The All-Star Break Batter Shopping List — Home Runs

The All-Star break provides a much needed rest and a perfect opportunity to assess your team(s). The last time I used xHR/FB rate to identify hitters due for a home run spike was in the middle of May, so now is an excellent time to name names once again. These are the fantasy relevant hitters whose xHR/FB rates most exceed their actual HR/FB rates, which represents a strong list of acquisition targets if you’re looking to bolster your standing in the home run department and are hoping to buy at a discount.

Home Run Shopping List
Name Pull% + Oppo% Brls/BBE  HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB
Randal Grichuk 64.2% 16.0% 13.4% 23.6% -10.2%
Yoenis Cespedes 63.2% 13.1% 13.2% 19.9% -6.7%
Nick Castellanos 72.4% 11.5% 13.2% 18.5% -5.3%
Kyle Seager 60.6% 7.5% 7.9% 12.8% -4.9%
Manny Machado 70.9% 13.6% 16.4% 21.1% -4.7%
Justin Turner 54.2% 9.0% 9.6% 14.2% -4.6%
Joey Gallo 73.2% 20.6% 25.6% 30.0% -4.4%
Matt Carpenter 59.8% 10.8% 12.5% 16.8% -4.3%
Mitch Moreland 69.3% 12.9% 16.0% 20.1% -4.1%

It’s been a tough year for Randal Grichuk as his wOBA sits below .300 and the Cardinals have a crowded outfield so he’ll have to battle for playing time. But he easily topped this list and a power spike could put him right back into every day outfielder status. That Brls/BBE mark is significantly higher than what he posted last year, but just hasn’t led to as many of his fly balls jumping over the fence. In an NL-Only league, he makes for a nice buy, especially given how cheaply he is likely to come.

Between injuries and a dip in HR/FB rate, Yoenis Cespedes has had a rather quiet season. And while he has made up for the drop in HR/FB rate by hitting fly balls like mad, his current Brls/BBE is higher than his 2016 season and identical to his 2015 mark. He’s even pulling the ball more often, so that certainly can’t be the explanation. Since he should almost surely come cheaper than his draft cost suggests, he’s a great target.

And there’s our best hard-hitting friend Nick Castellanos who loves sneaking into my buy low lists.It’s worth noting two things — he significantly outperformed his xHR/FB rates in 2015 and 2016, as well, and his Brls/BBE mark is actually down marginally from last year. I think horizontal angle might be useful here as now I wonder whether his barreled balls are simply being hit to the largest parts of the ballpark. At least, a higher percentage of his barrels than most. Otherwise there’s really no explanation for why he should continue to underperform to such a degree.

Kyle Seager’s Brls/BBE is down from his last two seasons and he’s not pulling his flies as frequently. But still, he deserves better than a sub-10% HR/FB rate. Since he’s also hitting flies at a career high clip, a surge in HR/FB rate could push up his home run total in a hurry.

Manny Machado homered twice on Friday to push his HR/FB rate up to about where it stood last year and basically in line with what he has always done. BUT! That Brls/BBE mark is easily a career high, a good 30% higher than his previous two years hovering around 10%. Even better is he’s hitting even more of his flies to the pull and opposite side, while upping his fly ball rate ever so slightly to a career high. None of this is really good news for his BABIP, which has been an issue all year, but he has real potential to post a 20%+ HR/FB rate over the rest of the season. And lucky you, you might not have to pay typical Machado prices to acquire him.

Justin Turner homered twice yesterday, which means he would likely drop off this list if I rerun it. But guess what? He appeared on my original list nearly two months ago when he owned a pitiful 2.3% HR/FB rate, and since, he has posted an 18.9% mark, which doesn’t even include his two homers yesterday. So obviously the time to buy was then, but he’s still got some additional upside.

It’s pretty amazing that Joey Gallo might represent a buy low when his HR/FB rate is already sitting pretty at 25.6%, but daaaaamn look at that Brls/BBE. It’s been fun to see what kind of MLB stats he could post, but he has basically been an extreme version of Russell Branyan. Even though he’s hitting just .194, his wOBA sits at a respectable .341, and there’s clear upside in that BABIP, despite his extreme fly ball ways. How sustainable is this skill set? Do we see him cut down on his strikeouts in the future, and if he does, will that reduce his power? Can he really continue to take such an extreme approach?

Matt Carpenter’s Brls/BBE sits right between his 2015 and 2016 seasons, but his HR/FB rate is below both. It’s really amazing to see his complete transformation as he went from solid singles and doubles hitter to a power hitter who hits a ton of fly balls. Suddenly his FB% is above 50% for the first time, which has no doubt hurt his BABIP, but boosted his homer output. He can’t do both, but whichever directions he chooses, he’ll deliver fantastic fantasy value.

Mitch Moreland has loved Fenway Park so far, as he has posted a 19.4% HR/FB rate there, versus just a 13.6% mark in away games. His Brls/BBE is actually at its highest in the Statcast era, but his HR/FB rate has trickled down. He’s as boringly strong an acquisition target as there is.

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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4 years ago

Gallo & Grichuk are both in extreme playing time crunches. Gallo is basically being platooned already and has hamstring issues. Piscotty, Pham, and Fowler are competing with Grichuk for playing time. They could up their home run rate but have fewer opportunities, in which case, not much of a boost to fantasy teams.