10 Hitter BABIP Decliners For 2018

Yesterday, I used my xBABIP equation to identify and discuss 11 hitters who might be in for a BABIP surge this season. Today, I’ll move on to the other side of the ledger — those hitters whose xBABIP marks were significantly below their actual BABIP marks, suggesting serious downside this year.

2018 BABIP Decliners
Jeimer Candelario 18.6% 33.0% 3.1% 28.9% 1.6 2.0% 15.2% 0.351 0.278 0.073
Mike Zunino 22.4% 39.9% 5.7% 38.6% 1.9 7.7% 35.2% 0.355 0.289 0.066
Rafael Devers 15.3% 30.7% 4.9% 34.6% 3.5 7.2% 39.5% 0.342 0.277 0.065
Lonnie Chisenhall 15.8% 40.8% 4.9% 33.7% 3.3 6.8% 34.0% 0.326 0.261 0.065
Avisail Garcia 20.3% 26.0% 1.5% 35.3% 4.3 1.6% 9.0% 0.392 0.332 0.060
Javier Baez 15.4% 32.6% 3.4% 32.4% 5.3 5.1% 22.3% 0.345 0.288 0.057
Jose Altuve 20.3% 29.7% 3.0% 28.2% 6.4 1.2% 5.5% 0.370 0.313 0.057
Marwin Gonzalez 19.9% 31.3% 4.9% 32.7% 3.2 8.0% 34.3% 0.343 0.287 0.056
Delino DeShields 20.2% 31.3% 3.5% 23.9% 7.1 0.0% 0.5% 0.358 0.302 0.056
Miguel Sano 20.6% 37.7% 2.8% 44.8% 2.9 6.3% 34.4% 0.375 0.320 0.055
Unweighted Avg 20.3% 32.3% 3.4% 31.9% 3.8 4.9% 22.3%
*True FB%
**True IFFB%
***Pull GB While Shifted%
****Averages not weighted by PA and only from my population set of 435

Jeimer Candelario enjoyed a respectable second cup of coffee with the Cubs last season and now enters 2018 as the presumed every day third baseman for the Tigers. And while his skills look decent all around, that BABIP over a small sample was a big, juicy fluke. He didn’t do anything special in his batted ball profile, but somehow managed to will his balls past defenders. He also wasn’t a big BABIPer in the minors, so expect a free fall here without a dramatic change in his profile.

Who BABIPs .355 and still only bats .251?! Mike Zunino, that’s who. Combined with big power, he was suddenly a strong fantasy catcher. The batting average, though, was a mirage. He’s one of the rare right-handers who actually gets shifted and grounds into them at a higher than league average clip, while he hits tons of fly balls and pop-ups. The LD% jump was nice and all, but it was significantly higher than anything he had done before. Even if he maintains such an inflated mark, it might not be enough to keep his BABIP above .300. Pay for the power and that’s it.

Everyone is excited about Rafael Devers and who wouldn’t be? Just don’t go expecting another .342 BABIP or anything close. The left-hander predictably grounded into the shift more frequently than the league and also hit too many pop-ups. He was never a big BABIPer in the minors, so I would bet big bucks on the under on the current quartet of projections on his page.

Somehow Lonnie Chisenhall has managed to significantly beat his xBABIP for four seasons running now. This came after two straight years of underperformance. He hasn’t even posted an xBABIP above .300 since 2012. Perhaps he’s an example of the need for more granular batted ball data in my equation. Still, anyone on this list is at least a little riskier.

Well duh, no one expects Avisail Garcia to BABIP almost .400 again. He does have legit BABIP skills though. He doesn’t hit many flies, few pop-ups, rarely grounds into the shift, hits it hard, and has some speed. Interestingly, he underperformed his xBABIP in 2015 and 2016. He’ll be right back to the low-to-mid .300 BABIP range again, which when combined with his lack of any standout contributions, means he’s not worth much in shallow mixed leagues.

For the second straight season, Javier Baez has obliterated his xBABIP. Amazingly, his xBABIP has remained almost identical from one season to the next, and his BABIP actually jumped another .009 points. Nothing in his batted ball profile screams high BABIPer, so it’s baffling that he has been able to sustain such high marks. Given the severe batting average downside in my eyes, along with the typical question marks about how much playing time he’ll actually receive, he won’t be ending up on any of my teams.

Jose Altuve hasn’t always crushed his xBABIP, but he has done that very thing in three of the past four seasons. He has never outperformed by this degree, however. He rarely grounds into the shift, hits grounders, and doesn’t pop-up too frequently, and of course possesses above average speed. But a mediocre line drive rate and below average Hard% make me question how he could do this. Given his cost, the downside risk just doesn’t make him worth it.

So apparently Marwin Gonzalez isn’t a lock for a full-time job to open the season and I was always under the assumption that even if he was, he would eventually lose it anyway. His appearance here is even more a reason to avoid him, especially coming off a surprise breakout that has driven his cost skyward.

That microscopic % BIP Shifted for Delino DeShields is funny to look at and he never grounded into the shift once all season! He also possesses excellent speed. And that’s where the positives end. With league average true fly ball and pop-up rates and no power to speak of, he had no businesses BABIPing nearly .360. Batting average collapses are far more dangerous for speed guys like DeShields, as that will reduce their opportunities in the primary category their fantasy value is accumulated from.

How does a huge, plodding slugger like Miguel Sano continue to laugh at xBABIP? This is now the third year in which he drastically outperformed the mark. His xBABIP marks have still remained respectable, but given his lofty strikeout rate, any large BABIP decline is going to make his batting average quite unpalatable.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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I really like deshields at his price (200+ adp) if you need a SB impact guy. the downside is essentially baked in. If you need more of a balance, Hicks or Herrera seem like better options but no one has the SB upside of deshields at that price