Well, the numbers say it’s legit, and the most telling number of all is the Barrels stat.
The Barrels stat is the latest tracked stat from Statcast. A Barrel, per MLB.com, is defined as a well-struck ball with a combination of exit velocity and launch angle that generally leads to a minimum of .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage. To put it in simpler terms, it combines exit velocity and launch angle to show the area of the zone where the balls are mashed resulting in the higher positive results.
The top right part of the graph shows the Barrel Zone, where the hardest hit balls are.
Another graph by MLB.com shows that the Barrel Zone is “an area that begins at 98 mph between 26 degrees and 30 degrees, and expands outward from there. The higher the speed of the ball, the wider the range of launch angle exists for a ball to be considered a barrel.”
The players you’d expect to be toward the top are there, with Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo having the most Barrels in the league last year, with 72, 68 and 67, respectively. But Davis is fourth on the list.
While we often refer to Chris Davis of the Orioles as the elite masher, Khris Davis made it a race last year. Overall, Davis had 65 Barrels in 2016, ranking him ahead of players like David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Evan Longoria, Chris Carter, Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant. While it’s impressive in its own right, Davis was arguably the biggest masher of all last season, with his 18.2 percent Barrels per batted ball event.
Davis sustained his rate over the course of the season, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t keep the rate going next year, too. He should be on your radar as a legit Top 15 outfielder you can probably get by making him the 25th outfielder off the board, increasing the value on your investment.
While Davis had the 18.2 Barrels per batted ball event, rookie slugger Gary Sanchez mashed in his own right with 18.8 percent Barrels per batted ball event. Granted, the sample size was much smaller, as Sanchez had 128 batted ball events compared to 357 for Davis.
Is Sanchez going to regress in his second year? Yes, by default. What he did was unsustainable. But his Barrels numbers are encouraging for those buying into him.
While going through the leaderboard for Barrels, most of the names listed were ones that you expected to see. However one caught my eye, as Kendrys Morales had 46 Barrels last year, one behind George Springer and Manny Machado, and ahead of the likes of Kyle Seager, Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo.
Morales doesn’t have the elite Barrels per batted ball event that hovers around 18 percent like Sanchez, Davis and Cruz do, but he has a respectable 11.6 percent rate, which was 22nd in baseball for those players with at least 300 batted ball events.
I bring Morales up, because like Davis, he doesn’t seem to be getting the kind of hype that he should early in the offseason. The beginning of last season was rough for Morales, but a big second half led him to a 30-homer season.
It’s why the signing of Morales may be the best of the offseason yet for the Blue Jays. Look at where Morales has been stuck so far in his career: Anaheim, Seattle and Kansas City. All lean toward being pitcher parks historically, whereas Toronto is one of the top hitter’s parks in the league.
While the Blue Jays said that signing Morales doesn’t mean that they are automatically assuming that neither Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion will be returning, it would be a wise guess that neither will be back with Toronto.
What it means is that Morales is going to be getting every day at-bats in a hitter-friendly environment for the first time in his career. If he hit 30 bombs with Kansas City last year, what’s the ceiling for his power in Toronto?
Morales’ power translates – of course – to Toronto. Even if the Blue Jays’ lineup no longer has Bautista or E5 in it, Toronto still has one of the better lineups in the league with Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin.
Morales is someone I’m targeting in the middle rounds in drafts, as a career year could be on the radar for him in the Six.