Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners – 4/30/19

Yesterday, I calculated my xHR/FB rate equation to identify and discuss 11 hitters who have most underperformed their xHR/FB rate marks. Today, I’ll look at the overperformers.

Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners
Player Brls/TFB* FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist HR/FB xHR/FB Diff
Jesse Winker 22.7% 9.1% 54.5% 335 31.8% 14.9% 16.9%
Yandy Diaz 30.0% 19.0% 42.9% 348 33.3% 19.2% 14.1%
Christian Yelich 53.3% 20.6% 32.4% 353 41.2% 28.6% 12.6%
Joc Pederson 37.0% 27.6% 27.6% 340 34.5% 23.0% 11.4%
Asdrubal Cabrera 12.5% 32.0% 44.0% 322 24.0% 12.9% 11.1%
Tim Beckham 23.8% 31.8% 27.3% 324 27.3% 17.0% 10.3%
Tim Anderson 20.0% 23.8% 38.1% 317 23.8% 13.8% 10.0%
Jason Heyward 23.8% 13.0% 39.1% 327 21.7% 12.6% 9.1%
Cody Bellinger 48.3% 41.9% 22.6% 364 41.9% 33.0% 9.0%
Jorge Soler 27.3% 36.0% 32.0% 289 24.0% 15.3% 8.7%
Jose Altuve 43.5% 26.7% 43.3% 353 30.0% 22.4% 7.6%
Avg (186 Hitters) 26.8% 24.0% 39.0% 324 15.9% 16.4% -0.5%
*Barrels per true fly ball

Note that the above numbers were not recalculated for yesterday’s games, as it’s too time consuming to gather all the data and not beneficial enough to include one extra game.

With a history of elite plate discipline, but some very weak power years, Jesse Winker certainly appeared to be the type of player who would soon parlay those plate skills into a power explosion. The early results suggest this might already be happening, but xHR/FB rate argues that this is mostly a mirage. While a 14.9% xHR/FB rate is significantly higher than last season’s actual HR/FB rate and would make Winker a mixed league asset, it’s far below his actual mark. While he has hit his fly balls at a distance above the league average, his barrel rate is below and he rarely pulls his flies. I still like his approach and he owns a Vottoian batted ball distribution, but don’t bet on anything close to this home run pace continuing.

Yandy Diaz has been one of the season’s biggest breakouts and I’m angry at myself for owning no shares. Between the questionable playing time outlook heading into the season, his extreme ground ball tendency, and history of mediocre to weak HR/FB rates, a lot had to go right to even reach the mixed league radar. He has gotten his fly ball rate up to 30%, but that has been at the expense of line drives — his grounder rate remains an extreme 56%. But, he’s showing off those muscles, posting a slightly higher than average barrel rate and a strong avg fly ball distance. He’s probably a hold in OBP leagues, but there are a buch of warning signs here that I’m not so sure he remains a shallow mixed league asset all season.

Aaaaaand Christian Yelich is at it again! But this is an entirely new version, one that, finally, hits fly balls! A 40% fly ball rate and 40% HR/FB rate? HOLY $HIT. All the fly balls have hampered his BABIP, but you wouldn’t know it because of all the homers, as he’s still hitting .353. Amazingly, he has also posted the best strikeout rate of his career, but oddly that has been recorded while also posting the lowest Contact% and SwStk% of his career. That’s likely because his Z-Swing% has skyrocketed to a career high, which likely means he’s seeing far fewer called strikes.

Joc Pederson looks strong all around, but he obviously ain’t going to maintain a HR/FB rate above 30%.

How on Earth has Asdrubal Cabrera managed a HR/FB rate over 20% with a barrel rate less than half the league average?! SELL SELL SELL!

Gee, is anyone surprised to find Tim Beckham on here? So far, it’s all about pulling his flies, as his FB Pull% is easily its highest mark since 2015. The good news is that could be a conscious change in approach, and therefore sustainable. Though that’s not guarantee. At least he’s looking way better than last year.

Ya gotta love Tim Anderson’s five homers and 10 stolen base start. But, he hasn’t actually changed at all, as his xHR/FB rate is right in line with his actual marks in each of his first three seasons. And let’s not even get started about that absurd BABIP. Looks like the recipe for a prime sell high!

Who has been buying a Jason Heyward breakout? I’ve been waiting for one for many years! It’s too bad it’s not happening this year…yet, at least. Yes, the barrel rate has doubled from previous seasons and the average fly ball distance looks much better, but he has stopped pulling the ball, and even a 12.6% xHR/FB rate is below the league average. So although that’s far superior to what he has posted over the last three seasons and his highest since 2013, he’s done this before when he was still a top young player, and it’s just nothing special nowadays. He has already swiped four bases though after stealing one all last year, so if he’s now a double digit guy, that would make a huge difference. But I’m not buying this power outburst. Sure, he could be better, but unless those steals return, it still won’t be enough power to matter outside of deep mixed or NL-Only leagues.

What’s more impressive, Cody Bellinger’s power metrics yielding a 30%+ xHR/FB rate or his 11.3% strikeout rate and 5.7% SwStk%, both less than half of last year? I’ll vote for the strikeout rate. Wait! I also just noticed he owns a near 35% line drive rate. WHAAAAAAAAAAT?! I own him in some office league I care little about and I wouldn’t sell high.

Is this finally Jorge Soler’s big breakout? So far, it doesn’t appear that way. A league average barrel rate and pathetic average fly ball distance is surprising. He’s managed a respectable xHR/FB rate solely because of his huge FB Pull%. The strikeouts are a major issue and I really don’t want to be counting on a power hitter playing half his games at Kauffman Stadium.

Holy Altuve! Sure he’s been lucky on the HR/FB rate front, but he’s crushing it on the underlying skills! That barrel rate is double his last three seasons, FB Pull% higher, and average fly ball distance significantly higher. His fly ball rate is also sitting at a career high, so this might be a conscious choice to become a power hitter, which has crushed his BABIP (his LD% is also down, while his IFFB% has tripled from his career average). Because of all the homers, he’s swiped just one base, though he’s been caught twice. Not the shape of his performance fantasy owners expected, but it’ll do for now.

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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Hey Mike, are these numbers park adjusted? If not, couldn’t Winker keep an inflated HR/FB rate due to playing his home games in a band box?