Using Advanced Metrics to Find the Next Best Hitter

by Josh Stevens
Using Advanced Stats to Find the Next Best Hitter

Welcome to our deep dive into how we can use advanced metrics to find the next best hitter for your Fantasy Baseball leagues!

You heard it throughout Little League and high school, usually after a loss. “If you fail seven times out of ten, you’re in the hall of fame.”

This might have worked 40 years ago when Wade Boggs would hit three or four singles up the middle every ten at-bats, but the game is drastically different today.

Gone is the idea that batting average is the be-all-end-all stat. With essentially each team having a guy who throws 100, new stats have had to take over. Along with the evolution of skill has been the evolution of advanced metrics to evaluate players.

While all of these new advanced metrics being thrown at us can get confusing, so which ones are the most useful to predict the next best fantasy baseball hitter?

Let’s take a trip over to Baseball Savant, everyone’s favorite advanced metrics website.

Using Advanced Metrics to Find the Next Best Hitter

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EV50

Exit Velocity is the average exit velocity for the hardest 50% of a player’s batted balls. While everyone will have at-bats where they just can’t get the barrel on the ball, what you do when you get a good swing on the ball is super important.

This stat here shows what players can do when they get a good swing on the ball. While you might think this stat is obsolete, as it only takes a player’s good swings into account and not the whole body of work, take a look at the superstars on the top 15 of this list in 2023.

PlayerEV50 in 2023 (MPH)
Aaron Judge107.4
Ronald Acuńa106.4
Giancarlo Stanton106.1
Shohei Ohtani105.7
Jake Burger105.0
Matt Olson104.8
Yordan Alvarez104.6
Juan Soto104.5
Rafael Devers104.5
Yandy Diaz104.3
Mike Trout104.2
Vlad Guerrero Jr.104.2
Julio Rodriguez104.1
Wilson Contreras103.9
Bryce Harper103.9

These are the guys whom you’d expect to lead a category like this. 15 all-stars and amazing hitters leading this list.

A Surprise Near the Top of Ev50.

But is it 15 all-stars? Look closer, and there are only 14 all-stars on this list. Right below the top four, who are all former MVPs, is Jake Burger of the Miami Marlins.

The former first-rounder had dealt with some injuries early in his career but broke out in 2023. While in Chicago, Burger was purely a power hitter. He belted 25 homers in 88 games but only managed a .279 OBP.

However, after being traded to the Marlins for pitching prospect Jake Eder, Burger remodeled his game. He hit nine homers in 55 games, still a solid pace, while improving his average to .305 and OBP to .355

I have some reservations about Burger’s walk numbers, but he’s still young and has more time to figure out plate discipline.

While the Marlins have a field that’s tough to hit homers in, guys like Stanton have shown that if you hit the ball hard enough, it’ll leave in Miami. Burger does this almost as much as anyone else in the league.

Barrels/BBE%

We looked at what happens once you get a good swing off, but who is putting good swings on the ball consistently?

I’ve used barrel percentage or barrels per plate appearance a lot on here. However, Barrels/BBE (Batted Balk Event) % is better, as it shows the percentage of thEV50e time someone is barreling up a ball when making contact with it.

The top ten for Barrels/BBE% has some familiar faces at the top of the list on EV50.

PlayerBarrel/BBE%
Aaron Judge27.7
Shohei Ohtani19.6
Yordan Alvarez18.0
Matt Chapman17.1
J.D. Martinez17.1
Jake Burger16.7
Marcell Ozuna16.6
Nolan Gorman16.6
Matt Olson16.4

By the way, shoutout to Aaron Judge for absolutely pacing the MLB in almost every advanced metric I’ve looked at.

On this list, the non-household names are Matt Chapman, Burger, and Nolan Gorman. While Chapman is too hot and cold for me, Gorman is an interesting case.

As I wrote here, while Gorman is a very good hitter, his true value comes from his position. Second base is traditionally one of the weakest spots, and Gorman is arguably a top-five hitter already at second base early in his career. If he cuts back on the strikeouts a bit more and has better BABIP luck, watch out.

K:BB ratio

Although this is a much more common stat than the other two, it’s certainly not something you’d see daily. Stat cast doesn’t have data on it, but it’s something you can find on any player’s Baseball Reference page.

While strikeouts are part of the game, each strikeout is a thorn in the side of your fantasy squad. On the other hand, points from drawing walks will add up over time.

While superstars top the leaderboard in walks, one name to keep an eye on is Ian Happ, who came in fourth with 99 walks.

Being linked to trade rumors for a couple of years had to have been rough for the talented switch hitter, but he should have a safe spot now as the Cubs contend for an NLC title.

Happ also plays second and will give you around 20 homers from that spot while leading the position in walks. While his strikeout numbers are a bit high, they’re fine when compared to his sky-high walk numbers.

Stay Away From…

wRC+!!  This is a great stat, don’t get me wrong. When comparing two hitters, wRC+ is fantastic.

However, it is largely useless when it comes to fantasy. This is because the big draw to wRC+ is that it eliminates variations due to parks.

While this is great for seeing how Julio Rodriguez would perform in a more hitter-friendly park, we established last week that park factors are a huge thing in fantasy. A metric that eliminates this does no good for fantasy.

All in all, some surprising faces have topped the list in these advanced metrics. Look for some increased power out of the second base spot with Nolan Gorman and Ian Happ.

More importantly, look for Jake Burger to make that leap into the upper echelon of hitters. He has a secure spot in Miami, is healthy; and will continue to hit a ton of balls hard.


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