Reviewing the 2017 HR/FB Decliners

Yesterday, I reviewed my list of 2017 HR/FB rate surgers, utilizing my Statcast-fueled xHR/FB rate to identify the guys with significant upside. Today, I’ll recap the list of HR/FB rate decliners. Having not yet looked at my list, I’m nervous the leaguewide spike to record-setting home run numbers is going to make me look silly. Let’s find out!

2017 Home Run Decliners
Name 2016 HR/FB 2016 Park Adj xHR/FB 2017 HR/FB 2017 HR/FB – 2016 HR/FB
Gary Sanchez 40.0% 27.3% 25.4% -14.6%
Ryan Braun 28.8% 16.4% 17.3% -11.5%
Jung Ho Kang 23.3% 14.6%
Keon Broxton 25.7% 17.1% 24.4% -1.3%
Domingo Santana 27.5% 19.1% 30.9% 3.4%
Tyler Naquin 22.2% 13.9% 0.0% -22.2%
Christian Yelich 23.6% 15.3% 15.3% -8.3%
Willson Contreras 23.5% 15.6% 25.9% 2.4%
Jonathan Villar 19.6% 11.9% 19.0% -0.6%
Max Kepler 15.2% 7.8% 12.1% -3.1%

Not bad, not bad at all. Of the nine hitters that saw a Major League diamond this season, seven of them actually suffered a decline in HR/FB rate, this despite the fact that home runs flew out of parks at a record setting clip!

Gary Sanchez’s 2016 debut was epic and there was obviously zero chance he would come anywhere close to repeating that mammoth HR/FB rate. However, that xHR/FB rate did suggest his power was still gargantuan and better than his minor league HR/FB rates inferred. We all knew he would experience regression, but exactly how much was the big question. I’m guessing that even at his inflated 2017 cost, he still delivered a small profit for his owners.

At age 32, Ryan Braun suddenly posted the highest HR/FB rate of his career in 2016, which anyone could have predicted would decline. xHR/FB wasn’t too optimistic, as it suggested a true talent mark in the mid-teens. Sure enough, Braun’s HR/FB rate did slip to just above his 2016 xHR/FB rate mark. Overall, his season was a disappointment, so now the pendulum has swung the other way and he might come at a nice value in 2018.

Keon Broxton would seem to be one of the guys helped by whatever truly caused the home surge, which probably helped stave off more significant regression. I don’t know where his plate patience went as his wake rate took a dive, but he basically performed as expected.

In his first full season, Domingo Santana raised his already high HR/FB rate to above 30% and became a roto stud, contributing in all five categories. The high strikeout rate is scary, but he seemingly owns legit high BABIP skills to keep his batting average respectable. But is he going to steal double digit bases again? I would bet against, and a drop back into the low single digits would take a bite out of his value.

Tyler Naquin also made my BABIP decliners list, so none of you readers should have owned him on any teams! He recorded all of 40 plate appearances before getting the boot back to the minors.

Christian Yelich is sacrificing BABIP and batting average for power as his fly ball rate continues to rise, but he was never a legit 20%+ HR/FB rate guy. But if he could at least keep his fly ball rate in the mid-20% range, he’ll remain an excellent all-around contributor.

Willson Contreras bobbed along in the minors until he enjoyed a breakout 240 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2016, which has carried over to the Majors. Given his meh history prior, it was easy to figure HR/FB rate regression in 2017. Instead, he was one of the two players on this list that actually increased his HR/FB rate. Since his fly ball rate remains sub-30%, there is actually additional home run upside, but that assumes he could maintain a mid-20% HR/FB rate, which I’m betting will be a challenge.

Jonathan Villar’s plate patience vanished and he suddenly couldn’t make contact. But his home run power was still there, though it seemed like it was simply a matter of his doubles becoming homers, as his doubles and ISO actually plummeted. It would be cool if he got another chance at a full-time job as I think he’d be a good value, but poor defense everywhere he plays on the infield is a real problem.

Max Kepler was one of my favorite busts after a seemingly promising 2016, and although his HR/FB rate did decline as predicted, he delivered essentially the same offensive output. There’s nothing about his skill set that stands out in a positive way, but then again, he’s also not terrible anywhere either. He’s an interesting cat to invest in.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Bill
Member
Bill

FYI…wrong link for Villar.

J.D. Martin
Member
J.D. Martin

Looks fine to me

bunslow
Member
bunslow

“Jonathon Villa”, catcher, is definitely not the right link.

It’s a well known and long-standing bug in the FanGraphs website (existed since at least late 2015, if not significantly earlier)