In our continuing series on the Sabermetric analysis that shapes our Player projections in our 2018 Player Projections Software. Today we'll take a look at some of the indicators that are defining our 2018 1st Basemen projections:
Abreu, Jose Abreu rebounded in '17 with a 33/102/95/..304 line. His elite 41% was the best of his career, but that's going to be a feat difficult to match or exceed in 2018. As good as his 2017 was, his RBI count was underrepresented by 16, so although some regression is expected in the overall numbers, his RBI rate count should maintain itself.
Alonso, Yonder Yonder sacrificed some of his excellent contact rate last season (84% to76%) for an increase in power, more specifically increasing his contact rate from 32% to 36%. The result was a huge jump in HR/FB rate from 5% to 19%! When we take a look at his Distance and BBS (399/103.3) and combine that with his Hard Hit rate, we just don't see how that can be sustainable in 2018. Expect considerable regression to the mean here.
Bell, Josh Lots to love here, but the 19% HR/FB rate of a season ago is likely unsustainable based on the 33% Hard Hit rate and 401 distance and 104.4 BBS on his HRs. BA should rise as his .219 Singles % appears under represented.
Bellinger, Cody Cody exploded onto the scene last season, dropping a 39 hr/97rbi/87 RS/10 SB/.267 BA line in his first season. One of the best rookie seasons we've ever seen! So how much of this is repeatable for this blooming star who will only be 22 this season? His 43% Hard Hit rate and 105.6 BBS and 408 distance on his HRs are elite, but his 25% HR/FB rate is inflated. He'll probably settle around a 20-21 rate in 2018. Which will trickle down the RBI rate. The BA of .267 is right in line with his underlying indicators (.298 BABIP). His RBI count and RS count will rise based on more ABs, but the rate is likely to drop. Then we must consider the sophomore slump, a phenomenon that has creditability based on opposing pitchers making adjustments...and we saw some of that adjustment in the 2nd half when Bellinger only hit 14 of his 39 HRs. He's a legit top 30 player, but there is some risk in taking him too early
Belt, Brandon Very unlucky .191 Singles% hurt his BA in 2017, and the belief is that the shift really hurt him in 2017. Hard hit rate remains excellent at 38%. Unfortunately the HR, and RBI count stays muted while playing in SF. RS count gets boosted with his 13% BB rate.
Bird, Greg Bird has been hampered with injuries the last 2 seasons. Has not shown any difficulty handling LHP, and he continues to maintain a solid 37% Hard Hit rate in limited Abs. Ignore the 190 BA in his limited play last season, the 135 Singles% was unlucky....but teams that deploy the shift on him have found success. He'll post a legit 16-18% HR/FB rate, which could pay big dividends in this stacked lineup.
Bour, Justin Was on pace for career season before an injury cut his season short. Finished with 25 HRs and 83 RBIs in only 377 Abs. Found his way verses LHP, hitting a career best 483 SLG against. His 39% Hard Hit rate and 105 BBS are both elite, but expect to see some regression in the 26% HR/FB rate. BA was overstated based on his 74% contact rate and 322 BABIP, but that should be the only regression in 2018.
Cabrera, Miguel His batted ball speed and HR distance was less than usual last season (390/104), but he continues to hit the ball hard on a consistent basis (43%). Obviously his totals will improve over a healthy season, but at 35, his production is not likely to match his 2016 season.
Carpenter, Matt Only has a Swinging strike rate of 6%, yet hits the ball hard 42% of the time. Has become a very flyball centric hitter, increasing his FB rate from 1.16 GB/FB to .5 GB/FB. Hence the pickup in HR production. The 12% HR/FB rate is under his potential, especially considering the 47% pull rate of a season ago. Despite upper cut, the hard contact typically keeps his average in very respectable range...look for a pickup in the BA in 2018. This is assuming that he'll do better against the shift, were he batted just 250 on infield balls. RBI count was understated last season, so there should be an increase there.
Cron, C.J. Flyball centric hitter, with 5% walk rate. 75% contact rate hurts his BA, Runs Scored, and RBI categories. Has 20+ HR potential, but below average in other categories. Superior 107.7 BBS and 411 distance on HRs in 2017. Can take it to the next level if he can continue to hit lefties as he did last season in limited ABs.
Davis, Chris Davis still has big time power and the consistency is there as evidenced by his 42% contact rate. What has been failing him is the increase in strikeouts. Last season we saw a 5% jump in his K% (37%), which of course kills his BA. Look for an increase in RBIS as well in 2018, as he was shorted about 10 last year.
Duda, Lucas Hit 30 HRs last season, but his 21% HR/FB rate was well above his norm, as was his 42% Hard Hit rate. Although there was a drop in his contact rate from 79 to 75%, his BA was abnormally low, based on an unlucky .148 Singles %.
Encarnacion, Edwin Still posting an elite 38% Hard Hit and 105.1 BBS on HRs. The average distance on the HRs appears to be dropping (411 to 403), but this is to be expected of a soon to be 35 YO. That said his 21% HR/FB rate is definitely on high end, which means that we'll likely see a drop in overall production, but he'll still be a legit 3rd or 4th rounder in most draft formats.
