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Hitters to Buy in 2020 Using Earned Home Runs and Deserved Barrels

Earlier this offseason I introduced the earned home run metric (eHR). I explained it here and analyzed some of the largest outliers from 2019 here. The metric’s backbone is barrels but included other variables including directional fly balls, home park factors, and exit velocity on fly balls and line drives. I also ran some regression analysis from 2018 to 2019 to determine how well the metric correlated from year 1 to year 2. The results showed weak correlation so there’s more work to do, but that article can be found here. What I ultimately determined was that while the correlations were slightly better than using strictly home runs per fly ball and home run per plate appearance, the results, as a whole, are inconclusive. That is for extremely small samples and for the players where eHR and HR totals did not differ by a significant margin. Where the value lies in eHR is with outliers.

Alex Chamberlain of RotoGraphs developed a deserved barrel (dBRL%) metric this offseason which has been extremely helpful. His research is great and makes a lot sense so I found a way to use his analysis in conjunction with my earned home run metric. Chamberlain’s introduction to the deserved barrel metric can be found here. But, he refined the dBRL equation earlier this month and the results are much more reliable. In the second article, he explains that the adjusted r-squared (r^2) improved to 0.8 up from 0.68. That’s a huge bump in reliability. Please be sure you check the article out. He still uses a slight bit of caution in that the metric is more valuable when looking at outliers. The way I’ll be using the two metrics together is identifying players that extremely over or underperformed their actual barrel rate based on the deserved barrel percentage but also earned their home run total from 2019. OR, even better, in the rare instance when a player either over or underperformed both deserved barrel% and earned home runs.

That sounded confusing as I wrote it, so let me give you an example. Mookie Betts. His barrel rate in 2019 was 10.3%. Chamberlain’s dBRL metric pegged him for an 11.6% BRl% given his dBRL equation that includes exit velocity and launch angles (aka quality of contact). That’s great, so Betts deserved more barrels in 2019. More barreled balls mean better results. Looking at the earned home run metric, Betts earned an additional 4.68 home runs in 2019 compared to his actual total of 29 home runs. But, I use his actual barrels produced in 2019 in my equation, not dBRL. So Betts’ quality of contact did not directly reflect his bottom line so given his actual barrel rate he actually earned almost an additional five home runs. If the ball remains unchanged, Betts is a guy who could reach a new career-high in home runs in 2020.

Alright, let’s take a look at the players who have a nice buying opportunity in 2020 given this analysis. The second column is simply deserved barrel% minus barrel%. The third column is earned home runs minus home run. I’ve included each player’s HR/FB rate from 2019 as I’ll come back to this article to determine whether or not improvements were made.

Earned HR & Deserved BRL% Underachievers (Buys)

Up for 2020dBRL%-BRL%eHR-HRHR/FB%
Jose Ramirez2.50%0.9012.00%
Mookie Betts1.30%4.8613.10%
Byron Buxton2.60%5.7510.10%
Renato Nunez1.40%5.1516.70%
Shohei Ohtani-1.00%6.4626.50%
Matt Chapman1.20%3.9919.00%
Marcell Ozuna-0.50%7.4022.10%
Rafael Devers2.20%0.3417.70%
Lorenzo Cain2.40%0.629.90%
Andrew Benintendi0.40%5.767.90%
Josh Donaldson-1.30%10.3925.70%
Enrique Hernandez2.70%1.8412.20%
CJ Cron-2.70%14.4719.50%
Brandon Belt1.70%3.718.80%
Yoan Moncada0.30%6.5120.20%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.0.20%5.8712.10%
Bryce Harper-1.80%10.9323.50%
Rhys Hoskins2.10%3.5214.30%
Aaron Judge0.40%8.2135.10%
Travis Shaw4.10%4.0510.10%
Howie Kendrick0.30%6.1817.90%
Matt Olson0.30%5.5423.70%
Jose Abreu-0.60%14.0921.00%

Source: Alex Chamberlain – RotoGraphs & BaseballSavant



2020 Players to Buy – Under-performed eHR & dBRL

If you’re looking for something positive in Travis Shaw‘s profile that might indicate a bounceback, this is it. Keep in mind, he only managed 270 plate appearances, so his sample is small and therefore, not as reliable. Even still, he maintained a high pulled fly ball rate and hit the ball. He needs to get his contact rate under control but if he gets 100% run at 1B in Toronto, he should get back to 25+ home runs. That’s a steal at his current ADP of 410.

Byron Buxton really surprised me here. His approach completely changed last year as his launch angle jumped seven degrees. Additionally, his exit velocity shot up while cutting his strikeout rate. That’s huge. But, fewer ground balls portend to a lower BABIP and fewer stolen base opportunities, especially with his five percent jump in popup rate. The health cloud is always surrounding him, so he’ll remain an enigma for me.

