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Blast Zone Launch Angle – Climbers and Fallers

In the introduction to Blast Zone Barrels (BZB), I determined the parameters for the metric based on barreled balls that result in home runs at the highest frequency. I ran correlations and concluded that while it certainly (and quite obviously) has a strong correlation to power, it also has a moderate correlation year over year. I also took a look at outliers over the last three seasons. While Part one covered the genesis of the metric, part two will expand the metric by looking at all batted balls hit within the Blast Zone launch angle band (23-35 degrees). It’s a similar concept to what my colleague, Dan Richards wrote over at Pitcher List last season. Give the article a read, it’s very intriguing. 

Part Two of this series will hopefully provide a little more value for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. First, a quick reminder of the parameters of a BZB. It’s a barreled ball hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees of launch angle. But, what it ignores is the balls hit at those launch angles that do not qualify as a barrel. In other words, balls that are hit at ideal launch angles for home runs without the extremely high exit velocity. The table below displays the league-wide average exit velocity of all batted balls between 23 degrees and 35 degrees.



AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY ON BALLS HIT WITHIN BLAST ZONE BARREL LAUNCH ANGLE (23 -25 DEGREES)

2017 (AVG EV) 2018 (AVG EV)

2019 (AVG EV)

90.6 MPH 90.9 MPH

91.3 MPH

As a whole, balls are being hit harder at ideal launch angles over the last three seasons. Part of that can be attributed to the juiced ball. It’s also likely that players are “swinging for the fences” more often which has increased power production but has attributed to the league-wide elevated strikeout rate. Knowing this, let’s look at some three-year trends. I set the parameters for at least 40 batted balls hit within the launch angle band of 23 and 35 degrees for each of the last three seasons. To be fair, I relaxed the qualifying threshold to 25 BBEs for a single season if a player qualified with 40+ BBE in the other two seasons. 

What trends would we expect in regards to average exit velocity on balls hit in this range based on age? Well, naturally, we would expect the trend for aging veterans to be declining, right? You also might expect younger hitters to improve their exit velocity. If that’s what you assumed, then you’d be correct. Shocker! Of the sample I conducted, the list featuring the largest fallers had an average age of 34.7. The List featuring the largest climbers were a hair younger than 30 at 29.7 years to be exact. Below is the list of climbers with over the last three seasons and their current age.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Climbers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Yoan Moncada2594.890.995.91.1
Starling Marte3187.092.796.89.8
Shin Soo Choo3791.394.995.84.5
Nick Castellanos2892.693.194.01.4
Nelson Cruz4096.397.399.93.6
Mike Trout2893.894.095.31.5
Kyle Seager3290.691.495.14.5
Kole Calhoun3290.891.993.42.6
Josh Bell2791.094.294.53.5
Eugenio Suarez2889.992.093.63.7
Anthony Rendon3091.992.094.72.8
Alex Bregman2690.692.694.13.5
Christian Yelich2890.793.996.45.7
Didi Gregorius3087.288.892.45.2
D.J. LeMahieu3187.59295.58.0
Jason Jeyward3086.987.690.33.4
Kris Bryant2890.991.293.82.9
Matt Chapman2794.493.998.84.4
Xander Bogaerts2785.193.7948.9



A couple of quick points. Mike Trout continues to be the best player and baseball AND is still getting better! There isn’t much he can’t do. Nick Castellanos is my boy! I covered him extensively in Part 1 and love his new landing spot. He’s going to ball out in Cincy and is essentially a J.D. Martinez clone. I included Yoan Moncada because of his huge boost in exit velocity from 2018 to 2019. Was he hiding an injury in 2018? He smoked the ball in his debut back in 2017 but fell way back in 2018. Either way, he absolutely crushed the ball at all launch angles last year and is still just 25 years old. He’s my dark horse to win the AL MVP.

Can we talk about Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo for a second who appear to be defying the aging curve? Without these two old heads, the average age of the climbers falls to 28.7 which sounds more reasonable. Now, we all know Cruz is a monster and lights up the Statcast page but how has he gotten even better from age 37 to age 39? Averaging a tick under 100 mph within the blast zone launch angle puts him third behind only Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano (both averaged over 100 mph). If you’re expecting a decline from him this year, don’t. Only an injury or God forbid COVID could stop him from crushing in the shortened season. I bet you didn’t expect to see Choo here. On average, he actually hits the ball harder at ideal launch angles than Mike Trout! Think about that for a second. Given the short season, maybe move him up a few spots. He’s certainly is not finished just yet.


Let’s touch on a couple of other veterans who could be sleepers in 2020. Kyle Seager and Kole Calhoun have both steadily increased their exit velocity on ideal launch angles. Calhoun’s playing time could be spotty and news recently came out that he tested positive for COVID. At this point, he’s slight fade until we have more information. However, Seager should hit third or fourth in Seattle, albeit in an awful lineup. Even still, he should provide pop with decent run production. Did you notice Jason Heyward in the mix here? I almost fell asleep writing his name. His metrics aren’t great but he’s shown steady improvement over the last three years. He improved his walk rate and ISO last year and his defense should keep him in the lineup most days. Maybe he can put it together for two months in 2020?

Christian Yelich is just ridiculous. At age-28, he should continue to be an MVP candidate for the next three to five years. He’s my top pick going into the abbreviated 2020 season. Would you look at Alex Bregman? His barrel rate may be brutal and he scored poorly on my Blast Zone Barrels metric, but here we are. The reason he’s been so good in addition to his unbelievable plate discipline is this. He has improved on consistently hitting batted balls at ideal launch angles with authority. He doesn’t need to hit the ball 105 mph to hit a home run. I’m fading him less as a result of this research. 

The steady growth from Eugenio Suarez over the last four seasons has been fun to watch. He’s been successful in a similar manner to Bregman but without elite plate skills. Still, given his home park and this metric, I’d expect another great season from him. Josh Bell has arrived! He didn’t quite put it all together in 2019 but had an MVP-like first half. I’m a believer that he’s closer to the first half Bell than the 2018/second half Bell we saw. I’m buying and might jump him over an aging first baseman I’ll cover below.

