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Mining for breakout power hitters

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Ray identifies three breakout power hitters from 2015 and advises whether the breakout was real or not.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the World Series underway and the offseason hot stove beginning to percolate, its a good time to begin looking forward to the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today, I am going to take a look at the top home run hitters for the second half of the 2015 season to see if we can spot any breakout power hitters for the 2016 season.

Some in the list below are hitters we all expect to hit for power, such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Chris Davis, Jose Bautista, among many others. But some, like Mike Moustakas and Matt Carpenter showed off some unexpected power in the second half, and i want to take a closer look to see whether the power outburst was real or not.

Here are the top 30 home run hitters for the second half of the 2015 season:

Name

Team

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

ISO

SLG

wRC+

Chris Davis

Orioles

74

318

28

56

65

2

0.376

0.669

187

Carlos Gonzalez

Rockies

71

285

27

49

62

0

0.354

0.638

142

Jose Bautista

Blue Jays

69

306

23

52

54

4

0.322

0.585

159

Nelson Cruz

Mariners

65

293

23

46

40

1

0.298

0.592

163

Yoenis Cespedes

Mets

71

310

22

49

54

4

0.311

0.594

153

David Ortiz

Red Sox

66

274

22

41

65

0

0.376

0.701

185

Edwin Encarnacion

Blue Jays

61

268

21

48

57

2

0.363

0.700

201

Khris Davis

Brewers

71

259

21

36

48

6

0.296

0.545

128

Josh Donaldson

Blue Jays

69

317

20

57

63

3

0.313

0.615

171

Matt Carpenter

Cardinals

71

304

19

50

41

1

0.312

0.591

158

Nolan Arenado

Rockies

72

312

18

45

60

2

0.267

0.549

112

Bryce Harper

Nationals

72

311

16

59

38

2

0.266

0.586

182

Manny Machado

Orioles

74

334

16

46

38

7

0.204

0.476

127

Kole Calhoun

Angels

74

321

16

41

36

0

0.195

0.440

106

Jose Abreu

White Sox

73

324

16

38

55

0

0.229

0.514

131

Miguel Sano

Twins

69

290

16

42

44

1

0.260

0.512

141

Mike Trout

Angels

71

304

15

36

35

2

0.275

0.558

165

Robinson Cano

Mariners

70

305

15

44

49

0

0.209

0.540

157

Carlos Correa

Astros

67

291

15

34

49

9

0.233

0.514

137

Mike Moustakas

Royals

69

280

15

34

51

0

0.253

0.522

134

Anthony Rizzo

Cubs

74

321

15

46

53

5

0.223

0.478

126

Lucas Duda

Mets

49

195

15

25

35

0

0.341

0.591

160

Kyle Schwarber

Cubs

63

250

15

46

37

3

0.243

0.476

129

Matt Kemp

Padres

65

274

15

36

53

4

0.242

0.528

140

Pedro Alvarez

Pirates

68

204

15

26

36

1

0.274

0.525

137

Alex Rodriguez

Yankees

69

272

15

35

35

3

0.233

0.448

108

Joey Votto

Reds

73

325

14

53

38

6

0.255

0.617

211

Kris Bryant

Cubs

73

310

14

40

48

5

0.223

0.505

138

Franklin Gutierrez

Mariners

47

156

14

24

33

0

0.364

0.657

181

Kyle Seager

Mariners

73

330

14

49

35

5

0.201

0.465

120

Mike Moustakas, Royals

Moustakas led the minor leagues in home runs back in 2010, so we know he can hit for power. He just hasn't hit for as much power as we thought he would when he was called up. He did hit 20 home runs in 2012, but had hit just 27 home runs from 2013-2014 coming into the 2015 season.

That changed this season, as he changed his approach at the plate, attempting to beat the shift, and his power also improved. This season, he hit .284-.348-.470 with 22 home runs, 73 runs scored and 82 RBI in 614 plate appearances...all career highs at the ripe ole age of 27. Add in 24 doubles and 57 extra base hits, and you begin to think that Moustakas' power is for real.

