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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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Home Run / Barrel (HR/BRL) Under-Performers from 2018

The Statcast metric Barrels is largely becoming one of the best statistics that link a player’s power. Just glancing at the leaderboard will tell you all you need to know. The Barrel statistic came out in 2015 and we now have four years worth of data. I’ve looked into a simple metric that is simply a ratio of a player’s home run per barrel percentage. The reason I am using this measure is to determine the previous year’s over and under-performers. Also, Al Melchior and Alex Chamberlain of RotGraphs determined that not only do barrels per batted ball event (BRL/BBE) and barrels per plate appearance (BRL/PA) have very good year-to-year correlations but are also the best metrics for measuring power.

Unfortunately, the juiced ball may have tainted some of the year-to-year correlations for this metric, but we can still find outliers. Let’s take a look at the league-wide averages for HR/BRL since 2015.

2015 2016 2017 2018
70.7% HR/BRL 70.5% HR/BRL 77.1% HR/BRL 66.1% HR/BRL

If you remember, the juiced ball made its appearance in the second half of 2015 but it seems like the ball was “extra” juiced in 2017. Then, last year in 2018, the ball was completely de-juiced. Without actual knowledge of how the ball will perform in 2019, I am going to assume, the ratio of barrels to home runs will be closer to 2018 than 2017. Today, I’ll look at players who underperformed their HR/BRL numbers in 2018.

Home Runs Per Barrel Under-Performers

Player2018 BRL2018 HRHR/BRL
Mookie Betts613252.5%
Nicholas Castellanos532343.4%
Matt Olson512956.9%
Trey Mancini502448.0%
Teoscar Hernandez492244.9%
Anthony Rendon472451.1%
Freddie Freeman462350.0%
Marcell Ozuna462350.0%
Jose Martinez411741.5%
Jackie Bradley Jr.351337.1%
Ramon Laureano12541.7%
2018 League Average66.10%

I’ll start with Mookie Betts because, HOLY HELL! Not only did Betts absolutely earn every single one of his home runs, he actually underperformed a bit. What’s not shown is that Betts only managed 25 barrels on his 24 homers in 2017. We know Betts had a “down year” (for him) in 2017 but bounced back in a huge way proving that he is, in fact, a power hitter in addition to everything else the 2018 AL MVP does well. I wouldn’t read too much into the below-average ratio of HR/BRL because I feel that the Green Monster may be turning a few of those barrels into doubles. Betts looks like a safe bet to reach 30 homers again in 2019 even if his barrel rate drops just a bit.

Jackie Bradley Jr., WOW! Maybe he was also a victim of the Green Moster taking away some home runs but his HR/BRL was about half of the league average. JBJ should have been right around 20 homers in 2018, rather than the pathetic 13 he posted. I should note that in 2017, he hit 17 homers on 27 barrels for 63% HR/BRL, so its possible, he could be a player who always under-performers based on this metric. I figured that I should dig a little deeper and sure enough, xStats had him at 17.5 xHR in 2018. I believe even that was low because his high drive (HD%) was an elite level 16.1%! For context, here are some other players who had 35 barrels in 2018: Cody Bellinger, Tommy Pham, and Nolan Arenado. I was already buying JBJ in 2019 and now I’m bumping him inside my top 150 with a likely 20-15 season in store. Take a look at all of JBJ’s barrels in 2018 overlaid on his home park (Fenway). I count at least 13 balls that could/should have been home runs (4 taken away thanks to the Green Monster), but that’s nine more dingers for JBJ.

Jose Martinez looks to be stuck in a tough situation in terms of playing time. I was optimistic that the Cardinals would move Martinez to an AL club where he could be an everyday DH. However, as of now, he’s a bench bat that can fill in at first base or a corner outfield spot. That’s a shame because he’s a professional hitter. For reference, his 41 barrels puts him the company of Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw, both of which hit over 30 homers in 2018. Keep an eye on Martinez if he’s traded, because, despite a low fly ball rate, he could still reach 25 home runs while hitting near .300 over the course of a full season.

