Are you ready for Fantasy Baseball talk yet?
You can analyze the Super Bowl matchup and predict who will win. Or you can predict who Lebron James and Stephon Curry will draft for their Conference All-Star rosters for the upcoming NBA All-Star game. Maybe you can even watch the Olympic trials to see which Americans have a great chance to win a medal in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
I will choose to start conducting my Fantasy Baseball research. It is never too soon to dive into Fantasy Baseball preparations. I started my research by looking at players who possibly had career seasons in 2017 and will regress in the 2018 season. Let’s take a look at 5 Fantasy Baseball Regression Candidates for the 2018 season.
5 Fantasy Baseball Regression Candidates for 2018
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
Elvis Andrus had an outstanding 2017 season. He combined a .297 average with career highs in hits (191), doubles (44), RBIs (88) and OPS (.808). Furthermore, Andrus hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career. His previous career high? A meager eight! He’s gone a complete season without hitting a home run (2010) and had three consecutive seasons (2012-14) in which he didn’t top four long balls. He has hit just 35 HRs over his first eight seasons combined! Can we expect this power to continue?
In addition to those career stats, he had career worsts in strikeouts per plate appearance (6.82) and total strikeouts (101). His hard contact rate was just above 30% last season, while he has a lifetime 24.4% hard contact rate. Andrus was even caught stealing 10 times (35 attempts).
Elvis Andrus is a good shortstop who had a great season and enjoyed the fly-ball revolution in 2017. If you are drafting him expecting another 20/20 season, you will be quite disappointed. Don’t pay for a repeat.
Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Before 2017, Paul DeJong had never played above Double-A baseball. All he did in his big-league debut in 2017 was slam 25 homers in 417 at-bats while slugging .532 and take over the starting shortstop position.
While DeJong’s raw power was generally considered his strongest skill, he was not considered a can’t miss prospect. Baseball America ranked DeJong as the 14th best Cardinals prospect after the 2016 season. Throughout MLB history, countless rookies have surprised their organizations with their first-year performance. Baseball is a game of adjustments. Pitchers and defenses will be on top of DeJong’s’ weaknesses, forcing him to adjust in order to keep pace and further develop.
Maintaining his .285 average will be difficult given his questionable plate discipline. His 4.7 percent walk rate combined with a 29.1% strikeout rate is not a favorable formula for consistent success. His average should settle down in the .250 to .260 range and we should see a dip from the .349 BABIP in 2017 based upon his strikeout rate. DeJong is worth owning in all formats due to his power from the MI position, but don’t expect the huge power numbers that DeJong produced last season.
Marwin Gonzalez, Utility, Houston Astros
Well, no one saw this coming! Marwin Gonzalez often went undrafted, thanks to a record of unremarkable production and inconsistent playing time. There was nothing in his track record to indicate a breakout like this was likely.
The switch-hitter broke out in a huge way with a .303/.375/.530, 34 doubles and 23 homers. Gonzalez led the Astros with 90 RBI and sported a .907 OPS, sitting behind only Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the category. He set career-best marks in all positive offensive categories except triples and steals. Plus, his eligibility for multiple positions made him even more valuable.
Looking into the fantasy crystal ball for the 2018 season, I believe that his 2017 season will be the peak of his career. This type of drastic increase is not sustainable based on his former mediocre numbers. There are several cautions signs to indicate this regression. Gonzalez hit 16 home runs in the first half of 2017 to only seven in the second half. He only produced a soft contact rate of just above 18%. Also concerning is his play away from Minute Maid Park. He had an unflattering 1.56 GB/FB ratio away from home.
When you are thinking of announcing Marwin Gonzalez as your next selection to your fantasy roster in 2018, do yourself a favor and do not look at his 2017 stats. He is a career .268/.317/.421 hitter in 1977 MLB at-bats and I would project him to produce a similar stat line for the Astros and your fantasy teams.
Avisail Garcia, OF, Chicago White Sox
Coming off a breakout season in 2017, his .392 BABIP led all of baseball by a large margin, topping second-place Charlie Blackmon’s figure by a 21-point margin. The righty OF had a slash line of .331/.380/.506 in 2017 with 18 HRs, 80 RBI and 75 runs, ALL career highs.
In his first five big league seasons, Garcia slashed a paltry .258/.310/.385 batting line and has not shown he can put together two consecutive quality seasons at the plate in the MLB.
Is Garcia a one-year wonder? He will need to have another solid season offensively in 2018 to prove his 2017 season was not a fluke. Garcia’s commitment to conditioning resulted in losing 18 pounds in the offseason. Additionally, the improved preparation and mechanical adjustments contributed to an 85-point leap in his batting average.
Garcia will be pitched to more carefully. With his breakout season, it will certainly open more eyes around the league, and he will need to make adjustments offensively. The dramatic increase in his batting average seems to be a fluke, evidenced by his lack of plate discipline (16.3 swinging strike rate, third-worst in MLB). Never pay for a career season, so let Fantasy owners draft Garcia as a top outfielder. Garcia will be no more than a third outfielder in 2018.
Alex Wood, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Overall it was a very good season for Alex Wood. He went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA (25 starts). Wood absolutely dominated in the first half going 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA and allowing only two HRs over 80.2 innings. On the other hand, his second-half numbers have to make Fantasy owners nervous. His K rate dropped from 10.8 to 6.8/9. Furthermore, he gave up 13 home runs in 71.1 IP in the second half.
Alex Wood is not built like a workhorse. He had two DL stints in 2017 and has a poor injury history prior to 2017. He did have to take a few weeks off due to shoulder ailments but he still made 25 starts. Wood was in the mid-90s at the beginning of the season but as the season progressed he was sitting only around 90-91 miles per hour on his fastball. The question is if Wood can hold up for a full season?
As a frame of reference, his rankings over the course of the entire 2017 season dropped as the season wore on. In the first half, he ranked seventh but in the second half, his ranking dropped considerably to 40th out of 58 qualified starters.
There are too many concerns about his durability and his second-half freefall to warrant Top 25 starter consideration for 2018. In addition, I believe the Dodgers will continue to limit the starters innings again in 2018 which will limit Wood’s Fantasy production and value.