Finally, can we talk about the elephant in the room? Starling Marte, WTF!?! His average exit velocity on balls hit between 23 and 35 degrees jumped nearly 10 mph from 2017! That was the year he was busted for PEDs. Hmmm? Unfortunately, his ground ball rate continues to hover around 50%. But, his career-best 18.5% HR/FB rate in 2019 was certainly justified. Even with some negative regression, Marte could still provide plenty of pop. Will Marte transform into a power hitter late into his career? It would require a launch angle adjustment but could certainly prolong his career as his speed declines. Xander Bogaerts’ presence on this list is largely due to a wrist injury in 2017 that sapped his power. He’s essentially been the same guy the last two seasons and at age-27, it doesn’t appear anything is going to change. Oh, hello there D.J. LeMahieu! The research I’ve done on D.J. points his results from 2019 being mostly sustainable. Bet against him if you will but he hits the ball as hard as Trout at ideal launch angles and has the short porch in right field.

Below is a graphical representation of the largest risers covered above.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Fallers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Daniel Murphy3591.088.485.9-5.1
Yuli Gurriel3689.689.788.4-1.2
Yadier Molina3793.391.290.3-3.0
Whit Merrifield3191.790.687.8-3.9
Paul Goldschmidt3297.393.493.3-4.0
Justin Smoak3394.894.093.0-1.8
Josh Reddick3388.589.286.9-1.6
Joey Votto3691.393.490.1-1.2
J.D. Martinez3296.396.094.3-2.0
Albert Pujols4092.493.690.3-2.1
Kurt Suzuki3693.891.186.7-7.1

This is a shorter list. I won’t spend too much time on these guys because many of them aren’t fantasy relevant outside of deeper formats. Kurt Suzuki had a nice run in his mid-30s, but he may just be cooked. Yadier Molina isn’t far behind. He may be able to contribute with moderate power this year but after 2020, I think his career is just about over. Same for Albert Pujols and potentially Joey Votto. Everyone knows about Pujols but the metrics on Votto are just as ugly. Even in the favorable home park, I will not be betting on bounceback. FREE KYLE TUCKER! It’s getting embarrassing with Josh Reddick and the Astros. He’s hardly a plus defender anymore and can’t hit with a 94 wRC+ and a .134 ISO last season. Come on Astros.

Daniel Murphy’s 2019 can be attributed to a finger injury, but even the metrics from 2018 are pretty scary. Coors Field could help but I’m not betting on a power resurgence. Then again, if health is on his side for the short season, I could envision Murphy putting together a fortunate .350 BA – 7 HR type season. Yuli Gurriel’s Statcast metrics have never been great and at age-36, his exit velocity is declining. He was unbelievably fortunate in 2019 and I’d be surprised if he hit more than seven homers in 2020. Justin Smoak is interesting. He’s 33 years old and has shown natural regression in terms of BZ launch angle exit velo. However, 93.0 mph is still well-above the league average. He’ll get a boost with the DH and with his new home park, so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, just don’t expect much in 2021.


Now to the fantasy-relevant players. J.D. Martinez went from being elite to very good. Should we be concerned? He’s 32 years old and there’s some evidence of player’s declining at that age. The Red Sox are still stacked even without Mookie Betts, but that means fewer RBI opportunities. Remember how I mentioned earlier that Nick Castellanos was J.D. part two? Well, if the trend continues, Nicky C could outperform JDM in 2020. Bold or not? Paul Goldschmidt falls into a similar category as JDM. They are the same age and have shown signs of declining. Not only has Goldy’s BZ EV fallen quite significantly since 2017, but he’s also a full mile per hour lower on average than JDM. I absolutely hate Busch Stadium for home runs and will very likely dock him given this information. I mentioned Josh Bell earlier and could see Bell outpacing Goldy in 2020. To Bell’s dismay, his surrounding lineup is awful, so I think Goldy bests him in run production. That being said, I’ll take Bell in batting average and home runs.

Finally, there’s Whit Merrifield. The late bloomer who helped players win championships in 2017 and 2018. He came out of nowhere in his late twenties to hit 19 homers and steal 34 bags back in 2017. Then as an encore, hit 12 bombs and stole 45 bags with a .304 BA in 2018. In 2019, the average stayed and the power returned (somewhat to 16 HR) but his steals were cut in half. The trend in the table above is extremely worrisome. He was saved by the juiced ball last year but now at age-31, I don’t think his power will play. His sprint speed is still in the top 15 percentile but is clearly falling. Over a full 162, I’d be hard-pressed to project more than 10 homers and 20 steals. What does that mean over 60 games? How about 4 homers and 8 steals. Yikes. He’s teetering very close to contributing an empty batting average. I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s nearly undraftable in 2021.




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Introducing Blast Zone Barrels (BZB)

I’ve certainly taken a step back from writing over the last few months but this one is a doozy. I think it’s up to 2,800 words, so strap in! We should be three months into the 2020 season yet zero games have been played. While it sucks that there are no MLB games, there are infinitely larger issues in the world right now. I’m certainly not trying to minimize the global pandemic or social injustice but I want to create a diversion. Nevertheless, no baseball equals no bueno. But, baseball’s back! Well, in less than three weeks it will be. I’ll be honest, it was difficult to stay motivated and keep writing. I’m working on several pieces currently but have had a difficult time finalizing them. But, this one really got me thinking. It stems from my comment “Not all barrels are created equal.” You may have read that in my underutilized pitches piece for Pitcher List or heard it when I was a guest on the Common Sense Fantasy Baseball podcast. I wanted to dive a little deeper into this statement.



If you regularly visit MLB’s Baseball Savant page or frequent the great Pitcher List site, you likely have a general idea of what a barrel is. For a ball to be classified as a barrel, the batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner the barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the launch angle range expands by approximately one degree in each direction. (Source: MLB.com). Since its creation, a barreled ball has resulted in a hit 80% of the time. Additionally, barreled balls have an expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) of 1.397. To give you an idea of how valuable these batted balls are, on average an xwOBA of 1.397 falls between a double and a triple. So yeah, these are the elite batted balls hitters seek and pitchers look to avoid.

But, when looking at the pure expected value of a barrel, there’s some variance. For instance, barrels can be hit at low launch angles. Take barrels hit between eight and 16 degrees for instance. These balls are hit at over 105 mph and of course, are hits most of the time. But, how often will they result in home runs? Almost never, unless you’re Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, since the Statcast era began in 2015, there have been only seven home runs hit at a launch angle of 15 degrees or less. 

From a recent Tweet, I displayed the expected weighted on-base averages (xwOBA) for barreled balls within certain launch angle limits.

From the Tweet, it’s clear that the batted balls within the middle range (21 degrees to 35 degrees) are the most valuable. What’s not shown is the percentage of those batted balls that were home runs. For those percentages, see the table below.



