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Home Run Park Factors Part 2 – (Conversion to a Plus Metric, HRPF+)

In order to display my home run park factors in a way that is much more palatable for the readers, I’ve developed FreezeStats Park Factor for Home Runs (PFHR+) metric. It is used the same way other plus metrics are used such as ERA+ or wRC+. It measures how much better or worse a certain ballpark performs compared to the league average with 100 being average. We know if a player finishes the season with a 150 wRC+, he was 50% better than league average offensively. That’s the same premise behind my park factor metric. A park with a 150+ PFHR+ is 50% better than league average for home runs. 

All ballparks are not created equal, dimensions and irregularities within the same ballpark can vary quite a bit. So, I’ve broken the PFHR+ for each field or direction (Left-field, Center-field, right-field). The focus of directional park factors is important when evaluating a player’s tendencies and batted ball profile. It’s also interesting when looking at evaluating pitchers. I’ll analyze pitchers for my next article with respect to this metric in the next couple of weeks. For this article, I’ll cover nine hitters below who have changed teams. I’ll dive into the park change and what type of power output we can expect, both positive and negative based on the team/park change. 


First, I want to look at an example to help explain the park factors. Yankee Stadium is widely viewed as a great place to hit home runs. Part of this is true and part of it is not. It’s perception more than anything. The Yankees have some massive power bats including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. These guys are mashers regardless of where they hit. As you’ll see below, right-field is extremely favorable for home runs at Yankee Stadium. In fact, it’s ranked number one in all of baseball based on my PFHR+ when compared to all right fields! This explains much of Brett Gardner’s late-career success and Didi Gregorius’s 20+ home run power seasons. These left-handed hitters pulled a high percentage of their fly balls to take advantage of the short right-field dimensions. However, Yankee Stadium grades out slightly below-average for home runs to center and left field respectively. 

The slightly unfavorable left-field dimensions don’t hurt the right-handed sluggers on the Yankees because a 450-foot fly ball is a home run anywhere. It actually helps when looking at Aaron Judge. He’s been hitting more and more opposite-field fly balls, up to 49.5% and 48% each of the last two seasons. His HR/FB% on opposite-field fly balls last season was an incredible 37.8% which was significantly higher than his HR/FB% to centerfield. These Home Run Park Factors+ (HRPF+) bare this out. If you take a look at the table below, you can see that Yankee Stadium has a 146 HRPF+ to right field and just an 83 HRPF+ to centerfield. That means Yankee Stadium is 46% better than league average for home runs to right field but 17% below the league average for home runs to centerfield.

To give you an example of the criteria I’m looking at to determine these home run park factors, here’s a three-year snapshot of right field at Yankee Stadium (NYY) and Oracle Park (SFG), the best and worse parks for home runs to right field respectively.

Venue (Rightfield) HR/BRL% (LHB) Non-BRL HR (LHB) HR/BRL% (RHB) Non-BRL HR (RHB)
Yankee Stadium 88.7% 73 77.4% 52
Oracle Park 48.7% 24 15.3% 8
League Average 73.6% 40 49.7% 13

Based on this information, you can see that both left-handed batters and right-handed batters benefit at Yankee Stadium when hitting the ball to right field and the opposite is true at Oracle Park. This is true based on the percentage of barreled balls that become home runs (HR/BRL%) and based on the total number of non-barreled home runs at each venue. The numbers seem a bit confusing and difficult to digest when displayed like this. That’s why I’ve created HRPF+. If you’re interested in the more granular data, feel free to DM me on Twitter or write in the comments below and I’ll share the Google Sheet.


