March 2024 Hitter maxEV Gainers

It’ll be a while before we have enough plate appearances in the books to start digging into most of our hitting metrics, but there’s a Statcast metric that could be evaluated without any sample size caveats! It’s maxEV, or the highest exit velocity a hitter recorded on any batted ball. Here, sample size only matters on one side of the coin — the decliners. That’s why today we’re going to dive into the gainers. Surprise, surprise, even after just a handful of games and batted balls, 13 hitters have already hit a ball with a greater exit velocity than last year! Let’s identify the top nine of these names.

maxEV Gainers
Name 2023 maxEV 2024 maxEV Diff
Joey Meneses 110.8 114.2 3.4
Fernando Tatis Jr. 113.4 116.8 3.4
Luis Campusano 107.6 110.1 2.5
Brayan Rocchio 103.4 105.4 2.0
Christian Encarnacion-Strand 111.8 113.3 1.5
Jake Cronenworth 108.4 109.7 1.3
Will Benson 108.1 109.0 0.9
J.P. Crawford 110.1 110.7 0.7
Alec Bohm 109.3 109.9 0.6

Joey Meneses! The journeyman finally made his MLB debut in 2022, where he enjoyed a surprise half season of splendid performance. His performance then tumbled last year, as his HR/FB rate finished at almost exactly a third of where he landed in 2022, despite an almost identical maxEV. This year, he has already hit a ball 3.4 MPH harder than last year and 3.3 MPH harder than in 2022! That’s pretty impressive. And that 114.2 MPH maxEV is elite. I’m not exactly running to acquire Nationals hitters, but this might be an early sign that his power rebounds closer to his 2022 level than his 2023.

This might be our sign that Fernando Tatis Jr.’s shoulder, which he underwent surgery on after the 2022 season, is now fully healthy and no longer holding back his power. His maxEV has already set a new career best and it should be a given that his HR/FB rate rebounded back into the mid-20% range, at the very least. Depending on his steals total, he has a great shot at his first 30/30 season.

Tatis isn’t the only Padres hitter to enjoy a maxEV uptick. Teammate Luis Campusano had never recorded an EV higher than 108.9 MPH in the Majors heading into the year, and he’s already handily beaten that. He has posted HR/FB rates as high as the high teens in the minors, so seemingly has upside from the 13.5% mark he posted in limited action last year. Paired with a better than average strikeout rate, he looks like a nice, reasonably priced option at catcher.

Top Guardians prospect Brayan Rocchio has started three of four games so far at shortstop, bringing the potential for his speed to impact fantasy leagues. While he does appear here as a top maxEV gainer, unfortunately his mark is still far too low to turn him into any sort of home run contributor. He did post low-double digit HR/FB rates at four straight minor league stops from 2021 to 2022, but there’s little chance to match those marks without a higher maxEV. For now, hope he paces for double digit steals and any home runs are just a bonus.

It’s pretty amazing how the Reds went from overloaded to scrambling after a flurry of injuries. It’s also amazing that there was a world in which Christian Encarnacion-Strand wasn’t going to receive full-time at-bats in that linuep. Back at Triple-A in 2023, he posted a maxEV of 114 MPH, so his maxEV gain this year versus last year is merely getting back to what he was capable of, and perhaps a small sample size during his MLB debut. It’s fun to see him sitting with a .000 BABIP and his only hit being a home run.

For those drafting after the South Korea series and getting retroactive stats, Jake Cronenworth was suddenly more in demand after his big second game there. But perhaps we’ll end up seeing some better power this year from him. While he has posted maxEV marks over 110 MPH during his first two seasons, he hasn’t been above 108.6 MPH since. As a fly ball hitter, he will be able to take full advantage of increased exit velocities. Slotted into the middle of the Padres order, he’s actually not a bad middle infield option, especially in deeper leagues.

Will Benson is yet another one of the Reds interesting names with both power and speed. Back in Triple-A last year, he posted a 113.8 MPH maxEV, so seeing him jump to 109 isn’t surprising and it reminds us that he still hasn’t fully translated his minor league power, though he did post a 15.1% HR/FB rate last year with the Reds. Be aware that he massively overperformed his xwOBA last year, thanks in part to a .391 BABIP and his most optimistic projection forecasts just a .231 batting average. He gets a huge boost in OBP leagues though!

Last year, J.P. Crawford went to Driveline Baseball before the season, and it fueled a breakout year, including a career high wOBA, his first double digit HR/FB rate, and the highest ISO over a full season in his career. What’s interesting is that his maxEV actually didn’t increase at all, and while his Barrel% more than doubled from the previous season, it was still quite low and below the league average. So I was skeptical he would maintain his home run power gains. The good news is he has already set a new personal exit velocity record, and while I can’t say whether he’ll improve his Barrel% again and increase his HR/FB rate even higher, it does suggest he’ll hold onto his learnings from Driveline.

Former top prospect Alec Bohm has been perfectly acceptable, but I think we expected more than just acceptable from a guy with 55/70 Hit and 60/60 Raw Power grades. His maxEV increase right now doesn’t appear to be as meaningful as some of the others, as he was down at a career low last year, and this mark is still below his 2021 and 2022 marks. It actually isn’t really a maxEV problem, it’s a barrels issue. He’s been stuck in the mid-single digits, and that just isn’t high enough to drive a higher HR/FB rate than he’s posted. He simply needs to optimize his exit velocity abilities by better pairing it with launch angles more likely to result in home runs. Sounds simple, eh?!

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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