Freeman, Freddie Freeman could have posted another huge season, had it not been for injury in 2017. His 38% hard hit rate remains elite as does his 20% HR/FB rate. Batting average appears to have been fortunate thanks to a 335 BABIP, but RBI count was discounted by almost 20.
Goldschmidt, Paul Hard Hit rate increased last year from 38% back up to 44%, and a lot of that could be explained by the drop in IFFB rate that jumped from 14% back to 8% last season. That said his 31% HR/FB rate of the 2nd half inflated his overall 25% HR/FB rate of 25%, expect a drop there, which will affect his overall numbers. Still a solid top 10 pick, but odds are against a pick up in his overall 2017 numbers.
Gonzalez, Adrian At 36, how much gas is left in the tank. Underlying indicators have been steadily falling the last few years, as his Hard Hit Rate has dropped from a high of 39 to only 32% last season.
Gurriel, Yuli Freakishly low 11% K rate last season, makes him a legit perennial .300 hitter if he can maintain that with the 35% Hard Hit rate. Although the BBS and distance on his HRs were around league average, his hard hit rate makes him as more than a 11% HR/FB hitter. The only downside is that at 34 YO, he's on the downslope of his potential.
Healy, Ryon Healy had a big season last year (25HR/78RBI/66RS/.271), which was largely unexpected. The HR/FB rate of 15% is a little inflated, as was his BA which was based on a .320 BABIP. The only other concern was his 36% chase rate, which may be exploited by opposing pitchers in 2018. Other than that there is a lot to like here, but don't be surprised if we see a step back in 2018.
Hosmer, Eric Hosmer remains a heavy groundball hitter, as evidenced by his 2.5:1 GB|FB rate. That plays well with his average, but leaves the power categories with unrealized upside. For now his owners will need to be content with a mid twenties HR total and 90-100 RBI, which plays well in mixed leagues. Also a plus is his 9.5% Walk Rate which also provides owners with a healthy RS contribution. Still relatively young enter his 28th year.
Joseph, Tommy HR/FB rates settled into more reasonable 15% territory, offering some upside based on his 35% Hard Hit rate and 105.6 BBS on HRs. The Phillies made a puzzling move in signing Carlos Santana, which basically blocks Joseph right now.
Martinez, Jose Very good contact skills for a power hitter (81% / 19.5 K%) with 10% BB rate. Posted a solid 37% Hard Hit rate and above average 403 distance and 104.3 BBS on his HRs. The 21% HR/FB rate will stabilize around 15-16%, but he's got other categories to help fantasy leaguers including a healthy BA.
Mauer, Joe Big uptick in quality of contact last season with 38%, which is significantly above his norm (30%). HR/FB rate of only 7% under represents HR totals, but he's a low teen guy there. Look for some regression to the mean with the BA as his .349 BABIP is not likely sustainable.
Moreland, Mitch 76% contact rate leaves average at risk, although he does hit the ball very hard when he makes contact, as evidenced by his elite 106.2 BBS on HRs last season and his 39% hard hit rate. Fell off a little against LHP again last season (.342), which will continue to limit some of his ABs. RS total of 73 last season appears to be slightly inflated.
Morrison, Logan Put together his first healthy season in forever. Have top self quality when he connects (37% Hard Hit rate/105 BBS on HRs), but the 74% contact rate does leave him a bit short in the BA department, especially with the .72 GB/FB rate. That said it's going to be difficult to maintain the 23% HR/FB rate, so expect a regression there, which will trickle into other areas.
Myers, Wil Unlucky 192 Singles% in the 2nd half limited his BA, especially when you consider his hard contact rate was elite all season 41%. Legit 30 HR hitter with elite 22% ISO. We'll have to see if he gets to hit lower in the order, as he could pop over 100 RBIs if he does. For now we're projecting him in the 2 slot which limited his RBI expectation.
Napoli, Mike Batting average is always a concern here as his 34% K rate has steadily increased in recent years and his heavy FB rate (1.4 to 1 FB to GB), is going to typically keep his BA below 230. Elevated 21% HR/FB is not enough to make up for the deficiency in contact rate.
Olson, Matt Olson displayed a ton of power with 24HRs in only 189 Abs. Of course the 41% HR/FB rate is not sustainable, but the underlying indicators point to a hitter that does have elite ability. Looking at his AAA numbers last season, they were indeed somewhat comparable to his limited MLB time with 23 HRs in 294 ABs, a 21% HR/FB rate. It not realistic to think that he'll maintain the 40% hard hit rate, but the 105 BBS and 403 distance on his HRs is legit. The 70% contact rate w/ the heavy .8 GB/FB rate will leave his average at risk and in the 240-250 zone, but he's going to drive in runs.
Ramirez, Hanley Coming off of disappointing season, despite Hard Hit rated (35%) and BBS on HRs (106.6) still being in superior ranges. A lot of that had to do with some poor luck on his Singles% of only .219 which is about 25 points less than norm. RBI numbers also appear to be shorted by about 12 last season. Bounce back expected, but at 34, 2016 will likely be his career season.
