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

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

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

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

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

Earned HR & Deserved BRL% Underachievers (Buys)

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

Source: Alex Chamberlain – RotoGraphs & BaseballSavant



2020 Players to Buy – Under-performed eHR & dBRL

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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September Moves for the Stretch Run

No, this isn’t a weekly rundown, but I feel that this type of article is more valuable to fantasy owners at this point in the season. Let’s jump right in to some hitters that I think can help you win your league.  I also cover some hitters who’s ownership’s are too high and can be let go. I will have an article out on Sunday highlighting starting pitchers to stream for the upcoming week. Don’t worry, pitchers won’t be left out.

Hitters Under 40% Owned to Add

Trey Mancini (BAL – 1B/OF), 39% owned
Mancini is literally the same player he was last year just without the BABIP luck. The difference in BABIP from 2017 to 2018 is a drop of 70 points. However, since the All-Star break, Mancini is hitting .292 with nine home runs with a more respectable .320 BABIP. He’s also bumped his hard contact up to nearly 40% without changing his approach. Unfortunately, Mancini does not provide speed and hits too many balls on the ground for significant upside. He’s a solid batting average/power replacement for someone like Yonder Alonso whom I’ll discuss later.

Colin Moran (PIT – 3B), 3% owned
OK, so the launch angle increase I predicted from Moran didn’t exactly happen, or did it? It’s actually somewhere in between, sorry to be so anticlimactic. Moran’s ground ball rate has dipped to 45% and his line drive rate is up. He’s also a guy who makes a lot of contact with an 88.5% zone-contact rate. Previously, Moran was on the strong-side of the 3B platoon with my brother from another mother David Freese, but Freese has been shipped to LA. Moran should get just about every start at the hot corner moving forward with a prime lineup spot. Unfortunately, Moran isn’t hitting for power, but has hit .329 since August 1st and should help in batting average, runs, and RBI the rest of the way. Moran is strictly a deep 15-team and deeper league add.

Adalberto Mondesi (KC – 2B/SS), 18% owned
Finally, someone who is actually exciting!  Mondesi is somehow owned in under 25% of leagues and is capable of power and elite level speed. Mondesi is a guy I’ll be all over in drafts next year because of the upside he possesses. For the final month of the season, taking a chance on a guy who could win you the stolen base category without hurting you in the power department is gold. I realize he hasn’t been overly productive recently, but with six home runs and 18 steals in less than 200 at-bats, what more do you need to see? I liken him to a Jonathan Villar-type player whose ownership finally got his well-deserved Mass Appeal, so here’s the next best thing! There’s going to be a ton of helium going into 2019, so keeper league owners should be all over him now because, in dynasty, he’s long gone.

Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B), 7% owned
Another Royal, come on now! I’m going with O’Hearn over Brian’s brother Hunter Dozier (they are not brothers) for these reasons: the walk rate and the plate discipline. Both O’Hearn and Dozier have very good power with strikeout issues but O’Hearn does not expand the zone as much as Dozier. I can actually envision a strikeout rate drop to below 25% for RO. Combine that with an 11% walk rate and an incredible 50% hard contact rate and you have…. Rhys Hoskins from 2017! Sure, Hoskins has come down to earth and I don’t expect O’Hearn to go full 2017-Hoskins, but we are talking about only three weeks of baseball. If he stays hot, he could help boost average, home runs, and RBI before the season is over.

Harrison Bader (STL – OF), 19% owned and Brandon Nimmo (NYM – OF), 25% owned
I will forever link these two players who have similar skill sets. Both and high energy athletes who are all-out maximum effort. Bader certainly has more speed and but I think Nimmo can provide more power and OBP. Nimmo has missed a little time in August, but since the beginning of the month (August), Nimmo has been on fire. He’s slashing .351/.432/.636 with 3 homers, a steal, and 14 extra-base hits in only 88 PA! Bader hasn’t been as hot but has the higher SB upside. He’s compiled 10 homers and 13 steals in only 349 plate appearances. Depending on your team needs, grab at least one of these guys.

