Yesterday, I identified and discussed the hitters who have seen their fly ball rates surge most over the last 30 days. Fly ball rate spikes are great news for power hitters who post above league average HR/FB rates, though it won’t necessarily result in better overall performance by wOBA, as it will likely hamper BABIP. Today, let’s look at hitters on the opposite end of the spectrum, those whose FB% marks have declined most. For speedy, non-power threats, a decline is probably a good thing, but for a hitter who relies on his power, not so much.
|Name||Pre-Last 30 Day FB%||Last 30 Day FB%||Diff|
Woah, what on Earth has happened to Yasmani Grandal?! Prior to these past 30 days, his fly ball rate was as normal as always. In fact, he has remained amazingly consistent at hitting fly balls, as his FB% has ranged between 37.3% and 41.7% every season since 2014. He started off right in that range, but has suddenly forgotten how to lift the ball. For a catcher whose fantasy value is driven entirely by his homers, this is a concerning development. Since we’ve heard sometimes that should issues could cause FB% declines, you always have to wonder if a catcher is banged up.
We have no other MLB data for Nick Senzel, so we’ll have to check his minor league FB% marks to get an idea of what his current true talent level might be. Since Double-A in 2017, his fly ball rate was lower than you’d expect for a power hitter, but it was obviously nowhere near as low as his sub-20% mark over the past 30 days. This might be more of an expected regression given that his pre-30 day period fly ball rate was higher than he has posted during his last three minor league stints, and his overall FB% is now where you would expect it.
Boy, talk about a guy you want hitting many fly balls, all you’re rostering Justin Smoak for is the dingers! Fewer fly balls is baaaaaaaaad.
You probably have no idea, but Mark Canha is actually enjoying a nice little breakout. The power looked good because of all those early flies, but now his rate has been below the league average. That’s also bad news for his future value, as he doesn’t hit enough line drives and hits too many pop-ups to maintain a high BABIP to offset the loss in home run potential.
Victor Robles is learning! There’s no way that Robles’ optimal batted ball profile includes a FB% above 40%. For someone with his speed with only average HR/FB power, he needs to hit more ground balls, which he has been doing over the last 30 days. It should help his BABIP too, because his blend of power and speed should most certainly produce higher than a league average mark given an optimized batted ball distribution.
Why was Jorge Polanco ever hitting flies at a near 50% clip? That makes no sense. He’s backed off some from that propensity for the uppercut over the last 30 days, and I don’t even need to look at the results to conclude this FB% is much more optimal for him. It’s too bad he’s basically stopped stealing bases.
Something is seriously wrong if the power-hittin’ José Abreu is barely above a 20% FB%. Abreu has never been a big fly ball guy despite his excellent power, as his career high rate sits at just 36.4%. He had been right in career range earlier in the season, but he’s been in a fly ball rut over the last 30 days.
Unlike most on this list, Yasiel Puig’s early season fly ball rate represented an easy career high. So this decline is actually just regression back to his normal rate. As such, it’s nothing to worry about, and his season FB% is still well above anything he has ever posted.
It’s all about the dingers with Matt Olson, so a slip-up in fly ball rate is going to take a bite out of his value, since as a lefty pull hitter who routinely grounds in the shift, there’s not a whole lot of BABIP upside to begin with. A FB% just above 40% is still strong, but it’s a decline for Olson and below his historical season marks.
Anthony Rizzo has remained remarkably consistent with his fly ball rate through the years, always falling between the high 30% and low 40% range since 2013. This year, he opened with a lower mark, and that’s gotten significantly worse over the past 30 days. While his fantasy value wouldn’t crater as much as some others without the fly balls, you still not power from your corner guy or he’s dangerously close to becoming Eric Hosmer, who has become a bottom tier guy in shallow mixed leagues.
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.