Home Run per Barrels Rate Based on Launch Angle (2017- 2019)

Launch Angle (deg)BarrelsHome RunsHR/BRL%
8-1441100.00%
14-1526941.49%
15-16324164.94%
16-174674810.28%
17-185628314.77%
18-1975519625.96%
19-2094532033.86%
20-21107843640.45%
21-22126966352.25%
22-23140786661.55%
23-241603106366.31%
24-251744117667.43%
25-261844121065.62%
26-271841124067.35%
27-281771122168.94%
28-291637115170.31%
29-301701119370.14%
30-311559111871.71%
31-32111178270.39%
32-3391062869.01%
33-3473149167.17%
34-3551836470.27%
35-3642825760.05%
36-3731319060.70%
37-3821413161.21%
38-391559460.65%
39-401076358.88%
40-41371437.84%
41-42331854.55%
42-4321942.86%
43-448337.50%
44-454375.00%
45-507342.86%

You can see now why I split the batted balls at launch angles between 21 and 23 degrees from the larger middle section. While these balls are home runs over 50% of the time, they don’t fly over the fence quite as often as balls hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees. The lowest home run percentage in this grouping are balls hit between 25 and 26 degrees (65.6%) while the highest home run probability falls between 30 and 31 degrees (71.7%). Regardless, barreled balls hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees are absolutely crushed. I call this zone, the Blast Zone. 

Excuse my extremely poor PDF edit. The chart above clearly shows that not all barrels are created equal. Yes, all barrels are valuable, but as a hitter, the Blast Zone is where it’s at. Over the last three seasons, 11,528 home runs have been hit on 16,853 Blast Zone Barrels (BZB). Over that same span, there have been 18,466 home runs hit.  While barrels account for 80.9% or 14,943 of all home runs since the start of 2017, BZB account for 62.4% of all home runs (11,528). That leaves 8,803 barrels that fall outside the BZB range. Of those 8.803 barrels, 3,415 of them resulted in home runs or 38.8%. This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Hitting the ball too low regardless of how hard it’s hit will not result in a home run and likewise for balls hit at higher launch angles. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. It does lead me to look into the correlation BZB has both in season and year over year.



First, let’s take a look at how Blast Zone Barrels correlate to home runs within the same year. I won’t spend much time on this because we’ve essentially proved that BZB correlates with home runs with the data provided above. 

Yearly Correlation BZB to HR (2017-2019)

 HR/FBBZB/PABZB/BBEBZB/FBHR/PAHR/BBE
HR/FB1
BZB/PA0.6291
BZB/BBE0.7020.9531
BZB/FB0.7310.8120.8551
HR/PA0.8470.7180.7160.5001
HR/BBE0.8840.7210.7960.5800.9601

All of the above metrics correlate fairly strongly with each other. The average correlation of BZB per batted ball event (BZB/BBE) to home runs per batted ball event (HR/BBE) from 2017 to 2019 for players with at least 200 plate appearances is about 0.80. Additionally, the correlation between BZB/PA and BZB/BBE is 0.953 which nearly matches the correlation between HR/PA and HR/BBE which is 0.960. 

Now for the year over year correlation. This type of data analysis can help determine predictability. Without getting too much into the weeds on this, the metric with the highest year-to-year correlation for Blast Zone Barrels is BZB/FB with a correlation of 0.51. Close behind is BZB/BBE at 0.49. In other words, BZB has a moderate correlation year over year. It’s certainly something that we should include in our analysis but does not explain the whole picture when looking at a player’s power profile. OK, with the data stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the raw leaders in “Blast Zone” Barrels (BZB) from 2017 to 2019.

Blast Zone Barrel Leaders: 2017-2019

PlayerBZB (17-19)
J.D. Martinez115
Khris Davis111
Nicholas Castellanos107
Freddie Freeman103
Mike Trout102
Mookie Betts100
Paul Goldschmidt98
Cody Bellinger96
Nelson Cruz96
Nolan Arenado96

The list has Mike Trout on it and includes seven of the top 10 home runs leaders over the last three seasons, so it checks out. The three players listed above who fall outside the top 10 in home runs over the last three seasons are Freddie Freeman (24th), Mookie Betts (30th), and Nicholas Castellanos (45th). Freeman hits a lot of opposite-field fly balls. Opposite field fly balls and even opposite-field barreled balls have a lower home run percentage than pulled fly balls. So, that makes some sense as to why he falls short. More on this in part two of this article series. Yes, they’ll be a part two. Mookie Betts was hurt by the Green Monster in Fenway on the barreled balls hit at lower launch angles. Additionally, centerfield/right-center are massive in Fenway hurting his power output to those parts of the field. So, I can see how he fell short but the move to LA this season will be a boost for him, especially to center. More on him in a minute.

Then there’s Nick Castellanos. He has the largest discrepancy between Blast Zone barrels (3rd) and home runs (45th). I’ve discussed Castellanos ad nauseam this past offseason. The move from Comerica Park to the Great American Ballpark is the largest boost offensively for any single hitter this offseason. The image below includes all of his BZBs overlayed onto his new home, GABP since 2017. Given the large discrepancy, Castellanos required a little deeper dive.

Let’s check some metrics to verify that Nicky C was unlucky. I found that his expected batting average (xBA) was nearly .100 below is actual BA on Blast Zone Barrels and his xwOBA minus his wOBA (xwOBA-wOBA) had a nearly .200 point differential. Yup, he was unlucky alright. Although I should point out, his average fly ball distance on Blast Zone Barrels was only 387 feet, tied for the lowest among all hitters with at least 40 BZB over the last three seasons. It’s a concern, but not enough to deter my opinion that he’ll improve on his home run given the major change in home park. I’ll take the over on his career-best HR rate of 14.4% which occurred last season. I’ll even go bold and project him something closer to an 18% HR/FB rate in 2020.



Let’s look at another player with a new home who I touched on above. Fenway Park inflates BABIP turning some outs into hits and many doubles into triples. Maybe that hurts Mookie’s batting average, but Fenway is brutal for home runs. Take a look. Playing in LA should give Mookie a boost in power. We already saw that Betts is up in the top 10 for BZB (100) the last three years but how many have turned into dingers? Based on the league average, 68.4% of BZBs have resulted in home runs. So, maybe he hit 68 homers? Nope, lower. 60? Lower. 50! Nope. Just 47 of his Blast Zone Barrels resulted in home runs. Just imagine if he played in Cincinnati, he’d be a perennial 40 HR hitter. Most projection systems have him hitting 10 to 11 home runs in the shortened season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mookie is hot right from the jump in the middle of the LA summer and is a dark horse to lead the league especially if he leads off.

