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Barrel and Exit Velocity Batting Leaders: Statcast 2019 Review


The 2019 season saw more home runs hit than ever before in Major League history as 6,776 balls left ballparks across the league. The top-hitting club of them all was the Minnesota Twins with 307 big flies. Chief among them was none other than 39-year-old Nelson Cruz, who finished in a tie for seventh in all of baseball with 41 HR. If you pay attention to Statcast, this should come as no surprise. Cruz led the majors in Barrel rate with a barreled ball in 12.5% of his plate appearances and was third in average exit velocity. Rookie Peter Alonso, who led the majors with 53 homers, was tied for 14th in Barrel rate. Studs like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Christian Yelich all appear in the top 10 as well.

This comes as common sense to even the most casual baseball fan, since hitting the ball harder will typically result in more home runs and great players tend to do just that. Those who followed our Statcast Hitter Analysis series all season will know that not all names atop the leaderboard are expected. Some players have less fortunate luck on balls in play or have less-than-ideal ballpark factors or lineup support.

The purpose of our year-end review will be the same as during the season - to identify surprising names across the leaderboard for both barrels and exit velocity in order to identify possible sleepers for 2020. For full explanations of each term, refer to the official Statcast glossary definitions for exit velocity, and barrels by clicking the links.

Editor's Note: Get our 2020 MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our draft kit, premium rankings, player projections and outlooks, our top sleepers, dynasty and prospect rankings, 20 preseason and in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research and tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Exit Velocity Leaders

Stats taken from BaseballSavant.com and represent hitters with a minimum of 50 batted ball events in 2019.

 

Mike Ford (1B, NYY) - 91.9 MPH AVG (19th)

This former Rule 5 pick, who was sent back to the Yankees just three months after being selected by Seattle in 2017, made the most of his late-season playing time in place of an injured Edwin Encarnacion. He hit 12 bombs in 143 at-bats before ultimately being left off the postseason roster. He showed good plate discipline too, with a 6.8 K-BB% and an 8.1% SwStr%. Given the way Luke Voit hit much of the year and the fact that the Yankees can and likely will do better in the free-agent market, Ford's path to success lies with another team if he finds a favorable spot.

 

Yandy Diaz (3B, TB) - 91.7 MPH AVG EV (23rd)

It was all of two weeks into the 2019 season when Yandy Diaz began his offensive breakout at the age of 27. He batted .308 with three homers in the first 10 games of the year and would go on to hit 14 HR in 307 at-bats before a move to the 60-day IL cut his season short. He made quite a return with two solo homers in the Rays' first playoff game before experiencing foot soreness again. If Diaz can come back fully healthy and picks up where he left off, who's to say 30 homers are out of reach? That's probably overly optimistic but Diaz is a nice discount CI who is currently going outside the top 200 in early NFBC drafts (below Jon Berti!).

 

Jason Castro (C, FA) - 91.5 MPH AVG EV (28th)

I love when catchers make these lists because it always gives us a shred of hope that they could actually bring value to fantasy rosters beyond two-catchers leagues, which really ought to be outlawed. So often their plate appearances are too limited to be meaningful anyway. In this case, Castro only played 79 games for the Twins because he took a backseat to breakout player Mitch Garver who also ranks in the top-50 on the exit velocity leaderboard. Castro is now a free agent and could find a home where he gets semi-regular ABs. He's only a career .231 hitter but Castro should still have double-digit homers and 20+ doubles left in his bat, which isn't too shabby for a backstop these days.

 

Barrel Leaders

Stats taken from BaseballSavant.com and reflect hitters with a minimum of 50 batted ball events.

 

C.J. Cron (1B, FA) - 10.6% Brls/PA (7th)

Just when he'd found the perfect home, Cron now has to search for another through free agency. Despite being on a record-setting Twins lineup, Cron didn't match his career-high of 30 HR. He settled for 25 but did barrel the ball at a rate of 15 Barrels per BBE, or the same as Ronald Acuna and slightly higher than Bryce Harper. Cron saw a sudden three-point jump in exit velocity last season which could be seen as an outlier. His barrel rate had been increasing for three straight years though, thanks to a reduced launch angle. He also has brought his walk rate closer to respectable levels while whiffing less, so it could be a matter of experience setting in. He'll be a valuable slugger if he lands a regular DH gig somewhere.

 

Adam Duvall (OF, ATL) - 10.0% Brls/PA (11th)

There aren't many better comeback stories than Duvall last year, statistically speaking at least. After toiling at Triple-A nearly through the end of July, Duvall was brought up by the Braves and immediately began raking. He hit five homers in his first six games and provided an instant spark to the Braves offense. His admittedly small sample size of 120 at-bats last season could be dismissed as a hot streak except that Duvall is a former All-Star with back-to-back seasons of 30+ HR and 99+ RBI. Of course, he's on the wrong side of 30 now and not guaranteed to start for the contending Braves, although he was recently tendered a contract. He should serve a utility role at the very least and is worth owning in NL-only and deep leagues requiring five OF based on his power ceiling.

 

Brandon Lowe (2B, TB) - 9.2% Brls/PA (21st)

Another Ray who missed a chunk of time due to injury, Lowe earned an All-Star berth in his rookie season thanks to his power output. Lowe hit .276 with 16 HR, 49 RBI, and 40 runs in the first half. He placed 33rd on the Sweet Spot leaderboard with a 40.2% SwSp% and a solid .506 xSLG supports the idea that he can carry on as a top-10 option at the keystone for fantasy owners in roto leagues. He'll need to work on his strikeout rate, which was 2.8 percentage points above the league average, and play solid defense to stay in the Rays' infield long-term but there's no reason to think he won't do so.

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