Six 2018 Home Run Sleepers

Let’s continue diving into the Statcast leaderboard, sticking with my favorite metric, Brls/BBE (barrels per batted ball event). While it’s no surprise to find Aaron Judge atop the leaderboard, followed by Joey Gallo, and J.D. Martinez, there are other names that do surprise and provide actionable information. So let’s peruse the top 50 hitters (there are 540 players on the list, including pitchers, as the board simply includes everyone with at least 30 batted ball events) sorted by Brls/BBE and discuss six legit sleepers for home runs in 2018.

Brls/BBE Surprises
Brls/BBE Rank Player Brls/BBE HR/FB
7 Teoscar Hernandez 17.0% 30.8%
20 Franchy Cordero 14.3% 18.8%
23 J.D. Davis 14.0% 40.0%
24 Drew Robinson 13.8% 26.1%
41 Matt Chapman 12.0% 13.9%
42 Clint Frazier 12.0% 9.8%

Sure it came over just 88 at-bats and 53 batted ball events, but who would have guessed that sitting seventh in Brls/BBE was Teoscar Hernandez?! The 24-year-old outfielder opened the season in the Astros system, but was then traded to Toronto for Francisco Liriano, where he put on a power show. His high HR/FB rate during his minor league career over a reasonable sample of at-bats was just 13.3% and he posted a mere 12% mark over 301 at-bats at Triple-A while still with the Astros this season. So this was quite the unexpected display, which means it’s likely unsustainable. But, it’s hard to fake power and this was serious power. To go along with the power, he also steals bases. He currently sits atop the depth chart in right field and Roster Resource even thinks he’ll hit leadoff. Hernandez is a prime sleeper if there ever was one.

Franchy Cordero does not sound like a baseball player, especially not one who hit for big power over a tiny sample. Before the season, he wasn’t even considered one of the Padres top 32 prospects (!!), instead settling for a blurb in the “Other Prospects of Note” section. His plate discipline has been poor, but he followed up a 19.5% HR/FB rate at Triple-A this season with this power display over 92 at-bats with the Padres. With all those swings and misses though, strikeouts are going to be a problem, even moreso given that he fails to offset the whiffs with a respectable walk rate. If the Padres fail to sign Eric Hosmer, which would push Wil Myers back to the outfield, Cordero will have a much better shot of seeing some playing time this year. He’s an interesting NL-Only speculation.

Man, talk about being blocked on the depth chart. Poor J.D. Davis, the Astros preseason 15th best prospect, has to either hope for a trade or learn a new position, because Alex Bregman ain’t going anywhere. He did get in some games at first base and the outfield corners in the minors last year, so the Astros are probably thinking the same thing — increase his versatility! Amazingly, he has posted HR/FB rates over 20% in every single minor league stint since his 2014 debut at Low-A ball. And although the strikeout rate is high as expected, it’s actually quite acceptable given his massive power.

Despite playing in his age 25 season, Drew Robinson still intrigued enough to rank as the Rangers 19th best prospect in the preseason. Like Hernandez discussed earlier, the power display was unexpected for Robinson, as he was coming off a 14.9% HR/FB rate at Triple-A and was only at a high of 17.6% set back in 2015 at Double-A. He does have speed though, and with experience at literally every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher, there’s real opportunity for playing time.

Matt Chapman‘s solid debut was overshadowed in Oakland by Matt Olson’s unbelievable homer barrage, but his Brls/BBE suggests major HR/FB rate upside. He was already coming off a 27.6% mark at Triple-A and posted marks over 20 at each minor league stint since 2014. Strikeouts are a major problem, hampering his value in batting average leagues, but in leagues that count OBP, his value skyrockets, thanks to his walk rates consistently in the low teens. I probably shouldn’t be typing this, but I would be shocked if I didn’t end up buying him in AL Tout Wars (though I’ll only buy if the price is right, of course, which I may have just ensured will not be the case).

It’s not good for your playing time outlook when your general manager says you’re basically blocked at the big league level next season. That’s exactly what Brian Cashman said in mid-November, which isn’t exactly a surprise. But although Frazier’s HR/FB rate in the minors failed to excite, and he posted just a 9.8% mark during his short time with the Yankees, his Brls/BBE tells the story of a hitter with big power. There’s no telling if he’ll ever had a chance of every day at-bats this season, but if he does fall into them, he could be a better power source than expected.

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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Chapman probably the best sleeper in that list.