Just by looking at the hitters with the largest discrepancy between xwOBA minus wOBA I notice some correlations. Players who have significantly overperformed either have extreme pull tendencies, play in a favorable home park, or both. It’s, of course, the opposite for hitters with low pulled fly balls rates who play in unfavorable home parks. The player with the largest difference between xwOBA and wOBA is Alex Gordon (-0.381). His batting average was just .591 on Blast Zone Barrels, which is insane because as a league, barrels in this range were recorded as a hit nearly 81% of the time (0.806 BA). Unfortunately for Gordon, he’s in the twilight of his career and still plays in pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium. I’m not looking to pursue him.

The next name that jumped out at me was Jose Martinez, now of the Tampa Bay Rays. J-Mart is a late-bloomer going into his age-31 season who should split time at DH, outfield, and first base. He might be an easy pass on draft day due to his uncertain playing time, but ATC projects for the fifth-highest wOBA on the Rays team with a solid .332. In limited playing time, he’s managed to hit 45 BZB but only 24 of them resulted in a home run. Additionally, he’s hit just .711 with a wOBA of 1.289 on said BZB. His xBA is over .100 above his actual BA and his xwOBA is a whopping .302 above his wOBA. His average launch speed of 104 mph on his BZB falls in the 73rd percentile. Martinez could be headed for a breakout although he hits far too many ground balls for my liking. Either way, the move out of Busch Stadium is a positive one and I’m a believer that a career-best HR/FB% is in order.

Additional BZB Unfortunate Outliers: Avisail Garcia, Nomar Mazara, Mitch Moreland, Robinson Cano

BZB Fortunate Outliers

Eugenio Suarez has been the perfect combination of skilled, lucky, and fortunate to play half his games in the best ballpark for home runs. Whether you look at my HRPF+ or Dan Richards’ Park Factors, Great American Ballpark reigns supreme. The statistic that was most surprising when looking at Suarez’s Blast Zone results was not the 90 BBE he’s managed in three seasons, it’s his batting average on them. His 90 BZBs have resulted in… 90 hits! A 1.000 BA! Here’s why. 80 of them have gone for taters. That’s 88.9%. As I previously mentioned, 68.4% of BZB go for home runs. Someone should do an in-depth look at every single one of these BZBs to find out how many were lucky, how many were fortunate, and how many were just straight skill. Sorry, to get your hopes up, but that someone is not me at the moment. That’s an entire article in itself. Suarez is not a sell for me based on this information. He’s still in Cincy, he still hits the ball hard and pulls a lot of fly balls.

Didi Gregorius made a living pulling fly balls over the short right field wall at Yankee Stadium over the last five seasons. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic defensive shortstop but was never projected to hit 25+ homers. Many are aware that Didi’s high contact, pull-heavy approach in Yankee Stadium has done wonders for his offensive production, but just how much? Here’s a spray chart of all of his home runs since the start of 2017.

I know what you’re thinking and no, I did not set the search filter to remove all opposite-field home runs. He has never actually hit an opposite-field home run. That’s amazing in itself, but let’s get back to his Blast Zone Barrels. He’s had 31 home runs on 42 BZB the last three seasons. That’s 73.8% which is better than league-average. What’s odd about that is the fact that his average exit velocity on all of his 42 BZB is just 101 mph. That ranks last among all batters with at least 40 BZB since 2016 just behind Whit Merrifield and Nick Ahmed. His wOBA is nearly .350 higher than his xwOBA on those 42 batted balls. Fortunately, he’s landed in Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park plays well for left-handed pull power. But, not nearly as favorable as Yankee Stadium. I’m fading Didi a little bit for 2020 but stay tuned for part 2…

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, CHW)
The aging veteran seems to produce solid power numbers every year. He’s in a new situation as the everyday designated hitter for a youthful White Sox club. He’s managed to hit at least 32 home runs every year since 2011 and consistently drives in a high volume of runs. His 86 RBI in 2019 was his lowest since 2011 but on a per plate appearances basis, it was right on par with his elite years in Toronto at 0.177 RBI/PA. Projection systems are still projecting E5 for 33-34 homers and 90+ RBI in about 550 plate appearances (162-game projection of course). At age-37, I think 2020 is the time for the parrot to jump off of that right arm of his. Picture this, E5 increased his HR/FB% by 1.6% in 2019. That’s not a big deal in itself but his BZB/FB% dropped a whopping 7.1%! He wasn’t hitting the ball as hard at ideal launch angles. His popup rate shot up by nearly 6%. So while he’s still hitting the ball hard, he may be selling out as he continues to age. You wouldn’t notice a drop off when looking at his Baseball Savant page but this data is telling. Given his decline in BZB from 2019 and his age, I’ll be steering clear of the aging veteran in 2020 save for OBP formats.



Hunter Renfroe (OF-TBR)
At age-27, Renfroe had a career-best 33 home runs in 2019. He also managed to post career-highs in HR/FB% and HR/BBE% at 23.6% and 11.3%, respectively. For reference, among players with at least 200 PA in 2019, his 11.3% HR/BBE% ranked 17th in all of baseball in 2019. His BZB/BBE% however, ranked 115th. The reason? He pulled a ton of fly balls. 41.1% in fact. The league average pulled fly ball% in 2019 was 24.1%. The remainder of his home runs went to centerfield. Petco Park ranked inside the top-10 in my Directional Home Runs Park Factors (HRPF+) over the last three years to both left-field and centerfield. While Tropicana Field was neutral to leftfield, it is in the bottom-10 for home runs to center field. Given the park change and the lackluster BZB results from Renfroe, I’d expect a decrease in Renfore’s power on a per batted ball basis (say that five times fast) and per fly ball in 2020.

George Springer (OF – HOU)
I’ve covered Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel to death. If you’re curious about what I think about them, check it out here and here. It’s too bad because I used to be Alex Bregman’s hype man. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Springer though and I’m not sure why. He had a 29.5% HR/FB% in 2019 and his career rate is 21.9%. In fact, since his rookie year, he’s only managed a home run rate over 20% once between 2015 and 2018 and his HR/FB% nearly doubled between 2018 and 2019. 

Show table how his BZB/BBE was down from 2018 but his HR/BBE more than doubled! 

The reason I separated Springer from Bregman and Gurriel is that the latter significantly increased their pulled fly ball rates which boosted their home run total. Springer’s pulled fly ball% actually decreased in 2019. Yes, he hit the ball harder and deserved better results than in 2018 but I’m betting against the sustainability of it.

