There are a considerable amount of expected metrics floating around in the fantasy baseball community. Many of which are extremely helpful for fantasy baseball purposes. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been dabbling with home run park factors using Baseball Savant’s Barrel metric. My goal is to refine the home run park factors to include left, center, and right field because of the intricacies of many ballparks. Using some of the research I’ve done with the home run park factors, I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and introduce “earned home runs (eHR).” It’s an approach that looks at the number of home runs a player has earned to date or through past seasons. It is descriptive but I will evaluate this further to find out if there is any predictability to the metric. The fundamental variable I consider in my analysis is Barrels. Why? It’s simple, why make things complicated? But the real reason is the strong correlation the Barrels metric has with home runs.
With a 0.85 r^2, there isn’t a single metric that’s better at determining home runs than Barrels. You’ll notice several of the outliers on the chart above are discussed below. While strictly using Barrels is a great way to determine earned home runs, we need to be more accurate. I’m no statistician, but several other factors play a role in home runs throughout the year. Of course, I’ve included my Home Run Park Factors along with the following metrics: league AVG HR/BRL%, league AVG non-barreled HR%, league-average HR/FB%, individual pulled fly ball%, AVG exit velocity on pulled, straightaway, and opposite-field fly balls, and league AVG HR/FB for fly balls pulled, hit to center, and hit to the opposite field. The one variable I haven’t figured out how to incorporate yet is the weather. So, while there could be some slight improvements, I believe this gets me remarkably close to providing an accurate earned home run total for each player.
Before we dive into the hitters, the table below provides some background on the relationship between home runs and barrels year-to-year. It’s interesting to note that in 2017, the HR/BRL% was higher than it was in 2019. Additionally, a higher percentage of home runs were not barreled (non-barreled) or “lucky” home runs in 2017 compared to 2019. This seems like an indication that the ball may have been more lively in 2017. The only explanation as to why more home runs were hit this year is due to the higher fly-ball rate and hitter’s propensity to pull more balls in the air resulting in higher home run totals. For my eHR, I am strictly using 2019 HR/BRL% and my 2019 Home Run Park Factors.
Yearly Home Run per Barrel Rates
|Year||HR||BRL||%HR BRL||%Non-BRL HR||HR/BRL|
*HR/BRL% = HR on Barreled balls / Total Barreled Balls
**%Non-BRL HR = Percentage of home runs with quality of contact classification lower than a barrel (i.e. solid contact)
Unfortunate Power Bats
2019 Earned Home Run Under Performers
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||15||29||51.72%||0.00%||21.68||6.68|
Jose Abreu (33 HR; 46.5 eHR)
Abreu had a monster season, there’s no doubt but much of his value was buoyed by a career-high 123 RBI. His 33 home runs tied the second-most of his career, but he “earned” much more. His barrel rate was three percent better than his previous career-best. He also managed career-highs in average exit velocity (AVG EV), hard hit%, maximum exit velocity, and fly ball% (per BaseballSavant). Additionally, Guaranteed Rate Field ranked seventh in my 2019 home run park factors. He’ll be 33 next year, so a skills decline may be in order but he still feels like a lock for 30-35 homers and another 100 RBI season with upside from there.
C.J Cron (25 HR; 38.4 eHR)
Wow, this one caught me off guard a little bit. Given the crazy home run totals in 2019, a 25-homer output from Cron is going to get lost in the fray. Cron fell just short of 500 PA (499) and played in just 125 games. His home run rate projects out to 30 home runs, matching his 2018 total. However, Cron stepped his game up posting career marks in almost every power metric, similar to Abreu but again without the results to back it up. He even cut his strikeout rate by 4.5%. His 19.5% HR/FB rate was down two percent from 2018 despite a huge boost in his quality of contact. He struggled against right-handed pitching in 2019, which is my only concern with Cron going forward. He’s historically been adequate against them with a 105 wRC+ throughout his career. Cron is going to be a wide-awake sleeper in 2020 but if the balls are juiced again, he has an outside chance at 40 home runs.
Avisail Garcia (20 HR; 30.76 eHR)
A career riddled with Inconsistent performance due to poor plate discipline and an elevated ground ball rate has kept Garcia from becoming a perennial All-Star. Make no mistake, Garcia is a beast. He hit only one more home run in 2019 compared to 2018 despite increasing his total number of barrels by 13. Interestingly enough, he decreased his AVG EV and fly-ball rate in 2019 but the properties of the ball determined that his power output was unlucky. I can’t say that Garcia is a lock to hit 25-30 home runs next year, especially if the ball is juiced. He’s a free agent, so it will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay decides to give him another look. Regardless, I’d expect similar production in 2020 at a minimum. He’s a decent late-round option.