Marcell Ozuna is an interesting case. After an absolute monster 2017 that included 37 homers and 124 RBI, Ozuna let owners down with only 23 home runs last year. Ozuna dealt with a shoulder issue in which caused offseason surgery, it’s probable that affected his production. When I check his batted ball profile, I don’t see a dip in his metrics. In fact, in 2017, Ozuna had 44 barrels on the aforementioned 37 homers, two fewer than in 2018. Keep an eye on how his shoulder progresses but if healthy, Ozuna is in line for around 30 home runs with a boatload of RBI (welcome Goldy).

Teoscar Hernandez shows up near the top of the Statcast leaderboards but his production seems to be lacking. Unfortunately for Hernandez, his contact rates are extremely low and only got worse as the season wore on. We are talking Joey Gallo-type contact rates here folks. Despite the poor contact rate, Hernandez still managed 22 home runs on an incredible 49 barrels. Given a full slate of plate appearances, Teoscar could reach 35 home runs in 2019. However, his inconsistent production and poor contact rates could limit his playing time going forward. A classic risk-reward play for 2019.

In case I needed another reason to push for Anthony Rendon as the 2019 NL MVP, here it is. It may seem like Rendon is a mid-20s homer hitter based on his last two seasons (25 HR in 2017, 24 HR in 2018), but there’s another level to his power. Rendon increased his barrel total by a whopping 19 in 2018 but was left with one fewer home run. I understand that juiced balls were a factor but Rendon should reach the 30 home run plateau in 2019 given the similar quality of contact. If you’re concerned about injuries, don’t be. Rendon has averaged 616 plate appearances the last three seasons. Given Rendon’s elite contact and the expectations I have for increased power, Rendon should provide second round value in the fourth round of fantasy drafts.

If you want to find a sleeper that could provide Top 50 overall value, Ramon Laureano is your guy. He’s been shooting up draft boards in NFBC and has crept just inside the top 200 overall, but still lacks popularity based on FantasyPors Consensus ADP going around pick 240. Laureano provided a small sample of just 176 plate appearances in 2018 but impressed with barreling up 12 balls and stealing seven bases. Speed was Laureano’s best-known attribute and he displayed 43 steals in the Minors in 2016. The power was expected to be around average but he popped a career-high 19 home runs across Triple-A and the Majors in 2018. Unfortunately, he swings and misses a bit too much but has a realistic shot at going 20-20 with 25-25 upside as soon as 2019.

Matt Olson showcased his immense power during his 59 game sample in 2017 smashing 24 homers! It’s too bad Olson didn’t play the whole season with the big club during the 2017 season with the juiced balls. He could have hit 50 home runs. He ended 2018 with “just” 29 home runs which disappointed owners who expected 35-40 across a full season. He wasn’t all that unlucky in 2018 but I bring him up because he only had 21 barrels on his 24 home runs in 2017. That’s a quite a contrast. Especially after I dug in and saw that his hard contact rates improved as did his contact rates and chase rate. I really think Olson is in for a career year at age 25. I fully expect 35 home runs with an improved batting average. His ADP is about 40 picks too late as he’s going just outside 100 overall.

I’ve lumped Freddie Freeman and Nicholas Castellanos together because both are very consistent in their hard contact and barrel rates from year to year. Both, however, saw their power production decrease in 2018. Juiced balls? Unlucky? Well, I think it’s a little of both. Freeman and Casteallos seem to underperform in terms of power every year. Freeman matched his 46 barrels from 2017 and Castellanos managed an increase of two barrels in 2018 from the previous year. Both saw a decrease in home runs, however so while I expect both get back to 25+ homers in 2019, I’d cap them both at around 30. You’re getting solid batting average and run production from both players so I like them but I’m not predicting massive power bumps for both players.

