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Barrel Leaders - Statcast 2018 Year-In-Review

The 2018 MLB season was full of memorable moments and rife with power. It's unexpected to see that there was a noticeable dip in power numbers, despite the 5,585 home runs hit by Major League players. In 2017, that figure was up at 6,105 HR.

Homers make the highlight reels but don't tell the whole story of a hitter's prowess though. With Statcast, we can look into a player's detailed performance to analyze who crushed the ball regularly, regardless of the end result. The names on this leaderboard could be up-and-coming stars or players who may never get the chance to achieve stardom based on other factors.

Some of the names are obvious, so we won't delve into the reason Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, or Mike Trout made the top 10. Instead, let's focus on the biggest risers and surprises of the past season, according to Statcast and its most telling offensive stat for sluggers, Barrels. Our threshold for qualifiers is 150 Batted Ball Events in the 2018 season.

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Barrels Risers

Ryan Zimmerman (1B, WAS) - 9.9 Brls/PA% (4th)

Despite a litany of injuries yet again, Zimmerman was somewhat effective when on the field. He slugged an adequate .486, which was still a far cry from 2017 when he slugged .573 and jacked 36 HR. His 16.5% HR/FB dropped back to a reasonable number and his 7.1° launch angle is lower than any other batter in the top 30 other than Christian Yelich, which explains why he finished with 13 HR despite a high barrel rate. Zimmerman can still hit the ball hard, but he will be 34 years old entering next season and will not match the good fortune he enjoyed last year even if he continues to make solid contact.

Shohei Ohtani (DH, LAA) - 9.8 Brls/PA% (6th)

Is it possible that Ohtani is still being undervalued? His value as a hitter is undermined by a lack of consistent at-bats due to his "other career" as an ace starter. Ohtani registered 326 at-bats in his rookie campaign and hit 22 HR with an average distance of 413 feet, tied for 14th-best in the league and better than Joey Gallo, Khris Davis or Giancarlo Stanton among others. Ohtani slugged an outstanding .563 but also posted a 29.7% HR/FB rate that is sure to dip in 2019. Recovery from his recent Tommy John surgery will keep him off the mound next year. It's unclear when or how he will be used as a designated hitter but it's possible he could fly under the radar again given how good he was at the plate even after suffering the injury. In September alone, Ohtani hit .310 with seven HR and 18 RBI.

Randal Grichuk (OF, TOR) - 9.5 Brls/PA% (7th)

We knew Grichuk had power, as he displayed it in his first four seasons with St. Louis. He didn't do it consistently enough, suffering through massive slumps and bouncing back and forth from the minors. While Grichuk didn't exactly make strides in his average (.245) or walk rate (5.8%), he did cut four points from his strikeout percentage (26.4%). Grichuk barreled the ball at a high rate all year, combined with a high-enough 18.5° launch angle to be a productive fantasy asset with 25 HR, although that resulted in only 61 RBI. A move to the cleanup spot in the last month of the season seemed to help his counts stats a bit, so keep an eye on how he figures into the team's plans coming out of Spring Training next year to see if his all-around fantasy value can improve.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) - 9.4 Brls/PA% (9th)

If you read my weekly Statcast Risers piece for Hitters, you'll recall Hernandez making several appearances. We shouldn't be surprised any longer that he's a Statcast darling, having barreled the ball at a higher rate than all but eight qualified batters. He's still got some work to do on plate discipline, particularly a 31% K-rate and a miserable 42% O-Contact%. Still, at age 26 he will be entering his second full season in the majors and with the Blue Jays. He's got room to grow into his power and should be given the opportunity on a rebuilding Blue Jays team.

Max Muncy (1B/3B, LAD) - 9.4 Brls/PA% (10th)

It didn't take long for Muncy to announce himself as the biggest breakout of the year. By the All-Star break he had crushed 22 HR en route to an appearance in the Home Run Derby and was a mainstay in the Dodgers lineup. He didn't suffer any negative splits and managed to play his way out of a second-half slump to rebound nicely toward the end of the season. He finished in a tie with Teoscar Hernandez for 29th in hard hit rate at 45.9%, showing the importance of launch angle in turning those batted balls into fly balls, 29% of which left the park. There will obviously be some regression for Muncy but this season was an impressive one nonetheless.

Tyler Austin (1B, MIN) - 9.0 Brls/PA% (12th)

Another prime-age (27) breakout of sorts, Austin finally stayed healthy enough to be productive when given the chance in pinstripes. Austin posted eight HR and 23 RBI in 34 games for the Yankees before being banished to Siberia... er, Minnesota in the Lance Lynn deal. Perhaps the .223 average and 40.2% K% had something to do with it. He went on to post eerily similar numbers in 35 games as a Twin, bashing nine HR and driving in 24 runs with a .236 average, although he did improve his plate discipline quite a bit in the final month. Austin is an intriguing sleeper heading into next season, as he should be given the chance to hold down a spot in the middle of the Twins lineup if he performs well in spring.

Chad Pinder (SS/OF, OAK) - 9.0 Brls/PA% (13th)

With just 333 MLB at-bats on his resume, Pinder entered the 2018 season as a utility player who would bide time behind Franklin Barreto and Marcus Semien at shortstop and fill in occasionally in the outfield. Instead, Pinder made the most of his limited playing time by posting a .178 ISO behind a strong 46.2% hard hit rate and 14.2 Barrels per Batted Ball Event. He was more effective against lefties in terms of average but showed power against both sides. Pinder was useful as a spot play but may not figure into the A's starting lineup any more than he did last year. On a team that is always looking toward youth, he may still be stuck watching Semien hold down SS while players like Ramon Laureano and Dustin Fowler infiltrate the outfield positions.


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