Fantasy baseball is a game of hidden truths. Good fantasy players know that there’s often another story behind a player’s actual stats in a season. A player’s batting average can often be greatly influenced by a share of lucky hits over a season. That can cause us to incorrectly value the player in the following year if we are only looking at their AVG. Drafting a good fantasy baseball team in 2017 requires knowing which players’ numbers were not sustainable.
Stats such as Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP) are a stepping stone in trying to identify hitters who benefited from luck. When looking only at the balls that were hit into play, we can start to see which hitters had more hits fall into play than should be expected.
As you might assume, hitters have a certain amount of control over types of balls they hit into play. That’s where Expected Batting Average On Balls In Play (xBABIP) comes in. Looking at things like how many line drives a player hit, how hard they hit the ball, whether they hit it to opposite field regularly and their speed, we can calculate what BABIP we’d expect from a player. Using that xBABIP, we can see whether their actual BABIP was above or below that expectation.
Once we have a player’s xBABIP, we can convert it into their expected batting average (xAVG). By looking at how many balls they hit into play, we’ll see how their AVG would be affected if they had their xBABIP instead of their actual BABIP. Comparing xAVG to AVG gives us a way to see who was overly lucky.
10 High AVG Hitters Due To Regress
Hitting .300 is usually used a benchmark for saying who the best hitters in the league are. Of hitters with 200 PA last year, only 35 players reached the .300 milestone. They may seem like great players to target in 2017 but be careful of the regression dragons coming to get them. Listed below are 10 of those hitters who are due for a big drop in AVG based on their xBABIP numbers:
- Ryon Healy, 3B OAK – .305 AVG vs .249 xAVG
- Devon Travis, 2B TOR – .300 AVG vs .253 xAVG
- Aledmys Diaz, SS STL – .300 AVG vs .254 xAVG
- Sandy Leon, C BOS – .310 AVG vs .256 xAVG
- J.T. Realmuto, C MIA – .303 AVG vs. .257 xAVG
- David Dahl, OF COL – .315 AVG vs .267 xAVG
- Cameron Maybin, OF DET – .315 AVG vs .274 xAVG
- J.D. Martinez, OF DET – .307 AVG vs .280 xAVG
- Jose Ramirez, 3B CLE – .312 AVG vs .284 xAVG
- Trea Turner, 2B WAS – .342 AVG vs .298 xAVG
How Concerned Should You Be?
The biggest name on this list is Trea Turner as he is going in the first round of many drafts after only 324 PA in the majors. His xAVG still has him as a borderline .300 hitter but still has him dropping over 40 points of AVG. That drop in AVG would affect his other counting stats too like R, RBI and SB opportunities. Now, his minor league numbers suggest that he should still hit for .300 so his low xAVG may be a result of small sample sizes. That being said, I still have reservations about already anointing him as worthy of a first-round pick.
The other top names on this list are J.D. Martinez, Davil Dahl, Jose Ramirez and J.T. Realmuto. Martinez’s AVG numbers haven’t been consistent over his career as he’s hit as low as .241 in his career and as high as .315 so it is harder to find a true baseline for him but he should see some decline from his .307 AVG regardless. With his high price tag and his expected AVG drop, I have reservations about drafting him this year. Jose Ramirez meanwhile went from under-performing in 2015 (.219 AVG and .232 BABIP) to over-performing last year. If true regression occurs, he’ll fall somewhere in the middle of his 2015 and 2016 totals.
The next tier of guys are going in the middle rounds and are Aledmys Diaz, Ryan Healy and Devon Travis. All three are looking like possible fantasy baseball sleepers on the surface but all three will likely experience at least some regression in 2017. Don’t spend too high of a pick on them expecting a repeat of their performance last year.
Some late round options that may seem tempting based on their AVG are Sandy Leon and Cameron Maybin. Despite the pending drop in AVG, they are being drafted in the late rounds of drafts so luckily you likely won’t have to worry about whether they are worth a gamble for you.
Though these players didn’t hit .300, they’re likely to be taken in your drafts but are due for major drops in AVG based on their xBABIP numbers.
- Hunter Pence, OF SF – .289 AVG vs .229 xAVG
- Willson Contreras, C CHC – .282 AVG vs .238 xAVG
- Javier Baez, 3B CHC – .273 AVG vs .239 xAVG
- Xander Bogaerts, SS BOS – .294 AVG vs .259 xAVG
- Carlos Gonzalez, OF COL – .298 AVG vs .262 xAVG
Pence is now going pretty late in drafts but the other players here are all being drafted early. If their xAVG was their real AVG last year, you can bet that they’d not be valued as highly as they are. If you’re a believer in x-stats, you’d be wise to avoid them in the early rounds of your fantasy baseball drafts. Let someone else take the gamble on them.