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Digging Deep Series: Looking under the Hood – Hot Rod or Lemon

Digging DeepIt’s only been a week but already we can take a look at some batted ball numbers in StatCast. MLB has downloadable leaderboards for average exit velocity, ‘barrels’ per plate appearance and expected batting average – both for hitters and pitchers.

Taking a look after about a week of games is not particularly definitive. However, because it’s a game of probabilities, there are some underlying metrics that can push the needle slightly in one direction or another. Thus, we bring you: looking under the Hood – Hot Rod or Lemon

Taking z-scores of xwOBA, Avg EV, Avg Dst (which is essentially a combination of EV and launch angle), Barrels/PA, we can see who has resulted in the top (or bottom) percentile. Let’s take a look. Note that the number in parentheses is the z-score for that characteristic.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

Hot Rods

Pete Alonso

xwOBA (1.26) + VelAvg (0.98) + DistanceAvg (2.34) + Barrels/PA (3.32)

The young rookie first baseman has settled in quickly at the top of the Mets lineup. The percentage of his plate appearances that end with a barreled ball is 80 grade. And his strength and bat speed has the ball traveling fast (60 grade) and far (70 grade).

All in all, he is a 60-grade offensive threat. Already.

Christian Walker

xwOBA (1.63) + VelAvg (1.71) + DistanceAvg (0.64) + Barrels/PA (2.50)

When Jake Lamb went down with a grade 2 quad strain, Christian Walker became a popular add as he is the odds-on favorite to gain the most playing time. His underlying batted ball skills suggest that he will not disappoint. I will be bidding big this week.

Niko Goodrum

xwOBA (2.02) + VelAvg (0.93) + DistanceAvg (0.89) + Barrels/PA (1.25)

Niko Goodrum?? As surprising as it sounds, Niko Goodrum who is sporting a .296 batting average “should” actually have a .362 BA due to his 60-grade barrel rate, exit velocity, and average distance. Overall, his xwOBA is 70 grade (98th percentile). He could be a sneaky guy to grab from your opponents – who are likely frustrated by the Detroit lineup’s haplessness.

Rowdy Tellez

xwOBA (1.13) + VelAvg (1.61) + DistanceAvg (1.86) + Barrels/PA (0.94)

With the Blue Jays in full-on sell mode and Justin Smoak being felled with a nagging neck injury, the young slugging first baseman has taken advantage of his early opportunities by knocking the cover off of the ball. I happened to be standing in centerfield when he hit his 449-foot dinger to the Rogers Centre Flight Deck so I can attest that the boy can hit it far. Velocity and Distance is a 65 grade, his plate appearances end in barrels at a 60 grade. Solid batted ball skills all around. When you see that Smoak is essentially league average in all of these categories and that the Jays aren’t afraid to trade their veterans – it isn’t a leap to see Tellez end up with 550 plate appearances the rest of the season.


Charlie Blackmon

xwOBA (-1.01) + VelAvg (-1.98) + DistanceAvg (-0.95) + Barrels/PA (-1.17, zero barrels in 40 PAs)

The former first rounder is not showing that he’s on the path back to the upper echelon…yet. His batted ball stats are in the bottom 15% in the league (bottom 3% for average exit velocity). It’s obviously early – but I would definitely prefer if it were only his results that were lagging – and not the underlying components.

Brian Dozier

xwOBA (-1.74) + VelAvg (-1.55) + DistanceAvg (-2.35) + Barrels/PA (-1.17)

The Nationals’ second baseman is possibly the only one playing worse in Washington than the bullpen – and it’s not a fluke. He is not hitting the ball with any authority. Although his batting average of 0.080 is not going to stay that low – but know that his expected batting average is only .159.

Eloy Jimenez

xwOBA (-1.21) + VelAvg (0.39) + DistanceAvg (-2.32) + Barrels/PA (-1.17, zero barrels so far in 30 PAs)

The freshly-minted rookie outfielder hasn’t been tearing up the South Side just yet. He is hitting .250 (“should” be 0.200) and only his exit velocity is above league average…and barely. I have no doubt that he will eventually produce commensurate with his pedigree (and to what he is being paid despite no MLB experience) – I just don’t know when it will be.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

xwOBA (-1.16) + VelAvg (0.14) + DistanceAvg (-1.15) + Barrels/PA (-1.17, zero barrels in 36 PAs)

Oh no! Not JBJ! As you know, we have been ‘all the way with JBJ’ here at Prospect361, having him as a 2019 sleeper in numerous articles. Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to the hype (after one week). But neither have any of the Red Sox. We know they’ll bounce back – and we’re pretty sure that Jackie Bradley Jr will too. Pretty sure….gulp.

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