Nick Castellanos (27 HR; 37.04 eHR)
Here’s a guy I’m going to jump all over in 2020. He’s finally out of Detroit and given his batted ball profile, almost anywhere will be a park upgrade for Nicky C. After being traded to the Cubs, his HR/FB% more than doubled to 23.2%. I won’t let the small samples cloud my judgment but let’s take a look at a spray chart including his line drives and fly balls from 2019. The top chart is overlayed on Comerica Park in Detroit, the second is Wrigley Field in Chicago.
He’s not a lock to sign in Chicago but Wrigley is relatively neutral for power. I’m expecting a career-high in Castelaloes’ HR/FB% in 2020. I think given his quality of contact, he could post somewhere around 18-20% HR/FB rate and reach 30+ homers for the first time in his career.
Bryce Harper (35 HR; 43.73 eHR)
I’m here for the Bryce Harper discount in 2020. If Harper hit 43-44 home runs as his eHR suggests instead of 35 in 2019, are we talking about Harper as a slight disappointment? The boost in home runs would have given him more runs and RBI and likely increased his batting average to .265. His final line could have been .265-105-43-125-15. If it looks like a top-20 player and it smells like a top-20 player, it’s probably a top-20 player. My concern with Harper lies with his increasing strikeout rate which continues its climb towards 30%. If he can keep it below 25%, there’s value to be had.
Aaron Judge (27 HR; 35.14 eHR)
Amazingly, Judge earned 35 home runs despite just 447 plate appearances. He just straight mashes. I’ll take a discount on Judge in 2020, but based on early drafts, he’s not receiving it with an ADP of 24.3 based on the #2EarlyMocks. I feel that he is a safe second round pick even if the ball is changed to favor pitchers. He managed to somehow provide career-highs in hard hit% (57.1%) and AVG EV (95.9 MPH), ranking first and second, respectively in MLB with a minimum of 50 batted ball events (BBE). Health will remain my only concern with Judge. Even if he manages more than 500 PA in 2020, he has a strong chance to reach 40 home runs.
Andrew Benintendi (13 HR; 23.43 eHR)
There are a few factors to consider with Benintendi. The first being the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter playing half his games in Fenway. Left-handed pull power doesn’t favor left-handed pull power or balls hit to centerfield for that matter. Despite crushing the ball to straightaway centerfield, he only hit one home run to center all year. Here’s his spray chart on line drives, fly balls, and popups to straightaway.
Fenway has odd dimensions and extremely high walls, but he looks to have been robbed by a number of home runs, especially since some of those batted balls were hit on the road. Fenway’s HR/BRL% to centerfield for left-handed batters is just 28.2% compared to 41.2% league-wide. So while Benintendi will always struggle to hit a high volume of home runs to center, he still deserved better in 2019. The other factor is luck, which did not go his way in 2019. He set career-highs in barrel rate, hard hit%, and xwOBA. Not all of his fly balls went to die, he managed to smack 41 doubles and five triples. He sold out a little for power but didn’t reap the benefits. If he continues this approach I see a lower batting average floor, but I think Benintendi is a nice candidate to reach 20 home runs in 2020 at age-25.
Dansby Swanson (17 HR; 25.99 eHR)
I love me some Dansby Swanson for 2020. Based on his quality of contact and power metrics, he already broke out in 2019. However, thanks to missed time with an injury and his struggles upon his return in September, he’s going to come at a sizeable discount on draft day. He’s essentially undrafted in 12-team formats with an early ADP of 268, but I do suspect that to rise closer to 225 come March. Now, Swanson crushed his pulled fly balls but only 15.6% of his fly balls were hit to left field. Additionally, his home park (SunTrust Park) suppresses home runs. These two factors lost him about three home runs in 2019, BUT that’s factored into my equation and he still underperformed by nine home runs. How? Well, he bumped his barrel rate from a meager 4.1% to 10.1% and his AVG EV jumped three MPH! He’s in the top 30% for both metrics right around guys like Mookie Betts, Mike Moustakas, Gleyber Torres, and Rhys Hoskins. Does that mean I think he’ll hit 30 home runs in 2020? Not necessarily, but it’s not out of the question. Gimme gimme!