Last but not least, Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini. At first glance this offseason, I didn’t think Mancini had much power upside other than what he’s shown us the last two seasons. Mancini now has two straight seasons on 24 home runs but he actually bumped his barrel total to 50 in 2018, nine more than in 2017. Mancini is a guy who hits too many ground balls but really smokes the ball when he gets it in the air. Could he have a Christian Yelich type season? LOL, no, he cannot. To me, he feels like Castellanos but with less batting average upside. Mancini could blast 30 home runs in 2019 but he could also be a player that feels the de-juiced balls more than others.

You can follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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First Base Rankings for 2019

First Base Rankings for 2019

My first base rankings are listed below. At the bottom of the table, I’ll break down the rankings in terms of tiers and why players are in which tiers. These are standard 5×5 roto using batting average, but I will touch on some players who get a nice boost in OBP leagues because I think eventually, fantasy leagues will move in that direction. Also listed are player’s additional positions using 10 games played to be eligible. That includes Yahoo!’s ridiculous rule that a player needs only five starts or 10 games played to be eligible at a position. So, if you play in ESPN, CBS, or most other leagues, some of the multiple positions will not apply.

Rankings Updated 3/13/19.

First Base Rankings for 2019 (AVG/R/HR/RBI/SB)

Pos RankPlayerTeamPositions
1Freddie FreemanATL1B
2Paul GoldschmidtSTL1B
3Anthony RizzoCHC1B
4Joey VottoCIN1B
5Rhys HoskinsPHI1B/OF
6Cody BellingerLAD1B/OF
7Jose AbreuCWS1B
8Matt OlsonOAK1B
9Daniel MurphyCOL1B/2B
10Robinson CanoNYM1B/2B
11Joey GalloTEX1B/OF
12Jesus AguilarMIL1B
13Matt CarpenterSTL1B/3B/2B
14Max MuncyLAD1B/2B/3B
15Ryan BraunMIL1B/OF
16Edwin EncarnacionSEA1B/DH
17J.T. RealmutoMIAC/1B
18Eric HosmerSD1B
19Ian DesmondCOL1B/OF
20Jurickson ProfarOAK1B/2B/3B
21Yuli GurrielHOU1B/2B/3B
22Josh BellPIT1B
23Justin SmoakTOR1B
24Jose MartinezSTL1B/OF
25Trey ManciniBAL1B/OF
26Luke VoitNYY1B
27Jake BauersCLE1B/OF
28Brian AndersonMIA1B/OF
29Carlos SantanaCLE1B/3B
30Miguel CabreraDET1B
31Ryan O'HearnKC1B
32C.J. CronMIN1B
33Brandon BeltSF1B
34Kendrys MoralesTOR1B/DH
35Buster PoseySFC/1B
36Ryan ZimmermanWAS1B
37Marwin GonzalezMIN1B/2B/SS/OF
38Yonder AlonsoCWS1B
39Tyler WhiteHOU1B/DH
40Peter AlonsoNYM1B
41Miguel SanoMIN1B/3B
42Nate LoweTB1B
43Ronald GuzmanTEX1B
44Hunter DozierKC1B/3B
45Jay BruceSEA1B/OF
46Steve PearceBOS1B/OF
47Justin BourLAA1B
48Ryon HealySEA1B
49Mitch MorelandBOS1B
50Eric ThamesMIL1B/OF
51Albert PujolsLAA1B/DH

Tier 1 – Studs
Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt
That’s it. Typically, first base produces at least a handful of studs, but not in 2019. If you haven’t been paying attention, the first base position has gotten shallow. Even Paul Goldschmidt is past his prime and I anticipate a small decrease in production in 2019, yet he remains in the top two overall. Both of these hitters can go .300-30-100-100-8 with a little upside. That’s the reason they are here. Although neither Freddy or Goldy are in my top 10 overall and should probably not be drafted in the first round.

