Barreling Up: Quantifying the Power Potential of the 2020 Minnesota Twins Via Statcast
Image courtesy of © David Banks - USA TODAY SportsAccording to MLB Statcast, “The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.” Keep in mind that those batting average and slugging percentage results are the minimum, so barreling the ball is a very good thing to do if you are hitter.
Barrels are essentially balls that are hit very hard (minimum of 98 mph) in combination with good angles (26-30 mph on balls hit 98 mph, but the angle range increases with velocity). Intuitively, it makes sense that hitting the ball hard at optimal angles would lead to good power, and that has been the case, as barrels correlate well with power numbers such as HR/FB%.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising to find some of Minnesota’s 2019 sluggers atop the barrels (Brls/PA) leaderboard, but we also find a few new Twins among the leaders. Let’s take a look at the Twins and see who are good bets to slug Minnesota through 2020.
1) Nelson Cruz – 12.5% Brls/PA, 93.7 mph EV, 13.1° LA, 51.5% Hard Hit
It’s really no surprise to find Nelson Cruz leading the Twins in barrels, but it is quite impressive that the 39-year-old led all of baseball. The results were there for all to see, as Cruz hit a team-leading 41 home runs in 2019. He was also third in average exit velocity and fifth in hard hit percentage (95 mph+) so Cruz has a lot going for him. If Cruz’s wrist holds up, he seems a good bet to continue in his defiance of Father Time.
6) Miguel Sano – 10.7% Brls/PA, 94.4 mph EV, 15.9° LA, 57.2% Hard Hit
While it’s not all that surprising to see Cruz at number one, some may be taken aback at just how high his understudy, Miguel Sano, comes in. Sano trailed only Aaron Judge in average exit velocity and led the league in hard hit percentage. Sano was no stranger to the long ball in 2019 as he hit 34 in just 439 plate appearances. A healthy Sano should put up big power numbers in 2020.
12) Mitch Garver – 9.7% Brls/PA, 91.1 mph EV, 15.3° LA, 50.0% Hard Hit
Mitch Garver’s short and compact swing brought loads of power into his breakout season. After putting up a .995 OPS as a catcher in 2019, it is only natural to expect some regression from Garver. However, his ability to hit the ball hard with a good launch angle bodes well for Garver’s future as a slugger. Hitting 31 home runs in 359 plate appearances was absurd, but his Statcast numbers show that his power should continue to play this season.
17) Josh Donaldson – 9.4% Brls/PA, 92.9 mph EV, 13.3° LA, 50.0% Hard Hit
A healthy Josh Donaldson showed what he can do in 2019, as he hit 37 dingers for the Atlanta Braves while his exit velocity ranked seventh in the MLB. His great glove at third will undoubtably improve the infield defense, but his patience and power at the plate will be an invaluable asset as well. Signed for the next four seasons and already 34-years-old, the Twins hope Donaldson will age as gracefully as his new teammate, Nelson Cruz. His Statcast numbers suggest his bat isn’t going away anytime soon.
The Next Tier
The 2020 Minnesota Twins will feature four additional hitters who were above average in barrels (Brls) last season.
24) Alex Avila – 9.0% Brls/PA, 91.4 mph EV, 9.4° LA, 49.0% Hard Hit
90) Jake Cave – 7.4% Brls/PA, 90.5 mph EV, 7.4° LA, 43.8% Hard Hit
92) Eddie Rosario – 6.9% Brls/PA, 89.1 mph EV, 16.7° LA, 36.0% Hard Hit
122) Max Kepler – 6.4% Brls/PA, 89.7 mph EV, 18.2° LA, 41.7% Hard Hit
It’s surprising to see newly-acquired backup catcher, Alex Avila ranked so high. While his exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are really good, his launch angle is below where it needs to be to hit loads of homers. Nonetheless, coupled with his ability to take walks he’s just fine for a backup catcher. Fourth outfielder Jake Cave is in a similar boat, as he hits the ball hard with an even lower launch angle. If he gets under the ball a bit more, he could see an uptick in home runs, but his playing time will likely be limited.
The final pairing of outfielders Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler don’t quite bring the punch of Avila or Cave, but their ability to launch the ball is what fuels their power numbers. The duo combined for 68 dingers in 2019 with Kepler adding 16 long balls to his 2018 total. Both Rosario and Kepler’s average home run distance is below the first group of sluggers, so they may be more affected by potential ball changes, but should still be good bets to hit for plenty of power in 2020.
So, there you have it. While repeating 307 home runs is probably overly optimistic, Twins hitters do have the underlying skills to expect big power numbers this season. Regardless of ball changes, Cruz, Sano, Garver, and Donaldson should continue to crush the ball and their supporting cast isn’t too shabby either. Brace yourselves for another bomba-filled thrill ride!
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