Annnnnd just like that I’m back in on Rhys Hoskins. His stock has dropped like a rock after being taken inside the top 50 in 2019. He’s all the down at 115 but still has 35-40 homer power (given the juiced ball). Plus, the Phillies lineup is still very good. He’s not going to help in BA or stolen bases but 35 home runs with 200 R+RBI is gold.

It looks like Jose Ramirez is coming in at a discount in 2020 with an NFBC ADP of 18 as of today. Using dBRL%, he earned 10 additional barrels bringing him up to 36 barrels in about 3/4 of a season. While eHR only has him adding about one home run, he still deserved at least six to seven additional home runs in 2019. Assuming the ball remains unchanged and a full season, I’d expect 30-32 home runs from Ramirez in 2020.



I’m inclined to grab Renato Nunez as my corner infielder in all of my 15-team formats. His ADP is currently 277 after players like David Peralta and Joey Votto. He hit 31 home runs last year and actually earned 36. Chamberlain’s dBRL says he should have had five additional barrels. We are creeping dangerously close to 40 homers given these two metrics. His park is extremely favorable and the lineup is not as bad as advertised. I won’t project him for 40 home runs in 2020 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a .250-35-95 season from him.

Based on my quasi-scientific calculation, Mookie Betts earned approximately 36 home runs in 2019. His stolen base total dropped but his power is as strong as ever. He was the same steller hitter, just unlucky. Fenway Park doesn’t help either and he’s staying put for this season. Unfortunately, the fantasy community is not buying Mookie’s “down” year as he’s the 4th player off the board in 2020. I would not be surprised if he finished 2020 hitting over .300 with 35+ homers, 20 steals and vying for the number one fantasy player next season.

As if we needed another reason to be giddy about the 23-year-old Rafael Devers, he deserved 12 more barrels in 2019. My eHR metric was neutral but go ahead and add those barrels onto his season total and you’ve got another eight homers! Now, remember, Fenway is difficult for power, so maybe his earned total is closer to 38 but still fantastic! Here’s a fun one for ya. Devers hit his first home run on May 3rd last year. From that point forward, here’s his line: .314/.357/.593 112 R, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 4 SB.

It’s nice to see that Jose Abreu, earned home run’s second-largest underperformer, deserved all but 2-3 of his barrels. He’s on the wrong side of 30, so expecting some performance decline is inevitable based on age. However, given these results, I don’t see why he can’t repeat his 2019 statline with maybe a few extra homers and natural regression in RBI.



Aaron Judge is still among the top one percent in all of baseball in terms of crushing baseballs. A healthy Judge can still hit 50 home runs and would be a lock for 40 bombs if he can manage at least 600 plate appearances. Nothing flashy, just simple analysis here.

Marcell Ozuna has under-performed his Statcast metrics two years running making his 2017 breakout seem like an outlier. Ya boy Max doesn’t see it that way. His home parks combined with some poor luck have held Ozuna’s numbers down the last two seasons. He remains unsigned this offseason and it looks inevitable that he’ll be back with the Cardinals. I’ll hold out hope that he goes elsewhere because Busch Stadium is one of the worst parks for offensive production.

Earned home runs pegged Matt Chapman for just about 40 homers in 2019 and his quality of contact was BETTER than his barrel rate indicates. Oakland Collusiem performs relatively neutral for home runs despite conventional thinking. I love Chapman and his price is reasonable. My only concern is his high variance in launch angle tightness. This high variance could mean a wild swing in production. A few of those deep fly balls could turn into popups or low line drives. That being said, the power is legit and I have no issue expecting a repeat of 2019 while adding a few points in batting average.

Similar to Abreu, Josh Donaldson is an aging veteran who had a very nice 2019. He was finally healthy and finished as one of seven players to surpass 60 barrels last season. Deserved barrels docks him five or so barrels and given his age and health history, it’ll be tough to repeat. Luckily for early drafters, his ADP hasn’t changed much over the last year (105 overall in NFBC drafts). I’m grabbing him at that price but it’ll be interesting to see how his value rises now that he’s with the Minnesota Juggernauts.

Deserved barrels dropped Bryce Harper BRL% to 13% which is still very impressive. Including dBRL to earned home runs cuts his eHR difference in half but 5-6 additional home runs in 2019 setting his home runs total at 40. Given Citizen’s Bank Park’s favorable right field, I am fully on board with Harper reaching the 40-homer plateau in 2020.

C.J Cron’s 15% barrel rate last year seemed to good to be true. As it turns out, it was. But, a 12.3% barrel rate is still among the elite. When we combine the two metrics, Cron should have eclipsed 30 homers for the second straight season instead of finishing with just 25. The move to DET is not great but he should play every day in the middle of that lineup, so he’s another nice late-round flier.



