The Statcast metric Barrels is largely becoming one of the best statistics that link a player’s power. Just glancing at the leaderboard will tell you all you need to know. The Barrel statistic came out in 2015 and we now have four years worth of data. I’ve looked into a simple metric that is simply a ratio of a player’s home run per barrel percentage. The reason I am using this measure is to determine the previous year’s over and under-performers. Also, Al Melchior and Alex Chamberlain of RotGraphs determined that not only do barrels per batted ball event (BRL/BBE) and barrels per plate appearance (BRL/PA) have very good year-to-year correlations but are also the best metrics for measuring power.
Unfortunately, the juiced ball may have tainted some of the year-to-year correlations for this metric, but we can still find outliers. Let’s take a look at the league-wide averages for HR/BRL since 2015.
|70.7% HR/BRL||70.5% HR/BRL||77.1% HR/BRL||66.1% HR/BRL|
If you remember, the juiced ball made its appearance in the second half of 2015 but it seems like the ball was “extra” juiced in 2017. Then, last year in 2018, the ball was completely de-juiced. Without actual knowledge of how the ball will perform in 2019, I am going to assume, the ratio of barrels to home runs will be closer to 2018 than 2017. Today, I’ll look at players who underperformed their HR/BRL numbers in 2018.
Home Runs Per Barrel Under-Performers
|Player||2018 BRL||2018 HR||HR/BRL|
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||35||13||37.1%|
|2018 League Average||66.10%|
I’ll start with Mookie Betts because, HOLY HELL! Not only did Betts absolutely earn every single one of his home runs, he actually underperformed a bit. What’s not shown is that Betts only managed 25 barrels on his 24 homers in 2017. We know Betts had a “down year” (for him) in 2017 but bounced back in a huge way proving that he is, in fact, a power hitter in addition to everything else the 2018 AL MVP does well. I wouldn’t read too much into the below-average ratio of HR/BRL because I feel that the Green Monster may be turning a few of those barrels into doubles. Betts looks like a safe bet to reach 30 homers again in 2019 even if his barrel rate drops just a bit.
Jackie Bradley Jr., WOW! Maybe he was also a victim of the Green Moster taking away some home runs but his HR/BRL was about half of the league average. JBJ should have been right around 20 homers in 2018, rather than the pathetic 13 he posted. I should note that in 2017, he hit 17 homers on 27 barrels for 63% HR/BRL, so its possible, he could be a player who always under-performers based on this metric. I figured that I should dig a little deeper and sure enough, xStats had him at 17.5 xHR in 2018. I believe even that was low because his high drive (HD%) was an elite level 16.1%! For context, here are some other players who had 35 barrels in 2018: Cody Bellinger, Tommy Pham, and Nolan Arenado. I was already buying JBJ in 2019 and now I’m bumping him inside my top 150 with a likely 20-15 season in store. Take a look at all of JBJ’s barrels in 2018 overlaid on his home park (Fenway). I count at least 13 balls that could/should have been home runs (4 taken away thanks to the Green Monster), but that’s nine more dingers for JBJ.
Jose Martinez looks to be stuck in a tough situation in terms of playing time. I was optimistic that the Cardinals would move Martinez to an AL club where he could be an everyday DH. However, as of now, he’s a bench bat that can fill in at first base or a corner outfield spot. That’s a shame because he’s a professional hitter. For reference, his 41 barrels puts him the company of Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw, both of which hit over 30 homers in 2018. Keep an eye on Martinez if he’s traded, because, despite a low fly ball rate, he could still reach 25 home runs while hitting near .300 over the course of a full season.
Marcell Ozuna is an interesting case. After an absolute monster 2017 that included 37 homers and 124 RBI, Ozuna let owners down with only 23 home runs last year. Ozuna dealt with a shoulder issue in which caused offseason surgery, it’s probable that affected his production. When I check his batted ball profile, I don’t see a dip in his metrics. In fact, in 2017, Ozuna had 44 barrels on the aforementioned 37 homers, two fewer than in 2018. Keep an eye on how his shoulder progresses but if healthy, Ozuna is in line for around 30 home runs with a boatload of RBI (welcome Goldy).
