In this week’s Fantasy Lookout, we will take a look at the game’s top hitters in terms of hard hit rate.
Hard hit baseballs are key since they are much more likely to result in a productive at-bat.
In an earlier Fantasy Lookout, we talked about how a batter’s hard hit rate is positively correlated with their power numbers.
While their HR/FB ratio may fluctuate in the short run, on average over a full season, the batters with an elite hard hit rate, coupled with a few other factors, should produce an elite home run total.
First, we will take a look at a chart of the best of the best in terms of hard hit rate so far in 2016. We will then dig a little deeper into a few of the hard-hitting mashers.
The Fantasy Lookout: Hard Hit Rate
Hard Hit Rate … Best so far in 2016
The chart below contains the Top 20 batters in terms of hard hit rate. I have also included some other batted ball data to give a full picture. The two far right columns shows the player’s career hard hit rate along with where their 2016 mark would rank when compared to their entire career. In addition, to provide further context, I have included the average of the Top 20 along with the MLB average of all qualified batters.
|Top 20 average||42.6%||22.8%||34.6%||40.8%||18.9%|
As a group, the Top 20 shows some common characteristics. In addition to making significantly greater hard contact, they also tend to hit more line drives, fly balls, and fewer ground balls with the end result being more balls that leave the yard. When we are looking for power hitters, we start by looking at the hard hit rate.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
This may be the farewell tour for David Ortiz, but he is going out with a bang. Nearly half of the 40-year-old’s balls in play are a hard hit, which is incredible. At this rate it is hard to say that MLBs RBI leader has been lucky given his .347 BABIP, he has earned it. With 45 RBIs in just 43 games, could Big Papi actually surpass his career high of 148 set way back in 2005? Probably not, but the fact that it is even a possibility, at his age, is insane.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
The most surprising fact of David Wright’s 2016 campaign has to do with his health. He has already nearly equaled his 2015 at-bat total in the early going. Whether due to his injury history or not, Wright has also changed his approach at the plate. He has become a Three True Outcome hitter posting a career high in terms of both strikeout and walk rate, while falling just shy of his HR/FB career high mark. The end result has been a putrid batting average along with his fair share of home runs.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto has not been his usual self so far in 2016. He is still walking a ton, but he is striking out at a career worst rate. The interesting thing is that his swinging strike rate is on par with last year and still below his career mark. Votto is also pulling the ball more than he has ever done in the past. When you couple that with his stellar hard hit rate, you start to get excited about his power numbers over the remainder of the season.
Fantasy owners should be expecting a batting average recovery, since his .257 BABIP is essentially 100 points less than his career mark, especially when you consider that the majority of his batted ball profile is fairly similar to his career norms.
Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets
Michael Conforto is a hard-hitting machine. In his brief stint with the Mets last year, he posted a hard hit rate north of 40-percent. This year, he has improved his hard hit rate up to 45.5-percent, while also increasing both his fly ball rate and pull rate. He looks like the real deal, especially against right-handers, and the homers should continue. A 2016 total over 30 should be the expectation.
Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers
V-Mart seems to have fully recovered from the injury woes that plagued him in 2015. He is striking the ball with authority at a career best rate. His year-to-date line drive and hard hit rates would both be new career highs. His is back to his old ways of hitting for average, driving in runs, and providing some thump to the Tigers lineup. If he remains healthy, Martinez should exceed 20 home runs and 100 RBIs when all is said and done.
Mike Napoli, 1B, Cleveland Indians
Mike Napoli has found an everyday home in Cleveland. He has also brought definition to the term “Grip It and Rip It.” Yes, he is squaring up the ball at a career best rate, but on the other hand, he has posted a strikeout rate of 37-percent, also a career high. If this continues, the batting average will continue to be worrisome, but the power numbers should be stellar in their own right. If he were to continue at his current pace, Napoli could very well set new career highs in home runs, runs, and RBIs.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Coming off his incredible MVP campaign of 2015, Josh Donaldson is doing his best not to relinquish his crown. It looks like he has decided that a new career best in home runs is the way to go in 2016. In addition to increasing his hard hit rate to a new career high, Donaldson has upped his fly ball rate by nearly 10-percent and his pull rate by just shy of 9-percent. He has done this all while maintaining his BB/K rate in line with his career average.
Donaldson may not challenge the .300 mark this year, but he should make a serious run at his 2015 home run total of 41. And another thing, he won’t continue to hit .182 with runners in scoring position.
Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Carpenter continues to evolve and adapt as a hitter. In his breakout campaign in 2013, he showed us he was an elite run scoring contact hitter. Then last year, he showed us that he could also hit for power while sacrificing a few more strikeouts. This year, Carpenter is continuing his thirst for power, but he has also cut down on his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate. The current version of Matt Carpenter is definitely more Fantasy friendly and it looks to be the new norm.
Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Yasmany Tomas was mostly a disappointment in 2015 as inconsistent play and a crowded lineup limited him to just over 400 at-bats. Now with a clear path to playing time, Tomas has started to live up to expectations this year. He has significantly cut down on his strikeout rate (26-percent to 19-percent) and doubled his walk rate (4-percent to 8-percent).
Those looking for more power from Tomas should also be happy with the 6-percent increase in both his pull rate and fly ball rate, in addition to his impressive hard hit rate mark. For the most part, Tomas’ stat line looks quite decent, especially when you consider his batting average of .204 with runners in scoring position.
Daniel Murphy, 2B, Washington Nationals
The way Daniel Murphy has started off his Nationals career, he has made his free agent signing look like a steal for Nats GM Mike Rizzo. He has followed up last year’s improbable postseason by hitting lasers all over the field. While it is unlikely that he maintains his .417 BABIP and .393 batting average, it is hard to call someone lucky that has a line drive rate of 26.6-percent and hard hit rate of nearly 40-percent.
His power gains seem sustainable given his batted ball profile, especially when you consider the increase in his fly ball rate.
Following a hitter’s hard hit rate is a great way to gauge a hitter’s performance. There is no luck in making hard contact, especially if it is done on a consistent basis. Thanks for tuning in. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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