2020 Forecast — Hitter BABIP Surgers

Two years ago, I introduced you to the latest iteration of my hitter xBABIP equation, this time incorporating the effects of defensive shifts. Let’s find out which fantasy relevant hitters most underperformed their xBABIP marks in 2019, suggesting the potential for dramatic upside in 2020…if the hitter maintains those underlying skills.

BABIP Surgers
Marcell Ozuna 23.4% 31.7% 3.5% 48.1% 4.8 6.3% 0.259 0.355 -0.096
Jurickson Profar 21.7% 30.0% 7.0% 37.7% 5.1 14.4% 0.218 0.299 -0.081
Yadier Molina 27.0% 30.9% 2.7% 41.8% 3.6 1.9% 0.289 0.357 -0.068
Danny Jansen 20.4% 35.3% 5.6% 42.4% 2.5 11.3% 0.230 0.296 -0.066
Lorenzo Cain 25.7% 22.1% 2.0% 36.5% 4.2 1.3% 0.301 0.359 -0.058
Brandon Crawford 23.4% 26.0% 2.4% 39.3% 3.2 11.1% 0.274 0.331 -0.057
Justin Turner 25.9% 38.4% 2.0% 50.4% 2.7 3.7% 0.304 0.360 -0.056
Derek Fisher 18.2% 30.7% 2.3% 38.2% 6.4 23.8% 0.244 0.298 -0.054
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%

I wonder if Marcell Ozuna’s suppressed BABIP was part of the reason why he had to settle for a one-year contract. Before 2019, he had only posted a BABIP below .300 once in his entire career, and it seems pretty clear that bad luck deserved most of the blame for his poor 2019 mark. In a nutshell, he hits a high rate of liners, hits the ball hard, and grounds into the shift infrequently. A BABIP rebound is as much of a lock as it gets.

You’ve lost interest in Jurickson Profar, haven’t you? But really, he was almost identical to his 2018 coming out party, with the only difference the paltry BABIP, which looks wholly undeserved. Yeah, he’s likely to hit at the bottom of the Padres lineup, probably opening the year eighth, and that certainly hurts. But at the very least, his batting average is going to rebound closer to the league average. And if he could manage to cut down on the pop-ups, his rebound chances rise even higher.

Yadier Molina, Lorenzo Cain, and Justin Turner were all discussed in last week’s Surprise! You Believed Their 2019 BABIPs, But Shouldn’t Have post and now you could see the components driving those BABIP marks.

Danny Jansen! Let’s start the hype machine. Given the weak catching crop, fantasy owners were excited by Danny Jansen’s potential to push his way into the top tier. Unfortunately, his weak batting average did more damage than the positives of his counting stats. But xBABIP provides hope that 2020 will be a lot better. While that xBABIP is still just league average, that’s still a heck of an improvement from .230!

Remember when Brandon Crawford had that random 21 homer season in 2015? Yeah, we haven’t really heard from him since. His 2019 BABIP was a career low, and Crawford’s BABIP has actually remained amazingly consistent. In six of his previous seven seasons, his BABIP tightly ranged between .290 and .307. That’s crazy consistency. Crawford’s BABIP skills did not decline whatsoever in 2019, as his line drive rate was excellent, he hit few flies and pop-ups, and was around average everywhere else. Sadly, he wasn’t rewarded for such a solid skill set. I’m as excited as you to draft him this year, but at least in your NL-Only league, you’ll know that at his likely depressed price, he’ll probably earn you a profit.

Derek Fisher’s numbers come over just 146 at-bats, so the sample size here is tiny. But given that he has a shot at strong side platoon at-bats, highlighting his BABIP upside is important. Obviously, he needs to cut down on that tendency to ground into the shift, or he’ll be a low-BABIP guy forever. I love his power and speed potential, but strikeouts are a real concern. So to overcome that strikeout rate, he’ll need a hefty BABIP or he’ll kill your average. He probably won’t be very expensive, so it’s an intriguing risk/reward guy.

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 can’t imagine drafting anybody on this list. And…I thought Derek Fisher was a coach in the NBA!