Joining the Fly Ball Revolution — Apr 19, 2021 by Mike Podhorzer April 19, 2021 There still isn’t a whole lot to evaluate just about two and a half weeks into the season, but batted ball profiles are one of the few that could signal a change in plate approach that lasts all year. As one of the primary drivers of hitting home runs, let’s look to fly ball rate to see who has increased their marks versus 2020 so far. All else being equal, a higher fly ball rate will result in more homers, so paying attention to a hitter’s batted ball profile is important. Below are all the qualified hitters who have increased their FB% by at least ten percentage points this year. Only batters with at least 100 PAs last year are included. FB% Surgers Name 2020 FB% 2021 FB% Diff Brian Anderson 30.4% 51.3% 20.9% Miguel Sano 39.6% 58.3% 18.7% Willy Adames 31.5% 50.0% 18.5% Ryan Mountcastle 36.7% 54.1% 17.4% J.D. Martinez 43.5% 59.5% 16.0% Nicky Lopez 19.2% 34.5% 15.3% Ryan McMahon 34.6% 48.8% 14.2% Josh Fuentes 27.1% 41.2% 14.1% Randal Grichuk 36.7% 50.0% 13.3% Willi Castro 31.2% 43.9% 12.7% Yadier Molina 36.8% 48.6% 11.8% Wilson Ramos 29.5% 41.2% 11.7% Joc Pederson 36.5% 48.1% 11.6% Tommy Pham 24.4% 35.9% 11.5% Cavan Biggio 40.8% 52.0% 11.2% Yandy Diaz 11.3% 22.5% 11.2% Jorge Soler 38.9% 50.0% 11.1% Cesar Hernandez 27.5% 38.1% 10.6% Nelson Cruz 30.7% 41.2% 10.5% Franmil Reyes 33.3% 43.8% 10.5% Kyle Tucker 41.7% 52.1% 10.4% Marcus Semien 46.6% 56.8% 10.2% David Fletcher 20.7% 30.8% 10.1% Brian Anderson heads the FB% gainers list and is the only batter to have increased his mark by at least 20% so far. This is pretty noteworthy considering he enjoyed a HR/FB rate spike last year. If he is able to prove that was a true leap in talent level, then a significantly higher fly ball rate could easily mean 30+ homers. Of course, he hasn’t yet taken advantage of all those fly balls, as his HR/FB rate stands at just 5%. Still, he’ll be interesting to follow, as he possibly transitions from a solid power, strong BABIP guy, to a big power, low BABIP guy. Yessssss Miguel Sano, hit everything in the air baby! But seriously, when you’re sporting a 26.7% career HR/FB rate, it would be fun to see how many homers he could hit if nearly 60% of his balls in play were flies. No Nicky Lopez, we do not want more fly balls from you! His career best HR/FB rate in the minors is just 12.1%, so he’s not the kind of player you want to see a high FB% from. While the rebound in strikeout rate over a tiny sample is encouraging, he needs to hit grounders and line drives to take full advantage of his speed and prevent his underwhelming power from leading to easily-caught fly outs. Yes Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes, this is exactly what you want to do when you call Coors Field home! They have a five game homestand this coming week, but now you’ll have to decide if five home games is better than seven games from another batter. If you’re a McMahon owner, the call is probably obvious. But if you’re considering picking up Fuentes, it’s a toss-up. After just once posting a double digit HR/FB rate in the minors, Willi Castro surprised last year with a mark just over 20%, earning him some sleeper love and a prime spot in the Tigers batting order to open the season. While his FB% has jumped, his power output has fallen back to Earth in the early going. Though his maxEV of 115.4 is elite and a significant jump from last year, suggesting he hasn’t actually lost any power, but just hasn’t had that EV/launch angle combination perfected just yet. I’m still not very optimistic given his pedestrian minor league career, but I don’t think this slow power start would change my opinion if I did happen to be bullish heading into the season. Throughout the majority of his career, Wilson Ramos’ batted ball profile hasn’t made much sense. He’s a slow catcher with ample power, and yet he hit grounds over 50% of the time nearly every season, with sub-30% FB% marks as well. Instead, you’d prefer to see Ramos stroking more line drives and upping that FB% well above 30% to take advantage of his career 18.4% HR/FB rate. Perhaps in his 12th season, he’s finnnnnnaaaaaallllyyy decided to change his swing to take advantage of his power. While I wouldn’t expect a 40%+ HR/FB rate all season of course, the increased flies are a very, very good sign of his potential future production. Yandy Diaz on a FB% surger list, woohoo! Except that FB% was off a pathetically low mark last year, so all this rebound is doing is merely bringing him back to his career average, which remains well below the league average. He’s still hitting 60% grounders, but doing the plate discipline thing as well as always so that even with a microscopic .043 ISO, he’s still carrying a solid enough .345 wOBA. I’m genuinely curious what the issue is here and why it’s so difficult for him to just hit more fly balls. Perhaps given his solid wOBAs since 2018, Diaz and the Rays don’t think a change is even necessary. Cesar Hernandez, power hitter? His FB% currently stands at what would be a career high versus a career mark below 30%. Given a career HR/FB rate of just 7.8%, you wouldn’t expect him to suddenly decide to hit more fly balls, as all that’s going to happen is his BABIP plummets and he doesn’t have enough power for those flies to leave the yard. Like Lopez above, this is another jump fantasy owners don’t want to see. Last year, David Fletcher’s FB% dropped to a career low, which helped push his BABIP to a career high. This year merely represents a rebound to essentially his career average, but his BABIP is now sitting well below .300 so he’s been quite a disappointment so far. His batted ball profile is super odd, as it’s heavy on line drives (good), but also heavy on pop-ups (bad). With such little contributions from homers and steals, fantasy owners, like me, are relying on that BABIP rebounding, and we wouldn’t mind if he posted another FB% around 20%.