Introducting HRPF+ (Home Run Park Factors Plus)

Park/VenueTeamLF - HRPF+CF - HRPF+RF - HRPF+
Oriole ParkBAL121134100
Comerica ParkDET1042897
T-Mobile ParkSEA97106103
Yankee StadiumNYY9183146
Rogers CentreTOR110101102
Target FieldMIN978294
Minute Maid ParkHOU13673129
Oakland ColiseumOAK9910184
Angel StadiumLAA8214799
Nationals ParkWSH10212485
Kauffman StadiumKCR886677
Fenway ParkBOS966875
Chase FieldARI1066897
Petco ParkSDP11011291
Citizens Bank ParkPHI11591114
Globe Life ParkTEX91110121
Citi FieldNYM110107105
Guaranteed Rate FldCHW110107113
Coors FieldCOL109134113
Dodger StadiumLAD9815095
Busch StadiumSTL8010581
GABPCIN121132136
Marlins ParkMIA868091
Tropicana FieldTBR1028295
SunTrust ParkATL88100100
Miller ParkMIL91134117
Wrigley FieldCHC10510679
Oracle ParkSFG896557
Progressive FieldCLE87108112
PNC ParkPIT7810596

Notes: Columns are sortable! Data for Globe Life in Texas is no longer valid. A new park will be used in 2020. 

Mookie Betts (OF – LAD) formerly with the Red Sox

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Fenway Park (BOS) 96 68 75
Dodger Stadium (LAD) 98 150 95

I don’t think people realize how much of a boost Betts could see in terms of his power with the move the LA. It’s important to note that while the left field HRPF+ is essentially the same in each park they play differently. Fenway allows more non-barreled home runs to left field (61 HR to 38 HR) where Dodger Stadium has a higher HR/BRL% (74% to 67.2%). That’s the Green Monster at play. The barreled balls with low launch angles smack off the high wall but balls hit at high launch angles that don’t qualify as barrels sneak over the monster. Right field is also more favorable but Betts does not have good power to right field so I don’t expect a huge boost in power production there.

Enough about left field, let’s talk about where Betts is really going to benefit. He’s going from Fenway where the HRPF+ was 38% below league-average to Dodger Stadium that plays 51% better than league-average to CF! Let’s try to quantify this. Betts has increased his fly ball% to centerfield each of the last five years (36.8% to 42.1%). I fully expect Betts, who has an elite hit tool to take advantage of centerfield. His HR/FB% to centerfield over the last three seasons is about 50% below the league average. However, when looking at his average exit velocity and average fly ball distance on fly balls to center, he falls in the top 30% of the league. That’s Fenway Park holding him back. Based on this information, I’d expect Betts to finish with a better than league average HR/FB% to center in 2020. To give some context, I’d expect somewhere between four and six more home runs to centerfield in 2020. 

Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA) – formerly with the Washington Nationals

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Nationals Pk (WSH) 102 124 85
Angel Sta (LAA) 82 147 99

Nationals Park plays surprisingly well, especially for right-handed batters, so Rendon takes a hit there. He should see some benefits to center and right field though. His batted ball profile on fly balls is pretty evenly distributed. He hit 23 of his 34 home runs to left field in 2019 with a career-best HR/FB% on fly balls to left field. I expect that number to drop However, he improved his quality of contact on fly balls to center and right, respectively but didn’t see many gains in 2019. So while I expect Rendon to hit more home runs to center and right, it should even out with a decline in homers to left. Expecting a repeat of 34 home runs is probably not wise but 28-30 seems like it’ll be in the cards.


Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN) – formerly with the Detroit Tigers

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Comerica (DET) 104 28 97
GABP (CIN) 121 132 136

I think the baseball world went nuts when they saw this overlay I Tweeted out including Castellanos’ line drives and fly balls over the GABP. 


It’s absolutely nuts. Some people were counting as many as 30 additional home runs based on the overlay. Obviously, that’s not how this works, plus he’s only playing half his games in the GABP. But, going from Comerica that plays like the worst park for home runs to centerfield at 72% below-league average to a top-five park to center is going to do wonders. Castellanos hit 41.5% of his fly balls to center last year but it’s fluctuated over the years. In the final two months of 2019, he benefited from playing in Wrigley which has a 106 HRPF+ to center, so he already took advantage over the final two months of last season. His HR/FB% has consistently been just under 14% for his career and there’s no doubt in my mind, he crushes that rate within a new career-high. I won’t peg him for a 20% HR/FB rate but would probably project him for something around 18% in 2020. Using his 2019 fly ball total, that would bring him to 34 home runs. 

Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL) – formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Busch Stadium (STL) 80 105 81
Suntrust Park (ATL) 88 100 100

I just found out that SunTrust Park had a name change and is now Truist Park. The park remains unchanged otherwise in terms of dimensions, so the park factors should be accurate. Overall, Ozuna will receive a park upgrade but it’s not as drastic as some of the players above. Ozuna was a massive underperformer based on my earned home run (eHR) metric last year, so I think he’s due for some positive regression regardless of his location. The park change just reiterates this point. His 22.1% HR/FB rate last year was the second-highest of his career but his barrel rate, hard hit%, expected metrics, etc were by far the best of his career. The question is whether or not he can keep his elite batted ball metrics for 2020. If he can, he should hit 35-40 home runs across 600+ PA, otherwise, he’s still a safe bet for 30 home runs.


Mike Moustakas (2B, 3B – CIN) formerly with the Milwaukee Brewers

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Miller Park (MIL) 91 134 117
GABP (CIN) 121 132 136

While Miller Park in Milwaukee is favorable for home runs, Cincinnati is simply the best park in baseball for home runs, as I discussed with Nicky C. Unfortunately, Moose bats from the left side limiting his overall benefit from the park change. Leftfield in the GABP is 30% better than Miller Park and right field is almost 20% better. Believe it or not, the slugger has just seven opposite-field home runs in his career. Four of those seven came last season. He did improve his hard contact on fly balls to left field, so if I was a betting man, I’d expect Mosse to hit more than four homers to the opposite field in 2020. But, where Moustakas makes his money is on pulled fly balls. His HR/FB% on pulled FBs typically sits around 35% but I have a feeling, it’ll push 40% next year. I’m beginning to think that Moustakas can hit 40-45 home runs next year. In fact, I’ll throw down a bold prediction about Moose & Casteallnos totaling a combined 80 home runs in 2020. This is bold because even if I combine both player’s career-high home run totals, we come up with 65 home runs (38 for Mosse, 27 for Castellanos). Combining for 15 home runs above their career-bests is a long shot but I think they have a chance. 

Starling Marte (OF – ARI) – formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
PNC Park (PIT) 78 105 96
Chase Field (ARI) 106 68 97

Chase Field had the humidor installed before the 2018 season, so I’m not 100% confident in the data. However, one thing is for sure, Marte’s power will benefit to left field and is going to take a hit to center. Unfortunately, he regularly pulls fly balls at a below-average clip. However, he crushes pulled fly balls and line drives to the tune of 97.7 mph over the last two seasons. Those exit velocities on LD/FB put him in company with teammate Josh Bell, Edwin Encarnacion, and Khris Davis. If Marte can modify his approach and pull more fly balls, he could reach a new career-high in home runs. But, with a total of 20 pulled home runs over the last two years and 18 home runs to center, Marte’s move may just be neutral if his approach remains unchanged.

Didi Gregorius (SS – PHI) – formerly with the New York Yankees

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Yankee Stadium (NYY) 91 83 146
Citizen’s Bank (PHI) 115 91 114

We can completely ignore left field when discussing Gregorius’ power. He has NEVER hit a home run to left field and has hit just nine homers to centerfield. Now, he goes from a park that played 46% better than league-average to right field to a park that’s 14% better than league-average. Now that Didi is more than a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, I don’t have any doubts that he’ll enter 2020 healthy. Even in an abbreviated season, he was on pace for just under 30 home runs. The switch in his home park probably leads to three-four fewer home runs to right field. The difference to centerfield is about 3% in terms of a three-year HR/BRL%, so that’s relatively minimal. If Didi is a 25-homer hitter in New York, he’s a 22-homer guy in 2020 in Philly.

Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL) – formerly with the Tampa Bay Rays

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Tropicana (TBR) 102 82 95
Miller Park (MIL) 91 134 117

Let’s see, 11% worse to left field, 52% better the center, and 22% better to right. Is this not enough for you to buy into Garcia who reached 20 home runs for the first time in 2019? He actually earned 28 home runs based on eHR last year, so if he can maintain his impressive quality of contact, he’s a bargain in 2020. He’s notoriously a heavy ground ball hitter but as I highlighted in my potential power breakouts article on Pitcher List, Garcia has decreased his ground ball in four straight seasons. It’s interesting to note that Garcia doesn’t pull many of his fly balls. Will you look at that? Miller Park plays a little less favorably to left field. It’s almost as if the Brewers saw an advantage others didn’t. Nearly, 86% of his fly balls last year went to center or right field. Here’s the spray chart from last year overlayed at Miller Park.

Miller Park plays very favorable to LCF and RCF. I feel very strongly that Garcia improves significantly on his HR/FB% from 2019 and if given 550+ PA, he should hit 25 homers.



C.J. Cron (OF – DET) – formerly with the Minnesota Twins

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Target Field (MIN) 97 82 94
Comerica (DET) 104 28 97

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Cron’s move to Comerica Park is going to kill any power he has to centerfield. Not that Target Field was all that great for fly balls to centerfield but if you remember, Cron played for the Angels prior to 2018. We now know that Angels Stadium is a homer haven to centerfield. While Cron boosted his barrel rate and hard hit% in 2019, he’s trending in the wrong direction in terms of the percentage of pulled fly balls. His pulled FB% has dropped the last three seasons from 32.7% in 2017 to 24.2% last year. He’s going to want to adjust his approach back to the 2017 version of himself to take advantage of Comerica’s most favorable part of the park, left field. His range of outcomes in terms of home runs is huge. Fortunately, he should play every day because he’s basically the Tigers’ best hitter (at worst, second-best). If his pulled fly ball rate continues to drop and his fly-ball rate to center jumps to 40%, he could end up with a home run total in the low-20s. If he gets back to his pull-heavy approach, I could see him reach 30 home runs with the potential for even more.

If you prefer the color-coded version of the HRPF+, it’s below. Although, it’s not sortable like the table above.

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





Photo Source : MLB and Lou Spirito

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Hot/Cold: Mid-Week Buy/Sell/Hold (Fantasy Baseball)

This series is going to be a little bit different than your typical buy/sell/hold article. I’ll be categorizing players as either HOT or COLD based on their performance over the past week. I won’t just be covering players that are available on the wire or can be bought for cheap. While those players will be discussed from time to time, I will also discuss the early round players who are showing improvements and could outperform their ADP or vice-versa. I’ll be referencing FanGraphs, BaseballSavant, etc showing metrics that back up my claims. Let’s get to some polarizing players over the last week.

Hot

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B – KC)
Would you believe that Hunter Dozier is hitting .300 with four homers and has dropped his strikeout rate by 11% from last year? His metrics back it up, he’s in the top seven percent in terms of average exit velocity, expected wOBA, and expected slugging. Dozier had a solid barrel rate last season but his high strikeout rate killed his batting average. Now that he’s improved his contact rate by six percent and his O-swing (swings outside the zone) by a whopping 12.8%, he’s become a complete hitter. He hasn’t even sacrificed his power or hard contact.

That tells a nice story there. What’s also interesting is that his speed is above average. He only stole two bags on five attempts last year but given the Royals aggressiveness, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dozier chipped in with 5-8 stolen bases this year. I don’t think he’ll sustain a .300 BA but I’m BUYING here.

Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
Well, it’s official, the juiced ball is back! Altuve was hampered by injuries last year and now has blasted six bombs in the last week+. This is more than just the juiced ball though. Altuve has increased his launch angle to 16.2 degrees, an jump of nearly seven degrees from the last two seasons. He’s also hitting the ball harder, which is great given his new fly ball approach. Now, his contact rate is down a bit, so he might be selling out for power. That’s OK, because we have seen what it has done for Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in previous seasons. Maybe Altuve’s average drops to .285-.290 but he has a legit shot at 30 homers if he can carry this approach through the entire season. I’d BUY him as a top 10 player but I doubt his owners are selling.

Marcell Ozuna (OF – STL)
Any chance I get to write about Ozuna, I do it. I loved Ozuna coming into the season and he has not disappointed hitting .293 with seven homers and even chipped in with two steals. His batted ball profile looks great, his launch angle is up nearly four percent and his barrel rate is at an impressive 15%. BUT, yes there’s a but, his contact rates are bad. Like, really bad. His in-zone contact is down 12%! That’s a big problem. Part of what made Ozuna so good was his ability to hit for power and limit the strikeouts. If his K% jumps to 25-26%, then he’s more of a .250-.260 hitter rather than a .290 hitter. The good news is, if he maintains his elevated fly ball rate, he could reach 30 to 35 homers. I’m holding and hoping his contact rate improves, if it does, he’s a HUGE BUY.

Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
Last night, Musgrove just gave up his first runs of the season in his third start and his ERA sits at a cool 0.81. His control is simply fantastic evidenced by his 21:4 K:BB ratio. Keeping walk rates down and inducing weak contact is how Musgrove thrives. I’m intrigued by his maturation as a pitcher but I have two concerns. One, his injury history, he’s never thrown more than 150 innings in a single season (including minors) and never more than 115.1 innings in a Major League season. The second concern is pitching to contact. The way the ball is flying, I have some concerns that his normally fantastic HR rate will jump up. That being said his slider and changeup have both generated a ton of swinging strikes and combined for 12 in last night’s start. I believe in his upside and can foresee around a strikeout per inning, he just needs to stay healthy. HOLD/BUY

Marcus Stroman (SP – TOR)
Wait, Marcus Stroman is striking out more than a batter per inning?! It’s true and he’s really increased his slider usage at the expense of his sinker. The good news is he hasn’t sacrificed much in terms of ground ball rate. His slider is a  very good pitch, it’s getting more horizontal movement and is allowing less contact on the pitch. Unfortunately for Stroman, the only other pitch that generates a swinging strike rate over 10% is his cutter at just over 11%. I like the pitch mix change but once the home runs start flying, his ERA is going to inflate. You likely got him on the cheap so I’d hold while he’s pitching well and flip him after a few more starts.

Cold

Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)
This really pains me to write this about my beloved Mookie Betts but he’s off to a very slow start. He’s currently hitting just .212 with three homers and only one stolen base. What’s going on, a slow start or something else? Well actually, Betts’ O-Swing 13.6% with a swinging strike rate of 4%, both would be career lows. His swing rate sits at just 33.3%. He’s being ultra-patient and his contact rates are off the charts but it hasn’t translated into success. His walk rate is great but his BABIP is a paltry .220. That’s not going to last but it’s thanks to an extremely low 13.7% line drive rate. Let’s all sit back and relax, this is Mookie Betts we are talking about. He’s, of course, a BUY/HOLD. I’d buy him for $0.95 on the dollar if possible. Maybe you can flip Yelich for him? Then again Yelich is out of his mind right now with four homers in two games.

Jose Peraza (2B/SS – CIN)
Peraza turned a nice profit for owners last year who invested hitting for average, stealing bases and providing unexpected mid-teens power. The expectations were that he would hit atop an improved Reds lineup but the Reds have realized that getting on base is more important than speed. I discussed how I believed Peraza’s power was a mirage last season, here. This year, he’s hit one homer and stolen just one base while batting near the bottom of the Reds lineup. What’s really concerning is his plate discipline. He’s offered at pitches outside the zone over 50% of the time and has not drawn a single walk. His in-zone contact is still very good but he’s gotten behind in the count nearly 75% of the time and it’s lead to an uncharacteristic 26.4% strikeout rate. His contact rates are weak and his fly ball rate is 50% which is not ideal for a weak hitting speedster. I’d SELL for 85 cents on the dollar but wouldn’t give him away because I think he bounces back to give 80% of his production from last year.

Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
Aaron Nola has now given up five earned runs in three straight starts and owns a 7.66 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP. Scanning his metrics, his velocity looks good, pitch mix is fine, BABIP is neutral, so what is it? Well, his first-pitch strike rate is an abysmal 48.3%, down 21% from last year! Yes, 21%! Instead of getting ahead of batters nearly 70% of the time, he’s working from behind far too often which has elevated his walk rate. Combine that with a 60% strand rate and a home run rate three times higher than last year and here we are. Nola’s zone rate is OK, so I’d expect him to improve his F-Strike% and lower those walks. Given the juiced ball and his home park, Nola will likely end up with a HR/9 slightly over 1.0, so if you’re expecting a sub-3.00 ERA, you may be disappointed. I think something closer to 3.40-3.50 is where he ends up with a little over a strikeout per nine innings. I’m holding Nola unless you can’t get close to 100% of his preseason value.

Corey Kluber (SP – CLE)
I could write about a dozen top 20 starters having poor starts to the season but let’s discuss Klubot. His 6.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP are very ugly but his walk rate sits at a career-high 10.8%. He’s never had a walk rate higher than 6.6% in any full season in the Majors. His skills look fine to me but his zone rate is down five percent. The difference between Kluber and Nola is that Kluber is still getting ahead of hitters over 65% of the time. He’s suffering from an inflated BABIP (.390) and a low strand rate (60%). Both metrics will stabilize at some point and Kluber should get back to his low-3s ERA with a great WHIP. I’d probably slot him just ahead of Nola going forward and call him a moderate BUY candidate.

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


Photo Credit: John Sleezer

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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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Yelich Brings his Talents to…. Bradford Beach?

Full disclosure, I had this article written early in the off season before Christian Yelich was traded and even before Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton were traded. The reason I held off on posting it is because the Marlins began  gutting their entire team and it was looking like Yelich was going to be surrounded by  minor leaguers and league average veterans. Alas, Yelich got himself out of Miami up north to Milwaukee. The same day, the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain and all of a sudden, the outfield is now crowded. I fully expect the Brewers to trade Domingo Santana for pitching because Ryan Braun has 5/10 rights and likely isn’t going anywhere. So how does the move from Miami to Milwaukee change Yelich’s value? Let’s find out.

Check out his new digs

I’ve always been a fan of Yelich.  He’s an athletic kid that does all things well on the baseball field.  He’s one of those guys who’s not exceptional at anything but good at everything, know what I mean?  Plus he’s entering his age 26 season and could be primed for a breakout. We have to be careful not to over value Yelich because of the trade. Just looking at park factors for home runs, (100 being neutral or average) Miami falls around 85 to 90 depending on the source and Milwaukee is around 105. Miller Park is typically known as a launching pad but in recent years the park factors show that it’s only slightly above average for home runs and Marlins Park hasn’t played as bad for home runs as it has in the past.  So while this should certainly help Yelich, it may not be as big of jump as some may think.

I know I said I didn’t want to over inflate his value due to the move to Milwaukee but I can’t help it! Yelich’s career road wOBA is .363 with a wRC+ of 128! We aren’t talking about good numbers on the road, those are perennial all-star type numbers. He’s even stolen more bases on the road 41 to 31 in his career (for whatever that’s worth), probably nothing. Speaking of stolen bases, Jeff Zimmerman of fangraphs recently wrote an article about how managers influence stolen bases. Would you look at that! Craig Counsell is one of the most aggressive managers in terms of sending runners while Don Mattingly is about 6% to 7% below average. Now, it’s important to note that Milwaukee is going all in this year and being ultra aggressive on the base paths is not a great strategy for winning ball games. So, he may dial back the green lights a bit but should still be more aggressive than the Marlins. Man, this is getting difficult to not get excited.