Let's take a look at his batted ball data, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Season

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

Pull%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

2011

20.40%

38.40%

41.20%

4.20%

40.20%

32.00%

46.00%

22.00%

2012

16.40%

33.80%

49.80%

9.00%

43.50%

19.10%

55.20%

25.70%

2013

18.80%

36.60%

44.50%

6.90%

49.70%

20.80%

54.10%

25.10%

2014

20.20%

38.60%

41.20%

9.40%

50.50%

21.60%

46.60%

31.70%

2015

18.80%

39.90%

41.40%

11.20%

39.20%

19.50%

49.20%

31.30%

Total

18.80%

37.40%

43.80%

8.50%

44.60%

21.90%

50.50%

27.60%


Looking at his batted data above, his percentage of hard hit balls stayed relatively the same this season, while his medium hit balls increased slightly. He hit the same amount of balls in the air this season as last, but he did pull the ball more this season than last, so that could help explain the increase in power.

Here is a look at where his home runs landed in 2015, courtesy of Hit Tracker Online:

Scatter Plot of Home Runs for Moustakas, Mike
Overlay Ballpark: 

As you can see, pulling the ball more turned into more balls landing in the seats for Moustakas this season. He will have to maintain the fly ball rate, and maybe increase his percentage of hard hit balls, but I can see him hitting 20-25 home runs once again in 2016, with a chance for more.

Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

Wow!! That's all I can say about Carpenter's power breakout in 2015. After hitting just 25 home runs in over 1,700 plate appearances from 2012-2014, Carpenter hit 28 home runs in 2015. His season stats: .272-.365-.505 with 28 home runs, 101 runs scored and 84 RBI in over 700 plate appearances. He appeared to focus on hitting for more power this season, as his strikeout rate jumped from 15.7% to 22.7%, so I wonder if he was asked to swing for the fences more this season. If so, he was very successful.

Now, how do we value him for 2016? Let's take a look at his batted ball data courtesy of FanGraphs:

Season

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

Pull%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

2011

0.00%

45.50%

54.50%

0.00%

18.20%

36.40%

63.60%

0.00%

2012

23.80%

40.20%

36.00%

7.00%

32.50%

7.90%

57.90%

34.20%

2013

27.30%

38.70%

34.00%

6.10%

36.60%

9.70%

56.90%

33.50%

2014

23.80%

41.00%

35.20%

4.70%

31.90%

14.90%

51.70%

33.30%

2015

28.50%

29.70%

41.70%

15.80%

39.30%

11.20%

52.00%

36.80%

Total

25.90%

37.40%

36.70%

8.50%

35.20%

11.50%

54.40%

34.10%

We see that Carpenter did, in fact, focus on hitting for more power, as his fly ball rate increased from 35% in 2014 to 42% this season, and he pulled more balls as well. Add in the fact that he squared the ball up more than ever, he has a chance to repeat this power output in 2016.

Below you will see where his home runs landed in 2015,  courtesy of Hit Tracker Online:

Scatter Plot of Home Runs for Carpenter, Matt
Overlay Ballpark: 

As you can see from his scatter plot, 10 of his 28 home runs were pulled last season, yet 11 of them were hit to left center, which is usually a good sign for power hitters. The data tells me that he can repeat the home run production in 2016, but part of me is skeptical.

Khris Davis, Brewers

Like Moustakas, Davis' calling card is his power, so the fact that he is included in this analysis shouldn't be a big surprise. What is a surprise is the fact that he hit 21 of his 27 home runs in the second half, despite hitting more ground balls and his hard hit percentage drop from 40% in 2014 to 34% this season.

Season

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

Pull%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

2013

20.40%

42.70%

36.90%

28.90%

41.70%

11.70%

40.80%

47.60%

2014

21.40%

38.90%

39.70%

14.50%

43.60%

10.90%

48.80%

40.30%

2015

17.20%

42.50%

40.30%

24.50%

41.40%

17.90%

47.60%

34.40%

Total

19.80%

40.70%

39.50%

20.00%

42.60%

13.50%

47.30%

39.20%

Davis hit just .247-.323-.505 with 27 home runs, 54 runs scored, 66 RBI and 6 stolen bases in just over 400 plate appearances. While he strikes out a lot, he also walks more than 10% of his plate appearances, and his isolated power and slugging percentage both improved this season.

Below is Davis' home run scatter plot courtesy of Hit Tracker Online:

Scatter Plot of Home Runs for Davis, Khris
Overlay Ballpark: 

Davis' batted ball data also shows that he pulls the ball quite a bit, and that didn't change in 2015. As you can see from his scatter plot below, most of his home runs were not pulled, but were hit to left center and center field. Actually, he hit more home runs to right field than he did to left field this season, so there is more power to come from Davis in 2016, and he should come cheap in most leagues, as he isn't the first name, or the first 30 names one would think of when looking for a power hitter on draft day. Invest with confidence.