Yoan Moncada’s elevated strikeout rate may keep him from hitting .315 again but I’m projecting a power breakout in 2020. While his 2019 strikeout rate was high at 27.5%, it was a 6% improvement from the previous year. Growth from a young player is always a very good thing. As a prospect, his hit tool was rated well-above-average, so if he can continue to improve his contact rate the sky is the limit. Unless Moncada’s ADP settles inside the top 50 (currently at 68), I’m going to be all over him. Don’t be surprised if he reaches 35 home runs in 2020.

Nothing to see here. Matt Olson just earned 40 home runs in just 127 games! Look, Olson is being hyped by just about everyone. His ADP is soaring because of it, but as is he’s going 30 picks after Pete Alonso. I think they are very similar, so give me Olson over Alonso every time given the discount.

Despite a 50+% ground ball rate, Vlad Jr. still earned nearly six additional home runs last year. He just crushes the ball evidenced by hitting the hardest ball of 2019. Check out my piece at Pitcher List on his power potential. I can understand the lofty ADP. His combination of exit velocity and high contact could yield 35+ homers with a .300 batting average in the future.

Unfortunately for Kike Hernandez, the Dodgers have so much positional depth making him a utility option; a part-time option at that. Even still, he should have finished closer to 23-34 homers in 2019 instead of 17. The power breakout we saw in 2018 is real and he’s a nice option in NL-Only and deep-leagues for cheap power.

Normally, I’d been in on Lorenzo Cain with this data but he’s going to be 34 years old. His speed is dwindling and so is the power. While he deserved better in 2019, I don’t expect 15+ homers in 2020.

Here we go again with Brandon Belt. Oracle Park is brutal for left-handed power. Moving the walls in a bit could help but I’m still not buying unless he’s traded. Plugging in dBRL into my eHR equation, he still would have finished with 24 home runs in 2019 across 616 PA. That’s the first time he’s surpassed 600 PA since 2016 so the probability of a repeat is low. Besides, 24 homers in this era does not move the needle.

Andrew Benintendi needs to go back to what he does best. Using his elite hit tool and driving balls all over the field. The dream of 30 home runs for him may likely never come to fruition but eHR shows that he still has some pop. If he can get back to hitting .290 with 20 homers in the Red Sox lineup, he’s a good value at pick just after 100 overall.

Howie Kendrick’s age-35 season was so impressive when you consider his career. His zone contact rate was the best of his career while posting the second-best HR/FB rate. He’s still just a part-time player so his value will lie in NL-Only leagues and for streaming purposes.

Pitching every sixth game is going to limit Shohei Ohtani‘s value as a hitter. Then again, Joe Maddon claims he could use Ohtani as the team’s DH when he pitches. So, there’s that. Ohtani is a unicorn. If he managed 600+ PA, he would hit 35 home runs and steal 12-15 bases. If he threw 200 innings, he’d be a top 10 arm. Neither will happen but we can still enjoy his talent wherever he’s at on the field.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.





Will Byron Buxton Go 20/40 in 2018?

Expectations for Byron Buxton have been through the roof ever since he was drafted second overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 draft. As he moved relatively quickly through the minors, the hype surrounding Buxton in 2015 was similar to that of Ronald Acuna coming into 2018. Buxton had never displayed significant power in the minor leagues (but it certainly was far from non-existent), many thought it would develop in his long lean body. What was clear is that Buxton was an elite athlete with high end speed. The long term projections of 30/30, 20/40 or even 30/40 were out there. Then his call up came during the summer of 2015… It did not not go well to say the least.

Buxton would be bounced between AAA and the majors in 2016 and never really got on track. He did finish strong but then 2017 started with a thud. This time, he was not sent back down, the Twins stuck with him, mostly due to his incredible defensive work in center. He was much better in the second half going .300/.347/.546 with 11 HR and 13 steals. His final line was still not all that impressive at .253/.314./.413 with 16 HR and 29 steals. Many critics claim it was the easy schedule in the second half that propelled Buxton much like the rest of the Twins roster; others say the second half is more of what Buxton is and will be. So which is he? Can he ever reach 30/40? I’ll set the sights a little lower and see if Buxton can reach 20/40 in 2018.

Let’s start with speed. Since the Statcast era began in 2015, Buxton has recorded the fastest sprint speed in both 2016 and 2017. The guys below him are Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, and Jarrod Dyson. Ok, so those are the best base stealers in the game. There’s a lot more to stealing bases than speed, there’s: how fast the pitcher is to the plate, catcher’s pop time, arm/accuracy, and of course the jump the runner gets. Buxton hasn’t reached the stolen base totals of the others on the list but he’s clearly fast enough and in his 30 attempts last year he was caught only once! In fact, hes 41 for 46 in the majors which is an d89% success rate!