Yasiel Puig (24 HR; 32.52 eHR)
Puig is one of the most volatile players in the league. At times, he’s the hottest hitter in the game and at others, he’s taking on the entire Pirates team in a fight. His volatility not only applies to his performance but also his playing time. He’s had 368, 570, 444, 611 plate appearances since 2015. Would I count on 600 PA from Puig in 2020? Nope, but he did hit 24 homers and steal 19 bases in 2019. My metric shows that Puig should have hit more than 32 home runs. How would we view his season if he went 32/19? I know, I’m asking a lot of questions. Question marks seem to follow Puig wherever he goes. He only hit two home runs in 49 games with the Indians and I’m willing to chalk that up to an adjustment period. I will probably be out on Puig going into age-29 but wouldn’t be surprised if he stays healthy and smashes 30+ homers for the first time. I’ll probably only project him for 500 PA giving him another 23 – 25 HR and 15 steals for 2020.
Joey Votto (15 HR; 22.95 eHR)
As it turns out, Votto wasn’t quite as bad as his numbers indicated. Even still, he’ll be 36 years old and now has back-to-back seasons with under 20 home runs. His metrics are poor and his strikeout and walk rates are headed in opposite directions. While still posting a strong walk rate, it’s not the elite ratio we expect from prime Joey Votto. Despite his eHR showing he earned nearly 23 home runs, I’m not buying into a full power rebound in 2020. I’m OK leaving him on the wire now this he no longer provides elite batting average either.
Adalberto Mondesi (9 HR; 16.91 eHR)
If it weren’t for the shoulder injury with Mondesi, I’d be viewing him as a back-end first-rounder in 15-team formats. Keep in mind that his 16.91 eHR came on just 443 PA in 2019. As the two-hole hitter for the Royals, he’d push 650 PA in a full season. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a 20 HR/50 SB season at some point shortly with a ceiling of 25 HR/60 SB. Now, his plate discipline scares the sh&t out of me, so his range of outcomes is all over the place. With the question marks in regards to the recovery period on his shoulder injury, I’m likely to project Mondesi to miss the better part of the first month of 2020. Based on this stance, he’s a no-no in the first two rounds of 2020 for me. Additionally, the recovery could sap his power early in the season as well. Maybe he still reaches 40 steals but expecting more than 10-12 home runs may be a pipe dream. as much as I want to believe it.
Notable Unfortunate Hitters: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts, Yoan Moncada, Luke Voit, Shohei Ohtani, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Belt, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Fortunate Power Bats
2019 Earned Home Run Over Performers
|Tommy La Stella||16||14||100.00%||12.50%||10.82||-5.18|
Alex Bregman (41 HR; 23.06 eHR)
Yup. Bregman earned just over 23 home runs in 2019. I’ve adjusted for his high pulled fly ball rate and his home park. His 19 non-barreled home runs were the most in MLB which is the main reason for his low “earned” home run total. This may be a skill that Bregman possesses because in 2018, 35% of his home runs were “non-barreled” and in 2017, it was 33% of his home runs failed to qualify as barrels. Even still, adjusting his non-barreled ratio to 33% nets Bregman 13-14 non-barreled homers, not 19. There’s no doubt, his elite plate skills, contact rate, and home park will inflate his home run totals, but nevertheless, he’s a regression candidate in 2020. If the ball is juiced, I’d put him around 34-35 home runs, if it isn’t he’ll be lucky to reach 30 again. For Ss and Gs, here is an image showing Bregman’s pulled home runs overlayed on SunTrust Park (Braves home park).
Brett Gardner (28 HR; 15.50 eHR)
Gardner is another heavy pull hitter (35.4% pulled fly balls) that plays with the short porch to his pull side (right field) in Yankee Stadium. Based on my formula, those factors should have added between three and four home runs to Gardner’s total. In other words, in a context neutral environment, Gardner should have only reached 12 home runs in 2019. His output seems similar to some of the crazy home run totals we have seen from fellow Yankee, Didi Gregorious in the past. I don’t think anyone is actually buying into this power spike at age-36 from Gardner, so you don’t need me to tell you that he’s a huge regression candidate.
