Reviewing ESPN Home Run Tracker Analysis: The 2015 Downsiders

So yesterday, I reviewed the results of my other HR/FB rate analysis based on ESPN Home Run Tracker data and recapped the players identified as having significant upside in 2015. My list didn’t perform too well, so let’s hope today’s goes better. I’ll be checking in on the guys who hit the most Just Enough home runs in 2014, which I deemed as having serious HR/FB rate downside in 2015.

Yoenis Cespedes

2014 — 9.6% HR/FB
2015 — 18.6% HR/FB

LOL. I did admit shock in my original writeup that Cespedes posted such a high rate of Just Enough homers considering his HR/FB rate in 2014 was easily a career low. So not only was his flies heading over the wall at his lowest rate, but those balls that did get over, barely did. A significant decline in batted ball distance had backed that up as well. But as we all know, Cespedes rebounded with Detroit and then went bonkers after being traded to the Mets. So one player down, and this list is already looking as bad as yesterday’s!

Yan Gomes

2014 — 14.4% HR/FB
2015 — 11.3% HR/FB

Gomes missed about a month and a half due to a knee injury and you never know how that may have affected his power. His HR/FB rate did indeed fall, while he somehow managed to post a sub-.300 BABIP despite hitting line drives at a 26.4% clip. His increasing strikeout rate is a concern, as is the fact that he doesn’t seem at all interested in taking a free pass. But he should be a potentially nice source of profit next year coming off a relatively disappointing season.

Anthony Rendon

2014 — 10.4% HR/FB
2015 — 6.2% HR/FB

Rendon broke out in a major way in 2014 and was supposed to initially return from a knee injury sometime in April. That didn’t happen, as he didn’t make his season debut until early June. He then missed another month with a quad strain. So it’s fair to say that he was riddled with various maladies this year and it likely hurt his performance. His HR/FB fell to an unacceptable level and unsurprisingly, his steals dried up. It will be interesting to see how he’s valued next year.

Mike Napoli

2014 — 16.7% HR/FB
2015 — 14.8% HR/FB

It’s always a risk to call for further downside for a player who already experienced a decline the previous season. But Napoli made that risk look smart as his HR/FB rate fell to the second lowest mark of his career and he lost his starting job. Heading into his age 34 season, it’s hard to imagine he’ll have an every day job again, but I think he could still hit. He’s just at the mercy of BABIP, which has jumped around a lot throughout his career.

Justin Morneau

2014 — 11.5% HR/FB
2015 — 6.4% HR/FB

Morneau’s season was marred by a concussion he suffered in mid-May and it’s fair to assume that affected his performance the rest of the way when he did eventually make his way back onto the field. His 6.4% HR/FB rate was the second worst mark of his career, though he did manage to post a .350 BABIP, his second best mark.

Adam LaRoche

2014 — 16.0% HR/FB
2015 — 10.3% HR/FB

I was a bit nervous about this one as I expected the park switch to really help LaRoche and offset some of the regression he may have experienced had he stayed in Washington. It didn’t happen, and he posted the second lowest HR/FB rate of his career and worst in a full season. Heading into his age 36 season and coming off a meaningful spike in strikeout rate, he’s unlikely to find another starting job.

Well I’ll be damned! In a complete reversal of yesterday’s poor calls, five of the six names above did experience a decline in HR/FB rate. Perhaps that just illustrates that it’s easier to call for regression than a breakout. I had assumed if this list was filled with incorrect calls, I would forego the ESPN Home Run Tracker analysis next year. But now I’m thinking maybe I will continue it. At the very least, I should stick with the downsider list.

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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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