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Biggest Barrel Risers for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Hitters (Barrel %)

Luis Robert - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB DFS Picks, Betting Picks

For the hitters in our fantasy baseball lineups, we want the best possible outcome from each one of their plate appearances in 2024. One of the best ways to predict hitters with the best outcomes is with Barrels. When MLB introduced the stat in 2016, they showed that Barreled balls result in an average of around .800 and a slugging percentage of around 3.000.

In this article, we'll look at hitters that had the most dramatic increases in Barrel %  from 2023 to 2024. Can we trust them in 2024 after such a big leap last season? If you're still unsure why we're using Barrel % (or Barrel Rate, as it is often called), then read this article on the underlying importance of measuring barrels for fantasy baseball. It will explain the concept of Barrel % and its relevance to fantasy baseball in clear terms.

Note that for this exercise, only qualified hitters with a minimum of 2.1 plate appearances per team game were used as the universe of players analyzed.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Biggest Year-Over-Year Barrel % Risers

Michael Taylor - Pittsburgh Pirates, +6.7%

Michael Taylor is an odd name to lead the increased barrel rate list because he is a 32-year-old journeyman outfielder who had never hit more than 19 home runs before 2023. All of a sudden, however, his barrel rate exploded from 6.8% in 2022 to 13.5% in 2023. For further comparison, his 2022 rate was in the 41st percentile of all batters, according to Baseball Savant. His 2023 rate? It ranked in the 88th percentile. In fact, it ranked 32nd among all batters, ahead of guys like Juan Soto and Rafael Devers.

What changed for Taylor that caused his home runs to spike to 21 last season, even though he saw fewer plate appearances in 2023 than he did in 2021 and 2022? The move to Minnesota caused Taylor to pivot into their offensive philosophy, which focuses on a) hitting the ball hard and b) pulling the ball. As you can see in the two spray charts above, Taylor's 2023 chart is much more focused on left field and over the fence, whereas 2022 is more all over the field.

With such an outlier performance produced at an "older age," Michael Taylor signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. With 21 bombs last year and a Gold Glove two years ago, the Pirates inked Taylor to a one-year deal, where he will most likely handle center field duties in an up-and-coming Pittsburgh lineup that includes Oneil Cruz, Jack Suwinski, Bryan Reynolds, and Ke'Bryan Hayes.

 

Luis Robert Jr. - Chicago White Sox, +6.5%

Perhaps a more predictable candidate for this list is Taylor's AL Central partner, Luis Robert Jr. Robert has been a tantalizing fantasy asset for a few years now, and 2023 may have been the year he proved he is about to put it all together. Already going around pick 32 in NFBC drafts, Robert is not flying under anyone's radar. However, if he can keep his barrel rate gains from last season, this could be a first-round value at the turn of Rounds 2 and 3.

Much like Taylor, Robert saw a massive spike in Barrel % after settling in around the middle of the pack in 2022. Primarily due to injuries that limited him to 401 plate appearances in 2022, Robert's barrel rate was in the 59th percentile. That's a good-not-great number that exploded to the 93rd percentile with health and 600 plate appearances in 2023.

To put Robert's batted ball success into perspective, he had exactly the same barrel rate as Ronald Acuna Jr. last season. Both guys were top-20 in the league, but with Robert just now 26 years old, there could still be another level to his production ahead.

 

Spencer Torkelson - Detroit Tigers, +5.7%

Seriously, what was going on in the AL Central last year? Four of the five players on this list come from that division, and Torkelson might be the most intriguing of them all. The uber-prospect was largely disappointing in his 110-game rookie season in 2022, hitting .203 with eight homers. He put any "does he belong here" concerns to rest in 2023, hitting .233 with 31 bombs and 94 RBI while playing all but three games. The scary thing is that Torkelson's year could have been much better.

Torkelson hit .233 with a .446 slugging percentage and .326 wOBA. His expected slash line in those categories was .251/.480/.349. More than 50% of his balls in play qualified as hard hits, and he did it by simply getting the ball in the air much more than in 2022.

In his first year, Torkelson had a 41% ground ball rate and a 26% fly ball rate. He dropped seven percentage points of balls on the ground and added six percentage points to balls in the air last year. That meant his average launch angle and exit velocity both saw huge spikes.

At just 24 years old, another power level for Torkelson could emerge this year. Consistently going after pick 100 in recent drafts, that's a price tag I will gladly pay to have him on my fantasy teams.

 

Sean Murphy - Atlanta Braves, +5.6%

What do Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Matt Olson, Kyle Schwarber, Adolis Garcia, and Sean Murphy all have in common from 2023? Each one of them was in the top 12 in barrel rate last season. If Murphy's name on this list surprises you, you're not alone. In fact, Murphy's Statcast data is above the 80th percentile in almost every category from last year, but it was masked by one unfortunate problem -- playing time.

Of the names listed above, only Murphy and Judge (who missed 50 games due to injury) did not reach at least 300 batted ball events in 2023. Judge's injury prevented him, but Murphy lost immense amounts of playing time to Travis d'Arnaud, particularly in the second half.

Moving to Atlanta from Oakland, Murphy went from 612 plate appearances in 2022 to just 438 in 2023. With the Braves checking in as World Series favorites this spring training, there is no reason to think they won't try to keep Murphy fresh for the playoffs again.

In the first half of 2023, Murphy had 270 plate appearances, but that tumbled to just 168 in the second half, and it wasn't due to injury. If Murphy starts blasting the ball again, and you have him on our fantasy squad, he might make for a good trade chip as he starts to see more frequent days off as the season grinds on.

 

Max Kepler - Minnesota Twins, +5.1%

Max Kepler is another candidate to fall in line with the Minnesota Twins' philosophy of "home run or bust." Case in point: the Twins were 21st in team batting average last season, but third in team home runs. Kepler's big spike in barrel rate in 2023 was more a return to form after a plagued 2022 than any extra level of power he found. In 2022, Kepler missed almost 50 games due to a variety of injuries plus struggles against left-handers. He had career lows in slugging percentage, HR/FB rate, exit velocity, fly ball rate, and hard-hit rate.

Those numbers bounced back in 2023 and Kepler produced 24 home runs and 72 RBI while still missing 30 games. The injuries and occasional missed days against tough left-handed pitchers will always be a concern, but the power output is not.

Kepler was a top-50 hitter in barrel rate in 2023 as well as top-50 in average home run distance. Kepler added seven percentage points to his fly ball rate last year and had a 43% pill rate. It's the perfect combination for a lefty like Kepler and should make him a good value at fantasy drafts.



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