a starting job, but I guess that just goes to show you the depth on the Dodgers. Once Gavin Lux is recalled, there will be fewer opportunities.

A new C.J. Cron? Again, tiny sample size caveats apply, but aside from the jump in EV, he has nearly tripled his walk rate, while his strikeout rate has skyrocketed. Maybe deep down he always wanted to be a three true outcomes hitter.

Despite the jump in EV, Kolten Wong hasn’t homered yet. Or stolen a base. The Cardinals haven’t played since July 29th, and with reports of new positives as I type this, it’s anyone’s guess when they will play again. When they do, assuming Wong is healthy, you should continue to start him for as long as he is leading off.

Seeing Miguel Cabrera’s name on here is quite actionable. Last year, his EV plummeted, settling in at the lowest mark of his career during the Statcast era (since 2015). While it would be silly to expect a rebound to a 20%+ HR/FB rate (he is 37, after all), a return to the mid-teens would make him shallow league relevant. Of course, his SwStk% has spiked into the high teens, while he has struck out nearly 30% of the time. So perhaps this version of Cabrera isn’t ideal.

Ever since his impressive 2015, Corey Seager’s wOBA has declined. Without any steals from a middle infield slot, he’s really no different than his brother, except he has shown less home run power. At age 26, it’s possible this is the year he reverses the trend and enjoys the big breakout I think fantasy owners were hoping for every season.

Even though he had never posted a HR/FB rate above 22.9% in the minors, Eloy Jimenez enjoyed a thrilling debut, posting a professional career high HR/FB rate of 27.2%. So far, so good, as half his fly balls this year have left the yard. But it also means the sample is microscopic. I didn’t think there was much further upside in the near-term on that HR/FB rate, but at least the early returns suggest he could repeat what he did last year, which is something I, and the projection systems, likely didn’t project him to do.

Hunter Renfroe had increased his HR/FB rate each season since his first near full year in 2017, but lots of strikeouts and a weak BABIP meant he has essentially been a one-category contributor. Nothing has changed so far this year, but at least his power potential is looking good! He’s going to need to turn things around in a hurry or he’ll be at risk of losing playing time once Austin Meadows returns.

Who had Colin Moran as the first hitter to reach five home runs? Aside from the increased EV, his fly ball rate has surged, finally making good on the batted ball distribution turnaround he made back in 2017. Weird that what he did at Triple-A in terms of fly balls failed to materialize in the Majors, so maybe it just took him longer to translate what he learned.

Ian Happ keeps doing what he does, strikeouts, fly balls, and home runs. I don’t think there’s a whole lot more upside off a 2019 26.2% HR/FB rate, but it’s an early sign that he won’t regress back to his sub-20% mark from 2018.

Elvis Andrus is a surprise here, as he’s another who has yet to hit a home run. In fact, he hasn’t done much of anything, posting just a .286 wOBA. Everything else looks good though as he has already walked five times, versus just three strikeouts. I’m betting this early slump doesn’t last much longer as the underlying skills look superb.

Those in single-season leagues who drafted Jo Adell thinking you’ll get at least a month of production may be very disappointed. Brian Goodwin continues to hit and it would make no sense to bring up the rookie.

Trent Grisham was an obvious sleeper heading into the season, though there was no guarantee how much playing time he would receive and we figured at the very least he would take a seat against left-handed starters. So far, he has been a fly ball machine, and making good on those fly balls. He has also swung and misses very infrequently, while posting a mid-teen walk rate. He’s going to be one I’m annoyed at myself for somehow not rostering in either of my two mixed leagues.

With Dee Gordon banished to the bench, Shed Long Jr. and his power/speed combination made for a nice sleeper. So far, both of those skills have looked fine and dandy, but he has swung and missed and struck out a bit too often. He’ll also need to raise that tiny 19% fly ball rate, or he’ll never be able to contribute positive home run value.

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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Aside from the obvious SSS caveat, what about the transition from trackman to hawkeye? I expect this to impact any EV conversation, but who knows if the error/measurement/calibration difference between the two systems is sizeable or not? While these 5+ mph EV differences aren’t likely error related at all, it’s at least something to think of going forward for EV conversations.

Joe Wilkey
Joe Wilkey

While I theoretically agree with you, it is my understanding that the difference from trackman to hawkeye is generally spin rate related. From what I gather, hawkeye directly measures spin rate, while trackman was more of a calculation based on other metrics.

That being said, I have been digging through statcast data for the last year or so, and I have found that there are some batted balls that it has a real problem measuring, so your theory may have merit. It would definitely be something to investigate.