Additional BZB Fortunate Outliers: Joc Pederson, Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this analysis and while this data is valuable, there’s more work to do. With the suggestions from Max Goldstein (@MaxSportsStudio on Twitter), a great follow, I’ll be looking into directional Bast Zone Barrel. This suggestion inspired this tweet. Pulled fly balls are king.

Part two will look at a few trending players to prepare you for your draft. Part Three will modify this metric directionally. A player’s home park is certainly a factor. I plan on including this information and plugging it into my earned home run (eHR) equation and eliminating some overlapping variables but probably not until the next offseason.

🚨⚾️Best Pitches from 2020 – FreezeStats⚾️🚨

✅Top FB - min 300 & 500 thrown
✅Top CH - RP & SP
✅Top SL - Lamet of course, but who is #2?
✅Top CU - Too close to call?

I went a little GIF happy 🤗 https://t.co/7mFze7vF3s

Interesting 2021 Steamer Pro

-.271 BA for Betts; career .301 BA🤔
-30 HR/19 SB for Tucker 👀
-Bellinger=Trout
-Arozarena 23 HR/21 SB 🔥
-Bichette 24 HR/24 SB
-Vlad Jr=Seager (photo below)
-McNeil=DJL (again) 🤦🏻‍♂️
-Soto .425 OBP, Trout .422 OBP
-Moncada .254/24/8 (BUY!!!)

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

In my last article, I summarized both earned home runs and deserved barrels. Alex Chamberlain of RotoGraphs devised an equation that factors exit velocity and launch angle in the equation to determine a hitter’s deserved barrel rate. He shows that his revision is very reliable and therefore a great tool to use. You can check out his analysis here. Additionally, I look at overperformers using my earned home run metric that factors barrels, non-barrels, FB/LD exit velocity, directional fly balls, and home park factors. My analysis of earned home runs can be seen here.

What I’m doing is combing the data and research from both metrics to find potential values and, for lack of a better word, busts for 2020. The way I think about it is like this. I use a player’s actual barrel rate in addition to other factors to determine how many home runs a player earned (eHR). However, if a player deserved a lower barrel rate (dBRL) and I plugged dBRL into my eHR equation, his earned home run total would be lower. I’m looking for players who were fortunate in both metrics. I reference what each column is telling us below the high profile fades table.


 

The High Profile Fades for 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Alex Bregman1.80%-14.39
Freddie Freeman-3.20%-1.03
Jose Altuve-3.40%-2.65
Gleyber Torres-1.80%-1.65
George Springer-4.70%0.54
Kris Bryant-0.80%-4.29
Eugenio Suarez-2.70%-0.61
Max Muncy-2.70%-3.25

Second column: dBRL%-BRL% is Chamberlain’s deserved barrel percentage minus barrel percentage. For example, Jose Altuve had an actual barrel rate of 8.1% in 2019 but his Deserved barrel rate was just 4.7%. So, his dBRL%-BRL% is -3.4%. The same concept applies to earned home run (eHR) minus home runs (HR). I’ll use Altuve once again. Altuve earned 28.35 eHR in 2019 based on his actual barrel rate. He actually hit 31 HR in 2019. So, 28.35-31 is -2.65 is the third column.

Based on Chamberlain’s deserved barrel%, Alex Bregman earned about nine additional barrels in 2019. That brings him up to 35 BRL on the year but still well short of explaining his 41 home runs. His ability to pull well-hit fly balls is unmatched, so while he’ll typically outperform my earned home run metric, I’m still calling for regression for somewhere between seven and 10 homers in 2020.


Oh no. My earned home run metric essentially justifies what Freddie Freeman did last year smashing a career-best 38 home runs. However, dBRL% cuts his rate by about 20%. It’s not a total disaster but Freeman will likely regress back to the 30-homer, line-drive machine we are used to. That’s just fine and the addition of Marcell Ozuna makes him a virtual lock for 220 combined runs+RBI.

Jose Altuve managed a career-best 31 home runs in only 548 PA in 2019. It’s not difficult to project him for significant negative regression in 2020. His dBRL rate is an extremely weak 4.7% and I have him with 2.65 fewer home runs given his actual barrel rate. His park will help aid in a handful of additional home runs, but I think he settles back to 20-22 next year.

Gleyber Torres doesn’t seem to be a major regression candidate if the ball remains unchanged. However, he was still fortunate in the power department and is probably closer to a 30-32 home run hitter. I can’t understand his ADP inside the top 30. There’s no real speed to speak of and his batting average is decent but doesn’t move the needle. With just 26 combined doubles/triples compared to 38 HR, I would anticipate that ratio being closer to 1:1 in 2020. Torres will not be on any of my redraft teams in 2020.

George Springer: Why are there so many Astros on this list? Look, cheating scandal aside, many Astros hitters overperformed their power metrics, especially right-handed pull hitters. Springer hit a career-high 39 home runs in only 556 plate appearances. Don’t pay for that power spike in 2020.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, this one hurts but I’ve been one of Kris Bryant’s biggest critics since the close of 2017. The injuries have mounted and even in a seemingly healthy season, Bryant was good but not great. Both eHR and dBRL% were not on board in 2019 pegging him closer to 25-26 HR on the season. He has been known for outperforming his metrics but expecting 35+ home runs in 2020 is a mistake.

Eugenio Suarez earned his 49 bombs in 2019 but did not deserve such a high barrel rate. Based on my rough calculations, he should have ended up closer to 39 homers in 2019 rather than the sure to be career-high of 49! I like Suarez but he’s selling out for power which has bumped up his K% while lowering his batting average upside. He’s closer to a .250-.260 hitter with 35-37 home runs.

This is sad because I do love Max Muncy. He backed up his out-of-nowhere 2018 breakout but without elite power metrics. Thanks to the juiced ball, his numbers were essentially repeated. He’s still a strong play but maybe owners should expect something closer to 28-30 homers instead of 35.

 Youthful Breakouts, what to expect for 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Austin Riley-2.20%-1.67
Michael Chavis-3.80%-0.45
Mike Yastrzemski-0.70%-2.61
Daniel Vogelbach-0.90%-3.41
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.-2.30%-1.01
Tim Anderson-0.10%-5.58



Austin Riley certainly has power but I think he’s going to take his lumps in the Majors before figuring it out. I won’t be buying in for 2020 but would love to see some improvements with his contact rate. If he displays some minor improvements in 2020 I might be interested in Riley as a potential breakout in 2021. Riley is the type of player that typically takes time to adapt to the next level. Same with Michael Chavis, I’m going to pass on him for 2020. The playing time is not guaranteed and his swing and miss tendencies have me worried. His power is real but not elite. I’m not risking his floor in 2020.