Reed, A.J. Ton of power potential (37HR/.525 SLG in AAA last season), but the poor contact rate keeps him at bay. Improving...and could make an impact in 2018, but currently blocked.
Reynolds, Mark The 24% HR/FB rate will obviously take a big hit, as Reynolds has typically been in the 15-18% range, and of course the 97RBIs from a season ago are likely to take a big hit. 68% Contact rate hurts his BA, and the 343 BABIP is going to be very difficult to maintain.
Rizzo, Anthony All of his numbers from 2017 are sustainable with possible upside in the HR department as he matures. Was unlucky with his .214 Singles% in 2017, so we should see a small rise in BA.
Santana, Carlos Moves to a considerably better ballpark for power, which should prop up his HR/FB rate from the 12% of a season ago. The move to the middle of the order should also increase Santana's RBI totals. What may take a hit is his RS category, as the Phils roster is inferior to that of the Indians.
Smith, Dominic With Adrian Gonzalez signing with the Mets, Smith is likely to have another season to develop. Smith hit his power stride that season as he upped his .112 A+ ISO in 2015 to .155 in 2016 without any deterioration in his approach rates. The telltale sign in that 2016 stat line is the drop in GB% from 47.9% in 2015 to 41.8% in 2016. That ISO rise has continued last year and the rest of his plate rates have held, but what is significant is the increase in Smith's pull rate, the fourth increase in four seasons, up to 42%. The bottom line is that Smith is installing his game power without giving much ground at all in his hit tool. It's still an open question of whether Smith will develop position-level power however and that could be a problem from a fantasy standpoint. Still, he no longer looks like he'll be a major power drain either. He could be a .300/20 hitter and at 22-years-old there may not be much more in the way of gains with his physicality. He's a very good hitter, however, and at 6-2/39 he should be able to generate enough physical power to allow us hope for a little bit higher ceiling. He could develop much in the way that Freddie Freeman has and surprise us, but that would indeed be a surprise. I'm projecting something close to that .320/20 level, which makes him a decent CI. Long-Term Fantasy Grade - B+ Lou Blasi
Smoak, Justin Smoak finally posted his career season at 30 YO. His 38/90/.270 season is going to be difficult to replicate. However given a repeat of full time play, he's a lock for 30+ HRs with that superior 39% Hard Hit rate. This all came despite a poor BA against the shift. If he stays in the 3 or 4 slot his RBI count could climb into the 3 digit area, even with a reduction in the 20% HR/FB rate.
Tellez, Rowdy The B level prospect broke out in a big way in 2016, posting a .297/.387/.530 line with 23 homers in 124 Double-A games. Then regressed to only a 11% ISO in AAA last season.
Thames, Eric Looked like an MVP in the first half with 23 HRs, but only posted 8 in the 2nd half, as the inflated 30+ HR/FB rate neutralized. Showed excellent Hard contact skills throughout (42 overall and 40% in the 2nd half), so don't expect a collapse here. Unlikely to beat his totals from last season but still a producer in the HR and RS categories (relative for a power hitter).
Travis, Sam The 23-year-old right-handed hitter is 6-2/205 and as you can see below Sam controls his strike zone, makes contact and hits for average. Save for his first jump to AAA, he's also posted better-than-average K rates even with his outlier SwStr% in high-A. He came from college (and a strong tour up here in the Cape Cod League) and brought his hit tools with him. He has been strong out of the gate but suffered a developmental delay when he tore his ACL a year ago. Sam has bounced back well this year, and he's posted a high-minors-high .167 ISO. I bring it up because the real question is whether he has enough pop to make him viable at first base or DH, which are basically the only two options here. I have seen no evidence so far that he has position-level power. Long term Sam's lack of power potential caps his value quite a bit. Long-Term Fantasy Grade - C Lou Blasi
Vargas, Kennys Demonstrates exception power when he makes solid contact as evidenced by his 426 distance and 108 BBS on his 11 hRs last season. However the 29% hard contact rate is below average and his 17% Infield flyball rate killed his upside last season. Still only 27, so there is expectation that he'll put it together at some point.
Votto, Joey Votto seems to improve every season, but will be 34 to start the season, and there are some signs that his production may begin to tail off. Despite the most season last year 36 HR/100 RBI/106 RS/.320BA, his Hard Hit rate dropped from 39% to 36%. On a positive note, his Contact rate increased from 83% to 86% as he became more aggressive at the plate (decline in pitches per AB from 4.3 to 3.9). Additionally he took more of an upper cut, his GB/FB rate went from 1.45 to 1.03. He's a bonafide late 1st round/ early 2nd round selection, but a regression seems probable.
Zimmerman, Ryan Finally played a season with over 500 Abs, and posted a career season by all accounts. How this all came together at 32 is a bit of a mystery. His Hard Hit rate jumped from 35% to 41% and his HR/FB rate exploded from 13% to 27%. Regression is more than expected, but Zimmerman will still post above average returns....just don't pay for 2017 here or you will be very disappointed.
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