Yuli Gurriel (31 HR; 18.86 eHR)
I don’t want to fully dismiss the power gains we saw from Gurriel in 2019 because he made tangible changes. He increased his average launch angle by three degrees which produced more line drives, fly balls, and popups. The popups certainly don’t help but he also increased his pulled fly ball rate by eight percent. This explains why his eHR settled in at 18.8 after totaled just 13 home runs in 2018. It’s interesting to note that his hard-hit rate and AVG EV in 2019 were slightly lower than in 2017 when he hit 18 home runs (and the ball was juiced). Maybe projecting 18-20 home runs for 2020 seems reasonable.
Joc Pederson (36 HR; 28.81 eHR)
While Pederson saw more than 500 plate appearances for the first time since 2015, not much else has changed. He still struggled against lefties (often sitting versus tough LHP). He did increase his barrel rate by two percent but actually hit fewer fly balls. Additionally, he had a disproportionate number of home runs compared to doubles and triples. Typically, (and this far from scientific) the ratio of home runs to doubles+triples is close to one-to-one for power hitters. Pederson had only 19 2B+3B compared to 36 homers in 2019. It’s only worth noting when the discrepancy is this large. Pederson will most likely be with a new team in 2020, but unless he goes to Colorado, Cincinnati, or New York (Yankees) I’m staying away.
Omar Narvaez (22 HR; 14.4 eHR)
An eight percent boost in fly balls combined with a juiced ball is a great way to inflate your home run totals. However, his pulled fly ball rate and home park factors are essentially neutral which makes Narvaez’s 22 home run total a little bit outrageous. His HR/FB rate went up by one percent yet his hard-hit rate on fly balls dipped by six percent. I like Narvaez as a late-round catcher for 2020 thanks to a low strikeout rate and hefty line drive rate but expecting close to 20 homers in 2020 is a mistake.
Trevor Story (35 HR; 27.98 eHR)
I’m not going to harp on Story too much because it’s possible I’m not properly evaluating Coors Field. You’ll notice Nolan Arenado listed as a notable lucky hitter but on the flip side, David Dahl and Ian Desmond earned five to six more home runs in 2019. So maybe I’m on to something here. Story is a player I’m not worried about. As long as he can maintain a strikeout rate below 30%, the backdrop of Coors Field will allow for a safe batting average floor. His power metrics look a lot stronger than Arenado’s but due to the aforementioned elevated strikeout rate, he puts fewer balls in play resulting in similar home run totals. He’s still in the middle of his prime at age-27 and his hard-hit rate and exit velocity remain elite.
Eduardo Escobar (35 HR; 27.99 eHR)
Escobar is going to be over-drafted in 2020 drafts thanks to a career-year in 2019. He smashed 35 home runs while driving in an amazing 118 RBI! That’s incredible value around pick 200. He’s jumped all the way to 81 overall in the #2EarlyMocks. Before 2019, he had never hit more than 23 home runs or driven in more than 84 runs in a season. Additionally, his career-high batting average is .274. On a positive note, eHR still believed that Escobar earned a career-best 28 homers, but that’s more or less juiced ball aided. Even if you’re buying the fact that he is now a safe 30-100 hitter at age-31 (which I’m not), keep this in mind. Proven commodities such as Jose Abreu, Matt Olson, and Marcell Ozuna are all drafted later.
Jeff McNeil (23 HR; 17.67 eHR)
I’ve been hearing a lot about how Jeff McNeil showed power for the first time in 2018, mostly in the minors. When he finally got a full slate of playing time in the Majors in 2019, he backed his power growth with another 20-plus homer season. I’m usually a sucker for players with great hit tools who manage extremely high contact rates. McNeil is exactly the type of hitter who can develop power with more experience. Why does this blurb feel like I’m down on McNeil then? My only concern with McNeil is that he hit 14 of his 22 home runs in 2018 in just 57 Double-A games thanks to a 50% fly-ball rate. That approach is very different than the Jeff McNeil we’ve seen in the Majors who has a more balanced approach with more ground balls and line drives. Binghamton also plays a little hitter-friendly (The Mets Double-A affiliate). I’m going to have a hard time with McNeil in 2020 drafts. If the ball in de-juiced, he’s a near-empty batting average with decent contributions in runs. If the ball is juiced, I expect another 20 home runs which will help elevate his RBI total becoming a solid 3.5 category hitter. It looks like a deep dive in order this offseason.
Notable Fortunate Hitters: Nolan Arenado, Eric Thames, Tommy La Stella, Christian Vazquez, Eugenio Suarez, Freddy Galvis, Willie Calhoun, Danny Santana