Teoscar Hernandez shows up near the top of the Statcast leaderboards but his production seems to be lacking. Unfortunately for Hernandez, his contact rates are extremely low and only got worse as the season wore on. We are talking Joey Gallo-type contact rates here folks. Despite the poor contact rate, Hernandez still managed 22 home runs on an incredible 49 barrels. Given a full slate of plate appearances, Teoscar could reach 35 home runs in 2019. However, his inconsistent production and poor contact rates could limit his playing time going forward. A classic risk-reward play for 2019.
In case I needed another reason to push for Anthony Rendon as the 2019 NL MVP, here it is. It may seem like Rendon is a mid-20s homer hitter based on his last two seasons (25 HR in 2017, 24 HR in 2018), but there’s another level to his power. Rendon increased his barrel total by a whopping 19 in 2018 but was left with one fewer home run. I understand that juiced balls were a factor but Rendon should reach the 30 home run plateau in 2019 given the similar quality of contact. If you’re concerned about injuries, don’t be. Rendon has averaged 616 plate appearances the last three seasons. Given Rendon’s elite contact and the expectations I have for increased power, Rendon should provide second round value in the fourth round of fantasy drafts.
If you want to find a sleeper that could provide Top 50 overall value, Ramon Laureano is your guy. He’s been shooting up draft boards in NFBC and has crept just inside the top 200 overall, but still lacks popularity based on FantasyPors Consensus ADP going around pick 240. Laureano provided a small sample of just 176 plate appearances in 2018 but impressed with barreling up 12 balls and stealing seven bases. Speed was Laureano’s best-known attribute and he displayed 43 steals in the Minors in 2016. The power was expected to be around average but he popped a career-high 19 home runs across Triple-A and the Majors in 2018. Unfortunately, he swings and misses a bit too much but has a realistic shot at going 20-20 with 25-25 upside as soon as 2019.
Matt Olson showcased his immense power during his 59 game sample in 2017 smashing 24 homers! It’s too bad Olson didn’t play the whole season with the big club during the 2017 season with the juiced balls. He could have hit 50 home runs. He ended 2018 with “just” 29 home runs which disappointed owners who expected 35-40 across a full season. He wasn’t all that unlucky in 2018 but I bring him up because he only had 21 barrels on his 24 home runs in 2017. That’s a quite a contrast. Especially after I dug in and saw that his hard contact rates improved as did his contact rates and chase rate. I really think Olson is in for a career year at age 25. I fully expect 35 home runs with an improved batting average. His ADP is about 40 picks too late as he’s going just outside 100 overall.
I’ve lumped Freddie Freeman and Nicholas Castellanos together because both are very consistent in their hard contact and barrel rates from year to year. Both, however, saw their power production decrease in 2018. Juiced balls? Unlucky? Well, I think it’s a little of both. Freeman and Casteallos seem to underperform in terms of power every year. Freeman matched his 46 barrels from 2017 and Castellanos managed an increase of two barrels in 2018 from the previous year. Both saw a decrease in home runs, however so while I expect both get back to 25+ homers in 2019, I’d cap them both at around 30. You’re getting solid batting average and run production from both players so I like them but I’m not predicting massive power bumps for both players.
Last but not least, Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini. At first glance this offseason, I didn’t think Mancini had much power upside other than what he’s shown us the last two seasons. Mancini now has two straight seasons on 24 home runs but he actually bumped his barrel total to 50 in 2018, nine more than in 2017. Mancini is a guy who hits too many ground balls but really smokes the ball when he gets it in the air. Could he have a Christian Yelich type season? LOL, no, he cannot. To me, he feels like Castellanos but with less batting average upside. Mancini could blast 30 home runs in 2019 but he could also be a player that feels the de-juiced balls more than others.
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