No, Mike Yastrzemski isn’t young, but he hasn’t had much experience in the big leagues. As a left-handed hitter in Oracle Park, it’s rough, just ask Brandon Belt. The fences will be moved in a little bit, so that should help but still won’t make it a hitters park. Yaz is a really nice story but I don’t expect much of a step forward in 2020 if any at all. At least on a per plate appearance basis.

Dan Vogelbach: Both earned home runs and deserved barrels views the large first baseman as more of a low-to-mid 20s home run type of hitter. His contact rate plummeted while his quality of contact decreased. His average exit velocity is near the 50th percentile. He’s also likely to lose playing time to Evan White who signed a new contract this offseason, so I’m 100% out on Vogelbach in 2020 except maybe in OBP formats.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is still very young and also talented. He’s one of the few under-performers that I’m not all that worried about. Based on his overall improvements, I think he’s still growing as a player. He managed 20 homers in just 84 games which is a 162-game pace of 39. Using eHR and dBRL, it’s closer to 32 which is still impressive. With everyday at-bats, I expect close to 30 homers from Gurriel in 2020. That can certainly play if he hits in the middle of an improving Blue Jays lineup.


Tim Anderson‘s barrel rate is justified but he did not earn his home run total in 2019. His home park is favorable but I also include a factor for that in my eHR equation. He’s still young and has now shown decent power in two straight seasons. I won’t peg him as a complete regression candidate, especially if he’s fully healthy for 2020 but his value lies mostly with stolen bases.

Veterans and Catchers to Fade in 2020

Deserved Barrel% (dBRL%) and Earned Home Runs (eHR)

PlayerdBRL%-BRL%eHR-HR
Eduardo Escobar-0.60%-7.17
Roberto Perez-3.80%-3.12
Willson Contreras-3.50%-2.07
Mitch Garver-5.00%-2.72
Matt Carpenter-1.00%-2.55
Mark Canha-1.90%-2.55
Carson Kelly-0.90%-4.22
Dexter Fowler-2.60%-2.30
Tim Beckham-3.50%-0.97
Nick Ahmed-3.00%-2.35
Tommy La Stella-0.80%-6.27
Brett Gardner0.00%-10.42
Omar Narvaez0.50%-9.26
Christian Vazquez0.50%-5.72

Eduardo Escobar is another hitter with a tight launch angle variance. Regression is coming but maybe he’s developed into a 25-27 homer hitter as opposed to the 20-22 homer hitter he was in Minnesota. So in a sense, I’m partially buying into his new approach to maximize his fly balls by pulling them at a career clip. However, it’s not a stable profile year-to-year so I won’t be drafting him expecting 90% of his production from 2019.

Yikes, Chamberlain’s bDRL% has Roberto Perez at about 10 fewer barrels in 2019 docking him approx six-seven homers. My eHR metric has him earning three fewer home runs giving him an earned/deserved HR total of a measly 13 home runs last season. His history of extremely low batting average has me concerned making him borderline top-20 catcher for 2020.


Another reason to not be a slave to Statcast metrics. My eHR metric has Willson Contreras earning only two fewer HR in 2019 bringing his total to a still-solid 22. However, his dBRL% cut his barrel rate in half. He’s another catcher who was a beneficiary of the juiced ball. He’s shown power in the past so I trust him more than Perez but 20+ homers in 2020 is not a projection I feel confident about.

Mitch Garver crushes the ball, there’s no doubt but 31 homers in 359 PA is just crazy. Of course, he’s due some major regression as dBRL docks him 11 barrels! Even given a bump in plate appearances, I’d project him for 20-22 home runs in 2020. That’s in about 450 PA+/- for a catcher. He still should provide solid value but I’m not reaching. I’m actually thinking about dropping him in my ranks.

I tried to tell you not to pay for a career year from a player in his early-mid 30s. Did you listen? I hope so. Despite a massive drop in ADP, I’m still not buying back in on Matt Carpenter. He dealt with injuries in 2019 but that’s nothing new for Carpenter. Expect more of the same with inconsistent results in 2020.

Mark Canha‘s 26 home runs in about three-quarters of a season is solid power production. However, he earned closer 20 homers last year. He’s a nice story and probably batting sixth in a stacked lineup, so he holds some value this coming season, I’m just not a believer in him as a 30-homer bat.

I love Carson Kelly but he might not be the 20-25 home run hitter I was hoping for. He’ll be in the backend of my top 10 catchers and I expect a decent batting average with 15-18 home runs in 2020. Nothing sexy but solid production.

Dexter Fowler is just about done in my opinion. He is morphing into a 10 homer, five steal player. Busch Stadium in St Louis is a tough park for home runs and the Cardinals have so many young outfielders, it feels like Fowler will be in a four-man rotation. There’s nothing to see here.

Anyone expecting a bounceback from free agent Tim Beckham can stop dreaming. He managed a 20.5% HR/FB rate despite a 33.5% hard-hit rate (bottom 31% of the league). He will likely be signed as a backup, so even in deep leagues, I’m staying away.

Nick Ahmed put together a solid overall season and it’s likely going to be the best of his career. The 19 home runs were a career-best but so was his plate appearance total. I’ll set the over/under for home runs at 13.5 in 2020. Is that exciting in today’s game or no?

Tommy La Stella‘s quality of contact was actually decent and his extremely high contact rate provides a nice batting average floor. That being said, anyone expecting 30 home runs across a full season from La Stella will be sorely disappointed. I don’t honestly think anyone out there is expecting 30 homers but I’d be hard-pressed to project him anything more than his total of 16 home runs across 550-600 PA. Maybe the Angels feel comfortable with La Stella as their leadoff hitter and that would be great for his value. Otherwise, he’s just a .280-15 hitter without any speed.


If Brett Gardner played in a neutral park to right field without the juiced ball, he’d be hardpressed to surpass 10 home runs. As it stands, he set a new career-high in home runs at 28 in 2019 at age-35. His HR/FB rate was six percent higher than his previous career-best back in 2017, the last time the ball was juiced. Nobody is expecting a repeat in 2020 but projection systems aren’t fully fading him. I’ll take the under on 15 home runs in 2020.