Tier 2 – Fourish-Cat Guys
Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, Rhys Hoskins, Matt Olson
All of these guys have a weakness in addition to lack of speed. Rizzo is no longer a 30+ HR guarantee he once was but his elite contact rates tell me he will provide a .280+ batting average. Has Votto begun a steep decline or can he bounce back at age 36? I think his power gets back to 20 and his elevated line drive rate should keep him near .300.  Abreu is solid and consistent but is similar to a cross between Rizzo and Votto. xStats shows that Abreu was unlucky in terms of BABIP, I am hopeful for a near 100% bounceback from Abreu in 2019. Hoskins and Olson won’t provide the batting average of the other three in this tier, but I like their abilities to hit over 30 homers with 100 RBI which is why they are in this tier.

Tier 3 – Really? This is Tier 3?
Goes from Daniel Murphy to Joey Gallo
Murphy gets a massive bump playing in Colorado. We all know about the boost in home runs but for Murphy, it’s more about the bump in BABIP. In 2018, Rockies hitters had a .334 BABIP at home. If Murphy is a .300 hitter outside of Coors, he has a shot to hit .325 with 20 homers in 2019. Cano is similar to Murphy just not in a location that greatly benefits him which is why I prefer Murphy over Cano. Again, both are eligible at 2B but 1B might actually be more shallow.

Tier 4 – Put me in Coach
This tier goes from Max Muncy to JT Realmuto

I like all of these players, I really do, but there are either playing time concerns or injury concerns here. You can discount Realmuto because no one is playing the top catcher at 1B. Of this group, I like Muncy the most. His plate discipline is fantastic and his barrel rates were top 5 in all of baseball. Check out my piece over at Pitcher List on how he was attacked in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, Muncy has the most question marks such as playing time, adjustments, etc. He will produce if he plays every day and he’s eligible at three positions, so that’s a bonus.

Tier 5 – Mixed Bag of Meh
This tier goes from Eric Hosmer to Justin Smoak

I’m not a huge fan of this tier outside of Jose Martinez, but that’s only if he gets traded to an AL team to be the full-time DH. If that happens, his profit potential jumps up quite a bit, that being said, he likely moves up a tier. Hosmer’s ADP has dropped over 100 spots from 2018, so he’s a decent bounce-back candidate. E5 is clearly on the decline and while he still has 30 homer power, he could also hit .230. I do like Profar because of his position eligibility and the move to Oakland is a lineup upgrade but a park downgrade. Don’t sleep on Smoak either, he’s basically E5 at a discount.

Tier 6 – Corner Infield Spot
This massive tier goes from Ryan O’Hearn to Ryan Zimmerman

If you are drafting one of these players as your starting 1B, then you’re doing it wrong unless you’re in a 30 team league. I’ll highlight Brandon Belt because he’s been killed by playing at AT&T Park. If he gets traded to a team with a neutral or favorable park, I will be moving him up 5-10 spots and be grabbing him everywhere. His hard contact metrics are fantastic. The other player with upside is Luke Voit, but the Yankees still feel like Greg Bird is good. Voit is a beast and could hit 30 homers in Yankee Stadium given a chance. Keep an eye on this situation during spring training.

Tier 7 – Intriguing Young Talent
Goes from Tyler White to Hunter Dozier

Peter Alonso and Nate Lowe and my two favorites from this group. Both should be called up at some point during 2019, hopefully by June. They are both just about ready and Alonso is a top prospect with maybe the most power upside of a Major League ready prospect right now. There will be some swing and miss and lower batting average but should hit 4th or 5th once he gets the call. Lowe has a much more well-balanced approach and can hit for average, take walks, and has above average power. Keep an eye on these guys during spring training.

Tier 8 – The Rest
Goes from Jay Bruce to Eric Thames

I suppose I could see a bounceback from Jay Bruce. If E5 gets moved, Bruce could see a full slate of at-bats between 1B, OF, and DH. He was hurt most of 2018 and if healthy can still reach the 30 homer mark. Keep an eye on Thames, if he gets moved to a situation where can DH and/or play most days, his power is massive. Hopefully, you aren’t having to grab one the guys in this tier, but at this point try for upside.

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Image Courtesy of Scott Cunningham