Today, I move along to reviewing the six hitters whose 2018 xBABIP marks fell significantly short of their actual BABIP marks, suggesting serious downside in 2019. Let’s see how they ended up performing.
Success! Of the six hitters listed, five of them suffered BABIP declines, and all of them dramatic drops. Only Adam Engel failed to regress, and actually improved by a meaningful margin.
Willy Adames seemed like an easy call coming off a .378 BABIP, but he was a top prospect with a history of high BABIP marks in the minors. So you never know what fantasy owners decide to buy into. His BABIP fell precipitously, but did remain above the league average. He even improved his BABIP skills by raising his LD% to nearly 23%, from sub-20%, and cutting his already better than league average IFFB% nearly in half. Now this looks like a pretty solid batted ball profile. Throw in surprising home run power that was sustained from 2018’s breakout and you actually find an exciting young player.
As a slow-footed, fly ball hitter who hit a ton of pop-ups, it was a miracle that Renato Nunez managed to post a league average BABIP in 2018, much less a mark above .300. Sure enough, the regression fairy paid a visit and his BABIP came crashing through the .300 barrier. It’s a good thing he bopped 31 homers, or he would have been pretty worthless in both fantasy and real life baseball.
It’s rare to find a catcher with serious BABIP skills, but that’s exactly what Jorge Alfaro is showing us. Obviously, no one expects a hitter to maintain a BABIP over .400, so his appearance on the BABIP decliner list was no surprise. Yet, he still managed to post an elite .364 mark this year. How? in 431 at-bats, he hit nary a pop-up! He only hit a league average rate of line drives and his high grounder rate shouldn’t actually help since his speed is below average. His xBABIP last year was a robust .349, so he does appear to own legit high BABIP skills. It’s too bad his plate discipline is atrocious, but he possesses enough power to be above average offensively anyway.
Jeff McNeil cut his fly ball and pop-up rates, and yet his BABIP still fell by .022 points. They key here was unlocking the power he had teased in the minors in 2018, leading to a strong fantasy season.
It’s sad when even a .297 BABIP is at risk of tumbling, but that’s exactly the situation Justin Smoak found himself in heading into the season. Sure enough, it happened, as Smoak’s BABIP plummeted to a career low. The slow-footed fly ball hitter has struggled against all those shifts, and his ground ball BABIP fell to the second lowest mark of his career.
Adam Engel only got in about half a season, so sample size caveats apply, which is probably why he was the only one who exceeded his 2018 BABIP. I don’t know how he does it, as he posted a pitiful 21.3% IFFB%!
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.