Francisco Mejia (SD – C), 15% owned
His ownership is sure to jump up after a two-homer performance last night. In Yahoo! Leagues, he does not have catcher eligibility yet, but in ESPN league, he does. Fear not! Only four more starts at catcher will earn him the big “C” next to his name in Yahoo leagues which should happen by early next week. If you’re rostering Tucker Barnhart or Robinson Chirinos, go ahead and make the switch. Mejia projects to be a high contact, high average hitter with moderate power. These days, moderate power means around 20 homers over the course of a full season. I do not see how he doesn’t perform as a top 12 catcher ROS.

Brandon Lowe (TB – 2B/OF), 5% owned
There are three Lowe’s in the Rays system and Brandon isn’t the one I’m most excited about, that would be Nate. However, he’s the only one up with the big club. B. Lowe has been hot hitting .414 with three homers and two steals in the last two weeks. Lowe graded out moderately across the board with slightly above-average power and speed. He’s patient which is great for OBP leagues but may elevate his strikeout rate a bit. I like him in deep leagues to help out with runs and provide some power and speed. OBP leagues, he’s a must add down the stretch.

Over 50% owned: hitters to drop

Eric Hosmer (1B – SD), 75% owned
Depending on what type of scoring your league has, Hosmer likely falls outside the top 300 overall. Most 10 to 12-team leagues roster less than 300 players. Do yourselves a favor and let him go. Hopefully, you’ve been able to find a viable replacement and are still in contention for the championship. I won’t bore you with all the poor numbers on Hosmer, but I will list off the areas where he’s under-performing compared to previous years: walk rate is down, strikeout rate is up, ground ball rate is up, soft contact is up, infield fly rate is up, chase and Swstr rates are up, and contact rate is down. Yup, that’s a lot. Stop owning him for name value, I’d even take teammates Mejia or Franmil Reyes over him right now.

Yonder Alonso (CLE – 1B), 50% owned
Coming into the season I thought Yonder Alonso had some solid value with an ADP well after pick 200. I projected Alonso to provide solid power numbers with a solid batting average as a floor while hitting 5th or 6th in one of the better lineups in the league. While the power has been relatively consistent, his batting average has fallen off the map which currently sits at .241 and is .214 since the All-Star break. It has nothing to do with a change in launch angle, his 22% line drive and 42% fly ball rates in that time frame mirrors his profile over the last 2 years. The issue for Alonso is his lack of hard contact, just 27.3% since August 1st and his chase rate, 35% in the month of August. Alonso will continue to be a batting average drain while providing poor power upside given his recent poor batted ball profile and plate discipline.

In redraft leagues, it’s safe to drop Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez as the team’s brass have decided to hold both down for the remainder of the season. No, they are not owned in over 50% of leagues, but in the playoffs, you need all the roster spots you can get. It’s unfortunate, but maybe they will both come at a bit of a discount next year. Clearly, both are ready to be up with the big club and no longer need refinement. Depending on service time, both could be held down for a couple weeks to a month to start the season similar to Acuna this year and Kris Bryant a few years ago. This would further decrease their ADP and I think they can both provide between 5th and 7th round value next year. It’ll be interesting to see their ADP’s coming into 2019 and I still see them as Star-Boys.

Odubel Herrera (PHI – OF), 70% owned
Over on the Sports Degens, I told you to sell Herrera back in early July before the All-Star break. At the time, he was on fire and ranked inside the top 75 overall. Since then, he’s hit .237 with seven home runs and 1 steal in 186 plate appearances. The power numbers are OK, but the lack of stolen bases and batting average has really hurt his value. Herrera’s hard contact is only 25% since July 5th and his plate discipline is a mess. The weak contact combined with an aggressive approach is the reason I was staying away from Herrera in the second half. There’s no reason for him to be owned in so many leagues. Drop him for one of the outfielders I highlighted above.

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