As we near the halfway point of the 2016 campaign, Fantasy owners should have a good idea where they stand. For those in dynasty and keeper leagues, I am sure you are starting to see a few teams cry Uncle and start their plans for 2017 and beyond. Also, by now the waiver wire is probably void of any hidden gems so the main path to improving your team is through the trade market.
Trading is more of an art than a science. In any trade, you want to be buying the undervalued asset that has been a disappointment. On the flip side, you want to sell the overvalued asset that has been firing on all cylinders. This is another case of where you need to dig under-the-hood and find out which players’ stats foreshadow a turn of fortune.
In last week’s Fantasy Lookout, we took a look a three pairs of pitchers who should have their year-to-date performances flip flop as their headline stats catch up to their underlying peripherals. This week, we will try to uncover some of those coveted undervalued assets. We’ll do this by opening your eyes to five hitters who should be expecting a positive BABIP regression.
A hitter’s BABIP is the result of their type of contact. It is too often assumed that all extreme BABIPs need to regress to the mean. While this may be true in some cases, more often than not further analysis should be undertaken as their batted ball profile holds many of the answers. Looking back at a hitter’s career statistics is also highly recommended prior to coming to any sort of conclusion with respect to their BABIP.
BABIP; Better Luck Coming
The following chart contains five players that all deserve to have an above league average BABIP given their batted ball profile. Yet for a variety of reasons, luck being one of them, they have all suffered from a weaker than expected BABIP.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
While it may be a surprise to see Votto and his better than league average .307 BABIP on this list, after you examine his batted ball profile you will see why. In typical Votto fashion, he is hitting a ton of line drives (ranks 15th in MLB), never popping up (literally has a mark of zero), using the entire field, and continually making solid contact (ranks fourth in Hard%). In fact, he is doing all of those things (absent a slightly lower opposite field mark) at a higher rate than his career figures. Given his .355 career BABIP, his 2016 mark of .307 looks ripe for upward regression.
Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco Giants
Duffy burst onto the scene last year putting together an impressive rookie campaign. However, this year, despite near across-the-board improvements, on the surface it looks like he has struggled. Given that Duffy has decreased his strikeouts, increased his walks, and improved his already stellar contact rate (currently ranks 15th in MLB) shows that he is seeing the ball well so far in 2016. Duffy has also significantly increased both his line drive rate (ranks 29th) and opposite field rate (ranks fourth) providing further confusion regarding his relatively weak BABIP.
Given all of the above league average BABIP drivers, his current .277 BABIP should be closer to his .320 career mark. Luck has also not been on his side with RISP as he has posted a .193 batting average along with a .220 BABIP. Those numbers are clearly not sustainable and his RBI pace should pick up dramatically as he turns that around. Duffy has been better of late, as June has been his most productive month. Hop on board the Duffy Regression Train before it is too late.
Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Overall, Turner’s 2016 batted ball profile looks a lot like his career numbers. His line drive rate is a tad lower, his popup rate is a touch higher, and his opposite field usage and hard hit rate are both higher than this career marks. When you add in the fact that his numbers are all superior to the league average figures, it is puzzling to see his current BABIP of only .257. I see no reason why his rest of year BABIP will not be more in line with his .314 career mark. He has been coming on recently as during the month of June Turner has posted his best line drive and hard hit rates of the season. Justin Turner is a great buy low option out there as Fantasy owners should expect to see a whole lot of positive regression to his statistics.
Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Cozart has quietly been solid over the past two seasons. When you combine his injury riddled campaign last year with his year-to-date performance this year, he has hit .270 along with 19 home runs, 64 runs, 55 RBIs, and four stolen bases over just 457 plate appearances. Despite having a stellar line drive rate and hard hit rate that far exceeds both the 2016 league averages and his career marks, Cozart has only managed a BABIP of .277 in 2016. Given his batted ball profile, a BABIP closer to .320 would make more sense. Even if his apparent bad luck turns to just no luck at all, Cozart’s BABIP will head northwards and he should continue to be in the conversation of the Top 10 Fantasy shortstops.
Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
What is up with the water in Cincinnati? Suarez now makes it three Reds on this list of five hitters with lower than expected BABIPs.
Suarez has fit in just fine as the everyday third baseman for the Reds. Among third basemen Suarez ranks seventh (tied) in home runs, 11th in runs, 13th in RBIs, and seventh (tied) in stolen bases. His Fantasy owners have received a solid return on investment. He is on pace to get nearly 30 home runs, 80 runs, 80 RBIs, and almost 10 stolen bases. He has achieved all of this despite a surprisingly low BABIP of just .270. Given that his 2016 batted ball profile is better than both the league averages and his career marks, we should expect Suarez to post a rest of season BABIP at least in line with his .316 career figure. His breakout campaign should continue as Suarez looks to plant his flag as a mixed league relevant Fantasy asset at the hot corner.
A hitter’s BABIP recovery will directly lead to a higher batting average, plus their counting stat pace should also increase. More base hits will lead to more runs and RBIs, and even potentially more stolen bases and home runs. Targeting these BABIP improvers by buying them for less than market value is a great way to win a trade. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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