Omar Narvaez receives a park upgrade in Milwaukee but can he continue to outperform his metrics? He’s done it two years running and his hit tool seems to be his best asset offensively. I’m not fully fading him in 2020 but would not expect 20 home runs. I’m comfortable projecting around 15 homers with a .260 batting average. You could do much worse at catcher. Ditto, what I said about Narvaez for Christian Vazquez. The only difference is Vazquez has only done it for one year, where Narvaez has proven to be more reliable. I’ve ranked Narvaez 10th in catcher rankings with Vazquez at 13 if you’re curious.

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


Image credit: Scott Cunningham

Third Base – The Choice Is Yours

Moving on the the hot corner, I’ve done the outfielders and shortstops with speed. I’m going in a different direction as the hot corner nearly has the depth of first base and is littered with power bats. We are going to focus on power and run production in this article from third base. This won’t be your high end talent at third baseman, I’ll be digging into players taken outside of 125 overall. These third baseman are your 16+ league starters or CI guys. So, take a look at the mystery players below with ZIPS projections and I’ll do a little dive into the numbers and ADP so we can find out who to get with and who stay away from.

3B Deep LeagueZIPS Projections  
RunsHRRBIAVGSBADP
Player A7728960.2713139
Player B8125830.2577192
Player C7525960.2661234
Player D7426870.2449284

Player A looks solid, maybe this guy should be inside the top 100 with those numbers. There’s good and bad with Player A, first the good. The last three seasons he’s averaged 28 HR, 87 RBI, a .264 BA and he’s only 30 years old coming into 2018. Based on those numbers, the projections look good except maybe a little high in BA and run production. Here’s the bad news for this AL corner man, he has increased his K% each of the last three seasons and hit a career low .249 in 2017 fueled by an insane 51.6% FB rate. Increased fly ball rates lead to more HR though, right? Well he hit 27 in 2017 down from 30 in 2016, so no. Player A is steady Kyle Seager. Here’s the problem, he’s selling out for power increasing his FB% by 10% but not actually improving on the power numbers. It’s impossible to hit for a high average with an over 50% FB rate, just ask Matt Carpenter and Joey Gallo. Therefore, I disagree with ZIPS high average (for Seager) along with the 28 HR. For me, it’s one or the other. He either hits 28 HR with a .245 BA or he hits .270 with 23 HR. The run production is too high as well, he’ll end up around 80-85 RBI. For me at this price, I’m saying DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player B has pretty similar projections to Seager with a lower BA, a few less HR but more steals. He’s being taken 55 spots later so it appears he might be better value than Seager especially with what I believe to be true about Seager. I like Player B, he’s 26-years-old, has increased his power numbers and walk rate for three straight years and is slated to hit fourth in a hitters ballpark. This NL 3B is Eugenio Suarez. I love Suarez, you can read my thoughts on Suarez on FanGraphs Community way back in November. I can’t figure out how he’s only projected for 83 RBI which is basically identical to 2017 except he’ll be hitting fourth directly behind OBP machine Joey Votto and last year he spent over 130 games hitting 5th or 6th. I can easily see 90+ RBI with the 80+ runs. He’s a clone of Seager but 55 picks later and throw in a few extra steals for good measure, I have him ranked higher than Seager. GET WITH THIS.

Based on ZIPS, Player C has incredible value. He’s actually projected for better numbers than Suarez but with no speed and identical projections to Seager with nearly 100 picks between them! To be fair, ZIPS projection is the most favorable for this player especially in the RBI department. This NL third baseman is only 25 but has 2.5 seasons of major league experience. His offensive production has decreased each year and there is risk he could lose his job during the season. Player C is Maikel Franco. It would take great starts to the season from J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery to push Franco to the bench. Personally, I’m torn on Franco. I love the power, age, and contact skills but I hate the crazy high IFFB% and his hard hit contact is not reminiscent of the power hitter. As bad as he was in 2017, he still hit 24 HR and drove in 74 runs. Don’t ask me where ZIPS is getting those RBI numbers because Franco likely isn’t higher than sixth in the order. I don’t believe in the .234 BA last year but .270 might be too high considering the popup issue. I like him at this cost but think he’s more of a .255 25-80 guy until he kicks those his popup problem to the curb. GET WITH THIS, but don’t reach.

Player D has been a steady power source over his career and has averaged 155 games a year since 2013. He’s a bit over the hill but there’s value in a guy who plays everyday and can hit for power. To me, the projections are laughably high. It’s not that I don’t think this mystery player can hit .244 with 9 steals but that’s more of a 75-80% outcome. This third baseman has hit below .235 three of the last four seasons. Player D is Todd Frazier. There’s proven power with Frazier but even that is dwindling. He hits a ton of fly balls and even more popups than Franco. In fact, about 9% of Frazier’s batted balls are popups which as we know are automatic outs. Combine that with his 22% K rate and he’s a guaranteed out 31% of the time. His line drive rate is below average and his speed is basically gone, so a BABIP over .250 isn’t happening. So he’s a .220-.230 hitter like Gallo but without the 50 HR upside. If you’re CI spot is weak and you need power I can see grabbing Frazier but make sure you have some high batting average guys to supplement. Personally, I not touching him. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

2nd Half Fly Ball Escalators – Part 1

The fly ball revolution is upon us.  We all know this; it’s been happening since the second half of 2015 and has continued through 2017.  This doesn’t seem to be a fluke or blip on the radar.  Until MLB changes the ball or does something to shift the favor to the pitchers, fly balls aren’t going away.  The ratings are up and there’s a great young crop of major league players who play with a ton of passion and they are embracing this revolution.

First let’s start with the parameters I set for this statistical analysis.  It’s easier to see which hitters change their approach year to year but I wanted to focus on players who have increased their fly balls in the 2nd half of 2017.  I split the data between the 1st half and the 2nd half of 2017 with a minimum of 200 PA in each half.  I was only going to include hitters who increased their fly ball % by 4% of more between the 1st half and 2nd half but it would have excluded Byron Buxton (2.4% increase) and Giancarlo Stanton (3.4%).  I want to talk about both of them, so I went a little lenient to include those two.

Now that I have my crop of fly ball escalators, I also included Infield Fly%, BABIP, HR/FB, and Hard Hit %.  I wanted to see the changes in all of these statistics in addition to the FB increase and see whether of not they make sense or if luck played a roll.  Keep in mind, not everyone is benefiting from hitting more fly balls.  Here’s the table of players I believe should benefit in 2018 with the increase fly balls if their approach remains the same via google docs.

