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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