I mentioned that Yelich is entering his prime, and he already makes hard contact, takes walks, can run a little bit, and should hit somewhere in the top three spots in the batting order. Roster resource has his leading off. I don’t love that for his production but it makes sense.  His ONLY real problem is his GD Ground Control.  The kid beats baseballs into the ground to the tune of 59% for his career! That’s insane, but at least he hits line drives right?  Right guys…. Guys?  You there?  

I may have lost the extreme launch angle guys with that information. Ok, so a lot of people will argue that Yelich is who he is at this point in his career with over 2800 PAs and 4.5 seasons to his name.  I’m taking a leap of faith and saying that Yelich continues to evolve as a hitter and will continue to get better.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just always liked him as a ball player, but take a look at some batted ball info:

Season FB% Hard% Pull% wOBA
2013 13.8% 34.3% 32.0% 0.341
2014 17.8% 34.2% 27.8% 0.341
2015 15.0% 33.1% 31.7% 0.343
2016 20.0% 38.0% 36.0% 0.367
2017 25.2% 35.2% 33.3% 0.348

Now if can combine his increased FB% with a career high Hard% & pull%, we might have something! Nearly every year Yelich has increased his FB% (with the exception for 2014).  This seems like a conscious decision. We all know a pulled flyball has the best chance to get out, and Yelich’s pull percentage isn’t as high as you’d like for hitting home runs; but Yelich is a great hitter to all fields and can hit the ball out the other way better than most. What’s more, in the second half of 2017 Yelich hit 29.3% of his balls in the air.  So, now we are getting somewhere.  You can see that in 2016 Yelich had his best offensive season mostly due to his career high Hard% and HR/FB over 20%, but he also pulled more balls and continued his trend of hitting more fly balls.  If you’re wondering, Yelich almost never hits popups (2.5% for his career), so he can increase hs FB% without giving himself up with popups.

What’s your angle Bro?

For me, I think he can put together the best season of his career in 2018. A stat I Iike a little more than FB% is average launch angle because it’s a little stickier” year to year because it encompasses all batted balls. Here are Yelich’s average LA (in degrees) since 2015: 0.0, 2.5, 4.5. Now those aren’t great for home runs but balls hit from 0-10 degrees are valuable. So this backs up his increased FB trends. And just to check in on his 2nd half increased FB%, I took his last 200 BBE and averaged his LA, which comes out to 6.3 degrees. At 200 batted balls, LA is more accurate, so this justifies his 2nd half FB% increase.  With that information, I believe he continues his FB trend and 28-30% FB is a reasonable expectation, that along with making more hard contact at age 26 is possible. The move to Miller Park is great for Yelich and the surrounding cast is also very solid. To keep expectations in check, we have to remember Yelich hit in the middle of a lineup that was stacked and had career years from both Stanton and Ozuna, so his production in terms of runs and RBI likely won’t improve from 2017.

PROJECTIONS

For 2018, assuming Yelich hits leadoff, I’ll give him: .289/.371 24 HRs, 15 steals, 98 runs, 69 RBI. If he hits 2nd, not much changes, a few less runs and a few more RBI. If he does hit in three hole, expect a couple less steals but close to a 90-90 in the R + RBI department. Basically, that’s Hosmer with speed! Here’s another good one, what’s the difference betweenYelich Andrew teammate Ryan Braun? Not peak Braun, mid-30s Braun. Nothing, except health, I’ll have Yelich ranked over Braun all day. Currently Yelich is going around 70th overall but I expect that to bump up 15 or so spots with this move. It will interesting to monitor as the season approaches. Around 55 overall you’ve got guys like Hoskins, Buxton, Cruz and Hamilton. That sounds about right to me. I’d take him over Buxton and Hamilton but probably not over Cruz or Hoskins.