The beauty of baseball is that there is a lot of randomness and luck involved at times. The randomness causes players to under or overproduce at times. Last week, I unveiled a number of x-stats from last season so that we could see which players were affected by luck. We also looked specifically at which players should regress in AVG specifically. While batting average plays a big role in fantasy baseball, home runs are an equally big component in fantasy value.
Predicting changes in HR totals can be a bit tricky but we have a few tools at our disposal. In the past, I have analyzed a player’s HR data that is offered by the wonderful HitTracker website. We can use their data on HR distance, speed and angles to identify who some of the best power hitters were. The weakness of that data is that we can only use it to analyze hits that were homers.
I can now use the xISO stat (courtesy of Andrew Dominijanni) to analyze the rest of a batter’s performance. Using that and other x-stats, I’ve even been able to identify expected HR totals to compare to actual HR totals. That calculation utilizes batted ball data from Fangraphs and exit velocity data from Statcast.
By combining the xISO data with my analysis of HitTracker data, I can more confidently identify players who should see an increase in power numbers in 2017.
What To Know About HR Data
Each ballpark has different dimensions. A home run in one park could have been a long flyout in another park because of differing dimensions. As a result, we can’t always take home run totals at face value and they are worth a little extra analysis to determine which players may have gotten lucky or unlucky last year. This helps us find sleepers or busts in our fantasy baseball drafts in 2017.
We’re going to look at five 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 2016 averages to keep in mind:
- Average HR Distance: 397.4
- Average Speed Off Bat: 103.7
- Percentage of No Doubt HR’s: 20%
- Percent of Questionable HR’s (would have made it out of less than 24 stadiums): 30%
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 despite perhaps having lower HR totals last year.
Five Hitters Who Should Show More Power in 2017
In last year’s analysis, I didn’t take advantage of xISO data but breakout hitters such as Chris Carter still came up as a player who had potential to see an increase in HR totals. I’ve found that identifying sleeper hitters is more reliable than identifying busts with this type of analysis. This year’s analysis identified five players that really stand out to me as possible breakout hitters in 2017.
All five of these players greatly distanced themselves from league averages in their HitTracker data. In addition, I wanted to identify players who also showed a big gap between their actual ISO and xISO numbers as they would be a more likely breakout candidate.
Byung Ho Park (1B/DH, MIN)
After hitter 105 HR’s over two years in Korea, the ceiling was pretty high for Park in 2016. He struggled initially, got demoted to Triple-A then was shut down for the season after getting wrist surgery. Minnesota hasn’t said what they’ll do with Park in 2017. They have Joe Mauer at 1B and Kennys Vargas at DH to block his path to regular plate appearances. If he gets a spot in the starting lineup, he may just prove that his struggles last year were fluky. Based on his batted ball data, his numbers could have been quite a bit better last year. I’m keeping a close eye on his situation as he has potential to hit 35 or more HR’s this year.
Travis Shaw (3B, MIL)
Travis Shaw’s arrival in Milwaukee presents an interesting situation for fantasy baseball owners. It opens up a full-time role for Pablo Sandoval in Boston while hurting Hernan Perez’s sleeper potential in Milwaukee. The good news is that Shaw is a much better fit for Miller Park than Fenway. That switch alone could add a few HR’s to his totals this year. His profile indicates that he could easily jump up to 25 HR’s if given a full year of plate appearances in 2017.
Mitch Moreland (1B, BOS)
Who will fill the massive void left by David Ortiz in Boston? Mitch Moreland will attempt to help replace some of that missing offense. He has the ability to hit homers to all fields and that will aid him at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will still miss Ortiz but if Moreland can approach 30 HR’s, like his profile suggests, then that will make the loss a little more manageable.
James McCann (C, DET)
McCann started 2016 on the disabled list and never got fully going once he finally did get activated to the team in May. Despite his struggles, the Tigers will stick with McCann as their main catcher in 2017 and the good news is that part of those struggles seem to be luck-driven. If he can stay healthy and avoid the luck dragons then he seems poised to approach 25 HR’s in 2017 and that would make him a very valuable option at the always weak catcher position.
Steven Souza Jr. (OF, TB)
Souza is interesting because he strikes out a ton despite not having hit for a ton of power thus far in his career. With such high strikeout numbers, you’d expect that he’s swinging for the fences but his numbers just haven’t followed suit. He’s still starting in Tampa in 2017 and it does seem like he should see a power boost. His minor league ISO numbers along with his xISO numbers point towards that. In addition, his HitTracker data does show that he can hit bombs when he is hitting for power. If all things fall into place, I could see Souza flirt with becoming a 30 HR hitter.
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.