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Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds - Barrels (Week 5)

We're cruising right along on our Statcast Hitter Studs/Duds series. Many fantasy baseball owners are starting to see the value of MLB's Statcast advanced stats in order to help identify potential risers and sleepers.

Just as we do for pitchers, this weekly series will examine a handful of hitters who are performing surprisingly well or poorly according to sabermetrics. While we're working with the wonkiest season of all time, that will never stop us from searching for risers and fallers for possible buy, sell, add, or drop possibilities.

Each week, I will select a different metric to evaluate unexpected names at the top and bottom of the Statcast Leaderboards. Even if you aren't well-versed in Statcast, you can understand the concept of a "barrel", and that's what we'll take a look at from the past week.

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Surprising Chart Toppers

All stats current as of the morning of August 17, 2020. The qualifying benchmark for our purposes here is at least 20 plate appearances from 8/10-8/17.

 

Brandon Lowe - 2B, Tampa Bay Rays

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 94.0 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 68.2%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 31.8%

Lowe has hit well all year, but seeing him at the top of the barrel percentage chart is jarring. The 26-year-old had a solid 2019 campaign, posting a 125 wRC+, although he was plagued by a ghastly strikeout rate (34.6%). He's cut that strikeout rate down to 24.7%, and he's making the best contact of his professional career by far--his 20.7% barrel rate on the season dwarfs the 14.1% he put up in 2019.

Lowe is a legitimate source of power, and you'd do well to ride this hot streak for as long as it continues. In a short season like this, he can be a legitimate difference-maker. Right now, he's a great DFS play against lefties, who he's currently hitting an even .400 off across 29 plate appearances.

 

Willy Adames - SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 96.5 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 60.0%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 20.0%

Look at that, another Tampa Bay Ray. I've been waiting patiently for an Adames breakout for three years now, and we may be knocking on the door. Adames' current exit velocity (91.2 MPH) and hard-hit percentage (46.3%) both stand as career highs, and he barreled up the ball three times in the last week after barreling up just 30 times in 2019 as a whole. I would warn that the excellent contact is buoying his .284 batting average a bit (.436 BABIP), but you'll certainly take the flash of power in exchange for some batting average in this season where offense seems to be at a premium.

Adames smacked 20 homers in 2019, and while I'm willing to chalk some of that up to the questionable ball construction last year, the 24-year-old shortstop could be a consistent 20/10 guy if he can keep the stroke going. For 2020, he likely won't jump off the chart in any specific metric, but he's absolutely startable moving forward unless we see some sort of steep drop-off.

 

Elvis Andrus - SS, Texas Rangers

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 92.1 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 50.0%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 15.0%

The top-notch contact Andrus made in the last week is hopefully a sign of good things to come, because he's been brutal at the plate so far in 2020. Andrus still hasn't popped a big fly yet, but you didn't draft him for the power. His .223 wOBA is the killer--if he can't get on base, he can't steal bags. Fortunately he's brought his walk rate (7.3%) back up after two rough seasons in that department, and he has suffered from some bad luck (.212 BABIP).

I'm choosing to believe the recent uptick in exit velo and hard-hit percentage is an indicator of future success for the veteran infielder. You're probably still benching him against righties, who he's hitting a paltry .148 against this year, but keep an eye on the increased hard-hit percentage.

 

Alarming Bottom Dwellers

All stats current as of the morning of August 17, 2020. The qualifying benchmark for our purposes here is at least 20 plate appearances from 8/10-8/17.

 

Francisco Lindor - SS, Cleveland Indians

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 90.3 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 50.0%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 0.0%

Lindor is one of those guys you're never going to really "worry" about, especially in a short season. However, a cold start in 2020 could spell disaster if you drafted him as early as most did. Coming into today, Lindor is on pace for the lowest wOBA (.297), lowest wRC+ (83), and lowest walk rate (4.2%) of his career. The Statcast metrics may tell the tale--in 2020 he's averaging the lowest exit velocity, barrel percentage and hard-hit percentage that we've seen from him in the last three years.

You're not benching him, and he's probably going to figure it out sooner rather than later--he had three extra base hits last night, as a matter of fact. It's still so strange to see Lindor's name among the very worst for solid contact in any given week.

 

Rafael Devers - 3B, Boston Red Sox

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 87.9 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 31.3%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 0.0%

I could have listed several Boston Red Sox here, but I'll highlight the third baseman. Devers is fresh off a breakout season in which he hit .311 with 32 homers, all while mustering a strikeout rate of just 17.0%. In 2020, he's hitting a brutal .182 while striking out in nearly a third of his at bats (30.1%). As bad as the lack of contact is, the drop-off we've seen when he DOES make contact has been equally troubling. Devers hard-hit percentage ha fallen off a cliff, sitting at 32.7% on the season after 48.4% in 2019. He's one of the worst hitters in baseball at the moment:

I think the real Rafael Devers is much closer to the 2019 model than what we're seeing so far in this weird-as-hell season. With that said, if he's drowning aboard a sinking Red Sox ship, there isn't much incentive to keep starting him.

 

Charlie Blackmon - OF, Colorado Rockies

Week 4 Exit Velocity: 82.8 MPH
Week 4 Hard-Hit Percentage: 25.0%
Week 4 Barrel Percentage: 0.0%

Let's be clear here--Blackmon still hit .417 this week. He's not slumping by any means, but my eyebrows are raised by the relatively weak contact he's making right now. The .500 BABIP isn't going to last if he's not hitting the ball squarely, so this to me is a warning sign that he might be cooling off. The low exit velo isn't overly concerning, give that Blackmon has posted an average between 86.7 and 88.8 MPH every year of his career--his season-long velo is still 88.5, right on the money. The zero barrels in 27 plate appearances is a bit odd for him though.

You're not benching the NL batting average leader any time soon, but it's worth monitoring his advanced metrics at the very least for DFS sake given his typically astronomical pricing.

 

 



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