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Searching for 20/20: Power

Chicks dig the long ball.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

On our quest to find the next 20/20 player, our second installment involves the far cooler half of 20/20; power hitters.   There were many interested facts I learned as I scoured every leaderboard imaginable to find as many power facts as possible.  First lets look at the the big picture.

  • 512 batters slugged a homer in 2015
  • 64 Players hit 20 home runs
  • The 64th longest home run and fly ball distance was 291.2FT, by Brandon Belt who hit 18 home runs in 556 AB
  • 282 batters put enough balls in play to have a homerun and fly ball average distance on baseballheatmaps.com
  • The lowest average home run and fly ball distance by anyone who hit over 20 homers was by Josh Reddick, 271.41FT
  • 271.41FT was the 211th longest home run and fly ball distance
  • The average home run and fly ball distance was 280.978FT
  • The highest frequency home run hitter for anyone with other 20 homers was Giancarlo Stanton, hitting a home run in 8.49% of his plate appearances
  • A.J. Pollock had the lowest homerun per plate appearance by any 20 home run hitter, 2.97%

So there are a few ways to be a reliable power hitter, launching the ball the furthest, or accumulating enough PAs and having an adequate hard hit rate.  So while Chris Carter hits them far, he rarely hits, and limits his ability to take advantage of his massive power.  A.J. Pollock on the other hand is one of the better contact hitters in baseball, but isn't a ruthian slugger.

With my research, I've found that average homerun and fly ball distance is by far the most useful in determining the power a hitter has.  It's a safe blend between raw power, found from their bat speed, something I did not look up, and their game power, found by their slugging percentage.  Since fantasy owners are far more interested in results, distance proved to be most useful.

So with Pollock being the man who actually accomplished the feat of 20/20 its interesting to see that he averaged 292FT per home run and flyball, good for the 59th best distance, but was homering the least frequently of anyone who hit 20 homers.  Which is a perfect segway to what I believe was his issue.

Ballpark factors change year to year.  While every field is unique in dimensions, wall height, and altitude remaining the same on an annual basis for most teams.  Weather and opposing pitchers change annually.  We simply do not know which teams will be forced to hit in the rain 10 times one year, and 0 the next.  When Max Scherzer leaves Detroit and goes to Washington, the whole AL Central breathes a sigh of relief, while the NL East prepares for yet another ace to face off against.

Obviously certain divisions profile one way or the other, and that gives us some guidance, but long story short, there is a lack of definitive information, hence why they play the games.  Whether that makes you hold back bidding that extra dollar on an NL East hitter is up to you.

With that said, its hard to project 20 home runs from anyone who averaged under 290 FT per HR and FB, or under a 35% hard hit rate.  Essentially every single 20 home run hitter accomplished one or the other.  First here are some notable names that just barely missed accomplishing both with fewer than 20 homers:

  • Danny Valencia
  • Jonathan Schoop
  • Michael Conforto
  • Maikel Franco
  • Preston Tucker
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Miguel Montero
  • Brandon Moss
  • George Springer
  • Jedd Gyorko
  • Derek Dietrich
  • Will Middlebrooks
  • Jung-Ho Kang
  • Robinson Cano

Below I will profile the players who accomplished both, but did not reach 20 homers.

David Peralta, OF, ARI

Where did this guy come from?  His 17 home runs were completely out of left field, pun intended, and they seem totally justified.  Next season he'll be 28 years old, his 35.1% HHR and 298FT HRFB distance, support more good times ahead.

Randal Grichuk, OF, STL

His 36.9% Hard hit rate and 302.21FT average distance are both excellent, and he reached 17 homers this year in 103 games.  He's built to hit for power, and will continue that next season.

Seth Smith, OF, SEA

I am bending the rules here as he only had a 289.2 FT distance, along with a 35.8% HHR, but Smith has been a guy who interests me for a while.  A career .833 OPS against righties means a hitters park would give him a good chance at reaching 20HR for the first time in his career. He is 33, but I still think there is a chance at him reaching 20 HR.

Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

A mega talent in the shadows.  Only managed a meager 10 home runs, but averaged 290 FT, and had the 39th best hard hit rate this year.  In 101 games.  A full healthy year will likely result in a massive breakout for Soler.

Stephen Piscotty, OF/1B, STL

And the Cardinals crank out yet another talented player.  He hit 7 home runs in 256 at bats, and averaged 304 FT on the balls he put in the air this season, the 13th longest average distance in baseball in 2015.

Welington Castillo, C, ARI

Welington is yet another player who loved the high skies of Arizona.  His 297.31 FT average was very strong, and he paired that with the 20th best hard hit rate in baseball.  With news of personal favorite Peter O'Brien switching back to catching, I wonder if Castillo could be shopped this offseason to help relieve the overflow of power bats they have. The team has other needs, but if he's back in Arizona, there is a very good opportunity for him to produce very nice power numbers again.  Castillo had the third best distance for a catcher behind Grandal, and a player to be named later.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

In an injury-shortened season, Freeman managed 18 homers in 118 games.  The rate along gives us reason to believe he'll be back in the 20 homer club next season, but what he showed on the field were peripherals that indicate more than just 20 homers coming soon.  The 18th best hard hit rate paired with the 39th best distance, 297.95ft, paired with one of the best contact rates in baseball might direct him closer to 30 than 20.

Brandon Belt, 1B, SF

San Francisco is officially the whole problem with Brandon Belt.  Year after year he searches for a way to combat pitching in the NL West, and being a left handed hitter in AT&T Park.  Belt had the 13th best hard hit rate in baseball, and a 291ft average distance.  We have reached the point where every player who played over 130 games and had a better hard hit rate averaged 37 homers.  Belt hit 18.  The sooner he moves, the better.

The remaining hitters are rookies or players with injury-shorted seasons.  I am extremely confident all of these players reach 20 homers next season if they play over 130 games.

Kyle Schwarber, OF/C, CHC

6th best distance, 307.75 FT, and the 12th best hard hit rate.  He hit 16 homers in 69 games, this is a slam dunk future power hitter.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET

No explanation necessary.  29th best average distance and 11th best hard hit rate.

Miguel Sano, DH/3B, MIN

This slugger, proved that the power was there this year.  He has the second best hard hit rate in baseball, making him one of the elite 10 hitters who had a hard hit rate over 40%, paired with the 21st best distance, 302.51FT, this season.  20 homers are in the bag for Sano next season.

All distances were provided by baseballheatmaps.com and all hard hit rates were courtesy of Fangraphs.com.