To figure out how Buxton can get to 40 steals in 2018, I averaged the stels per plate appearance for all players with a minimum of 29.5 mph sprint speed since 2015 (these are the elite speed guys). It comes out to 0.0695 steals/PA. Last year Buxton was at 0.0568 steals/PA, so he’s below the average but it’s because he didn’t attempt enough steals. He also has had below average OBP. The average OBP for all the players in my study is .320. We aren’t talking about Joey Votto here but it proves you don’t need elite on base skills to steal (of course it helps though). Buxton was below that but at .314 he should have been able to run a little more.

Next we will look into his plate appearances. He only had 511 PA in 140 games and usually batted at the bottom of the order. Now, that may not change, but I think he will play more than 140 games. If he averages 3.8 PA/game in 150 games, that’s 570 PA for 2018. Let’s assume some positive regression in terms of OBP up to a reasonable .325 and given his success rate on the base paths, he should be granted the green light. Between the additional PA, OBP, and attempts, I think he can get over 45-50 attempts. An 80% success rate at 50 attempts gets him to 40 steals on the nose. To verify, let’s check the numbers. What will his SB total be if he improves on his SB/PA to meet the average of the top speed guys we mentioned in the previous paragraph. That average of 0.0695 SB/PA puts him at 39.6 steals in 570 PA. Let’s call it 40 steals. Ok, we are half way there!

Now to the power. Well the 16 he hit in 2017 isn’t too far off of 20 and we know Buxton is already getting an additional 59 PA from our projections. At a HR every 31 PA, that gives Buxton two more HR, can we just call it 20? Not so fast, let’s take a look a little depeer into his numbers. There were improvements in both K% and BB% in 2017 for Buxton which were backed by higher contact% and SwStr%. Still his 29.4% K rate is pretty atrocious. Let’s focus on the positive, the improvement of nearly 1.5% SwStr and 5% in K% from 2016 to 2017 show growth and optimism for that of a young player. Look at Kris Bryant and George Springer, both cut their K rates from near 30% to under 20% in less than three seasons. In the second half, Buxton cut is K% to 27.6%. Do I think he can be below 25% in 2018… No. But, the 27.6% in the second half is close to what I will project for 2018.

Consider Buxton’s batted ball profile and his 1st/2nd half splits: Fly ball% increased by 3% while cutting IFFB% by 6% and Hard hit % increased by 5%. What does it all mean? Well, it partially backs his 20% HR/FB in the second half. Not only did he hit more fly balls, but he hit them at a higher quality, that combined with a decrease in K rate means more balls in play and more home runs.  He did change his approach losing the leg kick and getting more contact. Check out Paul Sporer’s take on him at fangraphs. The problem is the increase in HH% went up to only 30% which is still below average. His average EV is 85 mph and his Brls/PA was a measly 3.5%. The only silver lining is that his average HR distance in 2017 was 403 feet.

Finally, the projection. I mentioned the 570 PA and the 27.6% K rate. I didn’t mention the BB rate or the FB%. His BB rate looks to go down (slightly) due to his increase in swing% and contact rate, I’l project at 7.0% down from 7.4%. I like his FB approach and based on the second half of 2017 and his minor league track record, I expect an increase to about 41% FB. Based on another slight improvement on hard contact, I can see Buxton maintaining a 14% HR/FB ratio which he achieved in 2017. After crunching the numbers, I come up with 21 home runs for Buxton and a 21/40 season!

Wow that would be a hell of a season if he could pull that off. So we proved that Buxton “could” go 20/40, the question of “will” Buxton go 20/40 is still out there. I proved he could do it if he makes positive progress in all facets of his offensive game along with health. All of that is very difficult to do. The answer to the title above for me is: no. My actual projections have him reaching the 20 HR mark but I don’t see improvements in BA, OBP and while I do see him attempting more steals, I’d expect a regression in the success rate of Buxton limiting him to around 30-32 steals in something closer to 40 attempts in 2018. That’s still a solid season but for me I need to see more improvement and consistency from Buxton in 2018 to project 20/40. The approach change and progress along with youth give me optimism for Buxton in the future. If his speed ages well,  he cuts the strikeouts below 25%, and muscles up a bit more in his late 20s, I could see a 30/40 season in Buxton’s future.

For 2018, I just don’t think I’m ready to make the jump for Buxton in the top 50. Id prefer A.J Pollock or Whit Merrifield to Buxton because Buxton is likely to be a BA drain and the strikeouts mean additional risk. Plus he will end up costing you more at the draft table.