Eugenio Suarez

Suarez had a nice little breakout year in 2017 with a wRC+ of 117.  In the 2nd half of 2017 he significantly increased his FB% while decreasing his IFFB%.  That’s huge because of course infield fly balls are essentially an automatic out.  He did all that while increasing his LD% and Hard hit%!  This to me looks like a conscious change for Suarez coming into 2018.  While his overall numbers look pretty good in 2017 with a triple slash of .260/.367/.434 with 26 HRs (career high) and he’ll be entering his age 26 season.  All that being said, I think there’s still upside there.  Here is his slash for the 2nd half of 2017: .268/.378/.490 with a wRC+ of 126!  For reference, here are few players with similar wRC+ in 2017: Gary Sanchez (130), Nolan Arenado (129), Domingo Santana (126), and Chris Taylor! (126); more on him later, and Brian Dozier (124).  You get the idea.  But can Suarez do it for a full season?  If he does, we are looking at a 30-100 player in 2018 hitting 4th or 5th behind Joey Votto and Adam Duvall.  In my opinion, he’s a better hitter than Duvall and should be slotted behind Votto.

Of this group of 2nd half fly ball surgers, Suarez is one of the more intriguing for fantasy purposes.  Suarez is and has been the starting 3rd baseman for the Reds, but he’s also one of only two players on the roster who have logged significant time at SS within the last three seasons (the other being Jose Peraza) now that Zach Cozart is gone.  Nick Senzel who finished the season in AAA, is knocking on the door and 3rd base is his main position, but they are giving him reps at 2nd (which should tell you they like Suarez at 3rd).  This creates a logjam at 2nd with Scooter Gennett but still doesn’t solve the shallow SS position.  Maybe the Reds address it or maybe Suarez plays some shortstop and on those days, Senzel moves to 3rd.  If this happens and Suarez gains SS eligibility, he could be at top 8-10 shortstop right behind Corey Seager.

Manuel Margot

Coming into 2017 Margot was a consensus top 50 prospect and was ranked 24th overall by Baseball America.  Eric Longenhagan of fangraphs graded him at a 70 speed score out of a possible 80. So far, it checks out per baseballsavant as he ranks 8th in average sprint speed in all of baseball.  Something else you may notice on Margot’s fangraphs page is the potential for a 55 raw power grade.  You can’t totally ignore the 40 game power grade but these are the types of guys who have proved to benefit the most from the “juiced ball.”  Keep in mind that Margot played all of 2017 at age 22.  This kid is still learning the game and developing power.

That being said, his batted ball profile leaves a lot to be desired.  He made a lot of soft contact and of course, not a whole lot of hard contact.  However, based on the 1st half / 2nd half splits, he made adjustments with not only more fly balls and line drives but harder contact.  That’s a good sign but yet his BABIP dropped in the 2nd half.  Sure, a speedster like Margot can benefit from weakly hit groundballs (part of the reason Billy Hamilton doesn’t hit below the Mendoza line), but the increase in line drives should have certainly increased his BABIP.  The point is, even with the slight improvement in wRC+ between the 1st and 2nd halves, he was still unlucky.

I expect Margot to continue to make improvements with the bat in 2018.  I don’t expect him to reach the 55 raw power grade, but he’s moving in the right direction.  I also expect him to improve on the bases and utilize his speed a little more while he’s still at his peak (as far as speed in concerned).  There’s an intriguing window with young players who possess speed and untapped raw power where the speed is still at (or near) it’s peak and the raw power begins to materialize.  Margot will be approaching that window in 2018 at age 23, so you need to jump in now before he’s fully reached that window and becomes a premier power/speed threat that is so rare in fantasy baseball these days.  Jump in now while he’s ADP is around 200 and you could be rewarded with around 15-18 HRs and 20+ steals in 2018.  His upside could be somewhere around Mookie Betts’ 2017 without the runs + RBI numbers.  Will he ever reach those heights?  I can’t say for sure, but it’s intriguing.  In keeper/dynasty leagues, he’s a great asset to have at his current cost.

Logan Forsythe

Forsythe was hampered by injuries in 2017, he broke his toe in April of 2017 and only appeared in 119 games.  In those games he had 439 PA, hit .224 with 6 HRs and 3 steals.  Woof, why is he a thing for fantasy baseball in 2018 at age 31?  Well, first the Dodgers traded Jose DeLeon to the Rays for him last offseason and exercised his option for 2018. With Utley now gone, second base is his to keep or lose.  So playing time is there unless they sign another 2nd Baseman this offseason.  On a plus side, he walked at a career high 15.7% and had some big at bats in the post season carrying at least some momentum into 2018.

You would expect Forsythe’s numbers to improve in the second half due to the toe injury in April and the numbers in the 2nd half look awfully good.  Yes line drive rate did drop by only 2.8% but the net positive on FB% + LD% is 12.6% and his hard hit rate increased by 10.9% in the 2nd half!  That massive BABIP drop of 0.082 seems way out of whack to me.  That’s the reason he hit .201 in the 2nd half.  Now, I’m not saying he’s going to go nuts, but he also cut is SwStr% to 6.6% and his O-Swing to a career low 18.7%.  So there are a lot of potential positives with Forsythe in both the average and power departments based on my research.  I expect the K% to go back down to about 20%, the BABIP to go up about .020 points and the HR/FB% to be back in the double digits.  His value is going to depend on playing time.  If he platoons, he’s an NL only bat.  If he doesn’t and gets say 550 PA, he could go something like .258/.339 14 HRs, 7 steals and is a solid deep league MI.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Over the last year or so I had left Jacoby Ellsbury for dead until this research piece.  All of his batted ball data in the second half of 2017 point to improved results. While his 2nd half 107 wRC+ was an improvement on his 95 wRC+ in the 1st half, I’d argue he was extremely unlucky and it should have been much higher.

Let’s look at the positives, his K% dropped, BB% went up, FB% went up, IFFB% went down, and Hard Hit% went up.  So then why did his BABIP, HR/FB, and BA (albeit minimally) all go down?  I don’t know.  How’s that for an answer.  In my opinion, it can be chalked up to straight up bad luck.

Since the Yankees are clearly moving in another direction, Ellsbury may not have a starting spot with Judge, Gardner, and now Hicks listed as starters with Clint Frazier ready to be a full time major league starter when healthy and possible a brief stint in AAA to start the season.  The best chance for Ellsbury is to be traded where he can start.  Of course with his huge contract, that could prove to be difficult.  Hypothetically, though if it happens, he’s good for 20+ steals; he was 22 for 25 last year so his speed is still there and steals are becoming more and more infrequent.  For fantasy in 2018, he could be a solid 4th or 5th outfielder going .270 10-20 next year.