2020 Forecast — Hitter BABIP Decliners

Last week, I used my hitter xBABIP equation to identify and discuss 8 hitters who could enjoy significant BABIP spikes this season, if they maintained the underlying skills driving those marks. Today, I’ll talk about the other side of the coin, those hitters whose xBABIP marks suggests serious downside this season, unless they improve their underlying skills.

BABIP Decliners
Yoan Moncada 23.1% 32.6% 1.9% 39.3% 5.6 11.2% 0.406 0.333 0.073
Tim Anderson 23.8% 26.3% 1.3% 32.2% 4.7 3.7% 0.399 0.336 0.063
Tom Murphy 19.0% 43.7% 2.9% 37.9% 3.5 11.5% 0.340 0.282 0.058
Fernando Tatis Jr. 22.4% 29.1% 1.8% 41.9% 7.1 8.4% 0.410 0.354 0.056
Francisco Mejia 19.5% 36.1% 8.3% 35.7% 3.7 13.8% 0.319 0.265 0.054
Bo Bichette 22.6% 30.2% 3.4% 32.7% 3.3 1.6% 0.368 0.315 0.053
Kris Bryant 20.9% 38.2% 5.0% 35.8% 4.0 16.4% 0.331 0.279 0.052
Keston Hiura 24.0% 34.6% 3.4% 44.2% 5.6 3.7% 0.402 0.351 0.051
Michael Chavis 19.5% 32.8% 2.7% 33.6% 3.1 6.4% 0.347 0.296 0.051
League Average 21.4% 32.2% 3.5% 38.0% 4.4 10.0% 0.298
*True FB%
**True IFFB%
***Pulled Ground Ball While Shifted%

The knock on Yoan Moncada was always the high strikeout rate, almost guaranteeing he hurts your team’s batting average. But in 2019, he not only reduced his strikeout rate, he also also recorded the highest single season BABIP among qualified hitters since Rod Carew’s .408 mark all the way back in 1977. He certainly showed fantastic BABIP skills, with line drives, few pop-ups, power, and speed, all resulting in an excellent .333 xBABIP. But a .406 mark?! C’mon! His xBABIP was only marginally better than the .318 and .316 marks he posted during his previous two seasons. So far, he is showing some xBABIP outperformance ability, but we’ll see how long it lasts. Bottom line, his skills didn’t improve all that much from 2018, but he won’t return to the .230 range if he could sustain those strikeout rate gains.

Tim Anderson’s BABIP marks have really bounced around throughout his career, and amazingly, he boosted it by more than 100 points from 2018. Of course, his xBABIP was only 18 points better, suggesting he was super unlucky in 2018, and super lucky in 2019. As usual, the truth is always somewhere in between. He shares similar skills with Moncada, though with fewer fly balls (good for BABIP, especially if you’re fast), less power, but fewer grounders into the shift. It all adds up to a slightly higher xBABIP than his teammate. Surprisingly, he actually ran less often per plate appearance despite getting on base far more frequently. The key here, like above, is whether Anderson could sustain those strikeout rate gains. We know he won’t BABIP near .400 again.

Man, don’t the Rockies wish they gave Tom Murphy more of an opportunity! Not only did he show the big power we hoped for in Colorado, he did it while surprisingly not killing his fantasy team’s batting average. But with tons of fly balls, and avereagish or worse marks everywhere else, xBABIP thinks he actually deserved a sub-.300 BABIP. If that BABIP comes crashing down, you might be left with a recent Mariners catcher known for his power and low batting average, Mike Zunino.

All it took was 372 plate appearances with a .410 BABIP and former top prospect status to vault Fernando Tatis Jr. to the 17th ADP in NFBC drafts this year. Between his HR/FB rate and BABIP, there’s going to be some major regression here in multiple skills. However, xBABIP does validate his serious BABIP skills, as he does everything well. But no one could sustain a BABIP this high, and given the strikeouts, will take his average well below .300. That will also reduce his stolen base opportunities. There’s such a range of outcomes here, he could easily become a top 3 pick in 2021, or regress enough across the board that he fails to come close to earning his cost.

Don’t let Francisco Mejia’s inflated BABIP fool you into thinking he’s a sleeper C1. While the power potential is there, it’s unlikely to come with batting average (thanks to a ton of pop-ups), and he still has Austin Hedges to contend with.

At an ADP of 72, fantasy owners aren’t salivating as heavily for Bo Bichette as Tatis, but it’s still a high price given the mere 212 plate appearances he has recorded. Not to mention a clearly unsustainable BABIP and HR/FB rate well above anything he had posted previously. xBABIP does think he deserves an above average mark, but it was mostly due to an avoidance of grounding into the shift. I should point out that his Spd score was abnormally low during his debut, and that has hurt his xBABIP. If it was at 6.0, instead, his xBABIP would climb to .328. Bichette surely brings a wide swatch of skills, without all the strikeouts Tatis comes with, but there’s also regression possibilities in multiple metrics to be aware of.

Kris Bryant is a perennial BABIP overperformer, as he has done so by a significant margin every season since his 2015 debut. A guy who hits as many flies and pop-ups as he does, who also grounds into the shift more frequently than the average hitter, shouldn’t be consistently BABIPing over .330 each year. But he just keeps doing it. This was actually the lowest BABIP of his career, as his rate of grounders pulled into the shift surged to its highest mark, but that just merely means he outperformed that xBABIP by the second highest mark of his career. I have no idea what he’s doing to keep outperforming, and by such a significant degree.

Keston Hiura is yet another 2019 rookie who enjoyed a dazzling debut, and he’s had a history of huge BABIP marks in the minors. xBABIP does agree he displayed serious BABIP skills, calculating a .351 mark, but that’s still over 50 points worse than what he actually posted. Like some of the others on the list, the strikeouts are a concern, and makes a BABIP decline a greater risk to his fantasy value.

Gosh, so many rookies, so little time. Michael Chavis is yet another who enjoyed a solid debut, but this is a guy who wasn’t all that impressive in the skills typically driving BABIP. However, he’s got one thing going for him, the other on this list don’t — home games at BABIP paradise Fenway Park. Sure enough, his home BABIP was a robust .372, while his away mark was far below that at .315. It’s interesting that his away mark was still well above his overall xBABIP. Because of his home park, he’s likely to continue outperforming his xBABIP (which isn’t park-adjusted), but not to this degree, and his away BABIP is at major risk without a skills improvement.

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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Is there something about the rookies that makes them stand out? are teams shifting them but maybe shouldn’t or not shifting them when they should be ? Probably just random, but I wonder if they are beating the shift or something – maybe your xBABIP takes this into account, but I find it interesting that more than half of these players were rookies last season. – or maybe it has a lot to do with having under 250 balls in play and a fair amount of noise?