It’s important to know that baseball statistics for a given year often has an element of luck to them. When projecting for 2016 and preparing for our drafts, we want to try to correct for 2015’s luck. Savvy fantasy players already know about using BABIP and xFIP to try to identify luck but an overlooked area of luck is home run totals. Some hitters can have misleading HR numbers which we can weed out thanks to the advanced data we have nowadays courtesy of the wonderful HitTracker website.
A player who hits a short home run in one park may have had it turn into a long flyout in another park. He gets credit for that homer regardless. There are other hitters who are crushing the ball when they do hit homers but we’re not seeing their totals reflect their ability to hit for such power. These lucky and unlucky hitters are the ones we want to try to identify so we can react accordingly in 2016.
We’re going to look at six players below who seem to have stats that don’t line up with their HR data. First, in looking at the HR data from last year, here are some 2015 averages to keep in mind:
Average HR Distance: 396
Average Speed Off Bat: 103.5
Percentage of No Doubt HR’s: 18%
Percent of Questionable HR’s (would have made it out of less than 24 stadiums): 36%
Each of those stats end up having some correlation to the next year’s home run totals for a player so it tells us something when we see top hitters who deviate from those numbers. Hitters who are performing better than average in each of those areas should be among the top home run hitters in the game and hitters who are below the marks should be among the weaker HR hitters.
Three Hitters With Positive Home Run Trends
(405 Avg Distance, 105.7 Speed, 39% No Doubt, 17% Questionable)
Bour got a legit shot at playing time for the first time in his career last year and responded nicely with 23 home runs in 446 PA. He may not have been on your radar last year as he really burst out towards the end of the year with 11 of his home runs coming from August 29th and on. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton taught him some secrets because he was certainly crushing the ball. A very high percentage of his homers would have made it out of about every park in the league which is a good sign. In addition, the average distance and average bat speed on his home runs were at a fairly elite level. It’s hard to say exactly what Bour will be quite yet but his minor league numbers suggest a similar level of power. It’s not outlandish to expect 30 HR from Bour if he can get a full season of plate appearances for the Marlins this year.
(405 Avg Distance, 105.7 Speed, 29% No Doubt, 21% Questionable)
Carter has shown elite power ability in the past but his struggles at the plate last year resulted in less PA (460) and thus less HR (24). He gets a fresh start in Milwaukee this year and the park should favor his hitting style. Regardless, if he can get a full shot there, he’s shown that he hits bombs. His average HR distance, speed off the bat and amount of No Doubt home runs are towards the top of the leaderboards. He just needs to, you know, cut down on the strikeouts and not hit under .200 to really be valuable both the Brewers and our fantasy teams. If he can get a full shot though, he’s always capable of a 40 HR season and his HR data shows that.
(405 Avg Distance, 105.6 Speed, 33% No Doubt, 7% Questionable)
Schoop has hit a combined 31 HR over his past two seasons with the Orioles but did not really have a full season of PA’s in either year. His HR data shows that he has the ability to be a 30 HR hitter in a single season if given a full shot. This year he is scheduled to be the starting 2B out of the gate and that’s promising. Like the two players before him here, his average HR distance, speed off the bat and number of No Doubt home runs all spell good things as he’s at the level of a Josh Donaldson in all of those areas. With a bigger role, he might blossom into a huge fantasy bargain.
Three Hitters With Red Flags
(385 Avg Distance, 101.9 Speed, 16% No Doubt, 45% Questionable)
The fact that Teixeira had his highest ISO (.293) during his age 35 season is probably the first clue that he overachieved in the HR department last year. His HR/FB rate being the highest of his career (23.5%) is clue number two. His HR data backs this all up too with him having low average HR distance and bat speed on his homers with a high percentage of them not making it out most other parks in the league. Luckily, he’ll still be playing in that home park so should continue to benefit from the hitter park environment but his power numbers should take an expected dip this year regardless as he was aided by a bit TOO much luck last year to be comfortable with. The point is that you should not draft Teixeira at 36 years old expecting another 30+ HR output.
(395 Avg Distance, 103 Speed, 7% No Doubt, 53% Questionable)
Abreu is another hitter who benefits from playing in a hitter-friendly park but it is a bit disturbing that he hit so many home runs that wouldn’t have made it out of most other parks. In addition, his average home run distance and speed off bat on those homers were also below league average. For a top power hitter, those are not trends you want to see. There are a lot of things to like about Abreu and the fact that he’ll still be playing in that hitter’s park is one good thing but we want to see some positive change in his HR output data this year. I’m not ready to run away from him kicking and screaming but I’m taking more of a cautious approach with him this year as this year will teach us a lot about whether he’s an annual threat to approach 40 HR or someone who will continue to float around 30.
(394 Avg Distance, 103.5 Speed, 11% No Doubt, 49% Questionable)
Was Machado’s jump in ISO (.148 to .153 to .216) a result in him just getting older and stronger or is it a sign of a potential fluke in his power numbers last year? His home run data suggests that there may be some fluke factor there because he certainly didn’t have the average HR distance or HR speed associated with the top sluggers. Steamer has him pegged at 27 HR this year (as opposed to his 35 from last year) and that feels a bit more right. He’s still a very valuable fantasy player for a variety of reasons but don’t expect him to be a 40 HR threat again this year.
Luke is better known as Mr. Cheatsheet despite his last name not being Cheatsheet. He makes spreadsheets, writes blog posts and his rankings were in the top 10 accuracy among FantasyPros experts in 2014, 2016 and 2017. When he's not doing fantasy baseball things, he can be found playing board games or rating beer.