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Barrel Leaders - Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds (Week 8)


We're back to revisit Barrels this time but with a slight twist. Back in Week 4, I looked at players at the very top and bottom of the Statcast leaderboard for Barrels per Plate Appearance. To check out that analysis and a detailed explanation of what makes a Barrel so valuable, click here.

To differentiate a bit, I will look at the leaders by Barrels per Batted Ball Event (BBE). I'm also upping the ante by setting the threshold to 50 BBE in order to remove those small-sample outliers that aren't fantasy-relevant like Gordon Beckham. As usual, you won't see any All-Stars listed at the top or no-names listed at the bottom. Instead, we will analyze some questionable fantasy assets in order to find the best course of action. It was very tempting to add the Big Panda, as he finds himself in the Top 30 of this list and is one of the Sweet Spot leaders, but I couldn't convince myself he was fantasy-relevant.

Now, let's take a closer look at some of the early barrel leaders and losers to find buy/sell/add/drop candidates for 2019 fantasy baseball leagues.

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Surprising Chart Toppers

All stats current as of May 19, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 50 BBE.

 

C.J. Cron (1B, MIN)

17.2 Barrels/BBE%

Cron has as many Barrels (20) as Cody Bellinger, Gary Sanchez, and Franmil Reyes. If that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will. Cron is tied for 15th in Brls/BBE and jumps up to ninth when looking at Brls/PA. His .557 xSLG also ranks in the eighth percentile. Cutting to the chase, the good news is that everything here looks completely legit.

Cron finally broke out last year with 30 home runs playing for Tampa Bay and seemed to get a slight boost moving out of Tropicana Field. This year, Target Field has dropped down to 26th in HR Park Factor though. Cron has seen a dead-even home-road split in power numbers, with six HR in each setting and a difference of one RBI. He's seeing the ball well and crushing it whenever he gets a chance. The shift hasn't affected his batting average either, as his wOBA is within 16 points either way. Cron may slow his roll at some point but this isn't a fluke. Selling high might be unwise; Cron could go for 40 HR this year.

 

Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/OF, CIN)

14.9 Barrels/BBE%

Dietrich didn't start on Sunday afternoon but it didn't stop him from going yard again as a pinch-hitter. Dietrich now has 10 homers and 25 RBI on the season as a part-time player. Fantasy owners have somewhat bought in, as he's owned in 27% of leagues. His power numbers are fully backed by the fact he ranks 24th in Brls/BBE.

Look a little closer and his 87.3 MPH exit velocity places him 210th, along with a 33.3% hard-hit rate that is 216th out of 295 batters using our criteria. The lack of regular playing time is already enough to make him useless in 10 or 12-team leagues. Add in the fact that Scooter Gennett should be back soon and Dietrich's 15 minutes are all but up. He's a name to watch if injury strikes the Reds again but this is a case where the Barrel rate seems unusually high and unsustainable.

 

Chris Davis (1B, BAL)

13.4 Barrels/BBE%

First of all, let's not get carried away and say that Davis could make a run at the All-Star game. Bad as the O's have been, Trey Mancini has that spot locked up. Davis has been better since he broke out of his historic slump but that's not saying much. Davis is hitting .184 and has gone deep twice in the month of May. So how is he on the Barrel leaders when his bat barely makes contact with the ball at all?

Davis still has one of the highest strikeout rates in the league (36.2%) and won't steal bases or score runs like Wil Myers. His average still stinks too. It just so happens that on the rare occasion he does hit the ball, he does it quite hard. Davis only makes contact inside the zone less than 80% of the time but that's his highest mark of the Statcast era, as is his 10.4% Solid Contact rate. He's striking the ball hard but it isn't going as far, with an average HR distance of 387. Sadly, these juicy Barrel rates are resulting in a lot of long singles. Even if you bank on a home run surge by Davis based on these results, it's not worth the total tanking of every other roto category imaginable.

 

Alarming Bottom Dwellers

All stats current as of May 19, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 50 BBE.

 

Wilson Ramos (C, NYM)

4.9 Barrels/BBE%

Ramos isn't a name you necessarily expect to be near the top of the leaderboard but he should be flexing more power than he has so far in New York. Ramos has hit at least 15 HR in five of the last eight seasons and three of the last four, so we should demand more. Fellow backstops Mitch Garver, Roberto Perez, and Willson Contreras are all in the top 50, not to mention the Sanchize, who leads the world in Barrels. As one of the top five catchers selected in most drafts, his owners are left wanting more than just two longballs and a .238 average.

His 24 RBI are the saving grace but those could decline over time if he doesn't start driving the ball more. Ramos spent much of the season in the fifth spot of the lineup, behind Michael Conforto, but has seen more time in the sixth spot lately. His 43.7% hard-hit rate isn't down too much from last year and is a respectable figure; it's the 0.1 launch angle that is a problem. With the proper adjustment, Ramos could start going yard more frequently. Maybe a manager change will get the whole lineup going.

 

Corey Seager (SS, LAD)

5.0 Barrels/BBE%

Seager should be given a longer leash because he's recovering from an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and kept him out of action until late in spring training. He has predictably been off to a slow start but when will it turn around? After all, Shohei Ohtani didn't waste any time driving the ball out of the park as soon as he was activated two weeks ago from the same injury.

Seager has a pathetic .362 xSLG and an exit velocity in the 33rd percentile. He's not making up for it with a high average either, posting an xBA well below .200 on all breaking and offspeed pitches. The question for Seager isn't why, it's when. Not if, mind you, but when will he get his timing and strength back? It's hard to know but the fact his plate discipline isn't significantly worse and he's still got a good line drive rate of 25.6% are signs that he's not far off. If he stops getting under the ball so much, then he could at least turn back into a solid doubles machine that he used to be before finally getting his home run stroke back. Wait a little while longer before you consider buying into him for the second half.

 

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, CLE)

7.1 Barrels/BBE%

We've been alarmed by J-Ram all season, so this is nothing new. His slash line of .189/.289/.296 is appalling for any Major League player, much less a first-round fantasy draft pick. Thank God for the steals because those 12 thefts are the only thing to stop fantasy owners from holding a mass jersey burning (doesn't everyone buy the jersey of their first-round pick each year?)

A popular narrative this year was that pitchers would keep Ramirez off balance with breaking pitches (curve, slider) more often after he posted a .181 average against those pitches last season. Surprise! He is seeing more fastballs this year and is somehow doing worse against them with a .167 average compared to .235 versus breaking stuff. His xBA is actually lowest against breaking pitches but at this point it's all low, so it doesn't matter much.

Ramirez has never been a hard-hit maven but a 30% Hard% is pretty low and his worst mark since 2015 when Statcast began tracking such data. Much like Seager, the problem isn't plate discipline, it's launch angle. He's getting under the ball 10% higher than his career mark and 15.6% higher than the MLB average. It sounds contrite but with a proven stud like Ramirez, patience is a virtue.

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