Believing the Breakouts: Haniger & Lowrie

Mitch Haniger

No one seemed to be targeting Mitch Haniger this draft season with a final NFBC average draft position (ADP) of 219. I picked him up in Tout Wars for $2 in the end game. He seemed to be a player in which owners settled for but didn’t necessarily want. Times have quickly changed as Haniger belted his 8th home run of the season last night and is 8th on ESPN’s player rater. While some regression is possible, most of his early results are sustainable.

Besides the home runs, the 27-year-old outfielder hasn’t been “lucky” to start the season even though his slash line is .324/.395/.716. His .314 BABIP is under his career make of .319. While both his walk (10%) and strikeout (20%) rate have improved, they are each with 2% points of his career numbers.

His good eye has been helpful in keeping his production going as pitchers have adjusted to him. Last season, pitchers threw in the strike zone 48% of the time. This season, that number is 45%. He’s just taking what the pitcher is giving him and driving the ball with 13 of his 24 hits going for extra bases.

But now that power. To start with, here’s a comparison of his power related stats over his first three seasons.

Mitch Haniger’s Batted Ball Information
Season HR/FB ISO Max EV Avg EV GB% Avg LA
2016 14% .174 113 92 39% 14
2017 16% .209 101 83 44% 11
2018 30% .392 110 93 34% 19

Haniger’s core power numbers are close to those posted in 2015 except he’s lifting the ball more this season. The big drop came in 2016 when he went on the DL twice (oblique, face) and missed some time with a finger injury. Here’s a look at Haniger’s 2106 ISO and HR/FB% by month.

Mitch Haniger’s 2016 Monthly Power Stats
Month HR/FB% ISO
Apr 18% .266
May DL
Jun 14% .123
Jul 5% .103
Aug 15% .263
Sept 23% .261

The oblique injury cost him one and a half months of production and possibly sapped his power in June and July. His HR/FB% averages out to 18% and he ISO to .264 in his three good months. The 18% HR/FB% is his career value so that seems like a reasonable projection going forward. The ISO value is 40 points above his career norm and 60 points above his projections.

I grouped the hitters who averaged an 18% HR/FB% over the past three seasons and their average ISO was .199. There is some possible regression coming with his power numbers but they shouldn’t crater. Overall, I feel good about his results continuing moving forward based mainly previous healthy power stats and his good eye at the plate.

He may be a nice buy high candidate if his current owner is looking to cash in on his early season success. Since they spent little for him, they will not have his value anchored to a high auction price or draft pick.

Jed Lowrie

So far this month, 34-year-old Lowrie is putting on a show with a .347/.411/612 slash line with six home runs. He has always been a late-round option for owners who missed out on better infielders. His average NFBC pick was #413 but is now 10th on ESPN’s player rater. Not bad for a player likely on the waiver wire to start the season.

Unlike Haniger, Lowrie’s profile screams for a heavy dose of regression. Currently, his BABIP is .403. His career value is .297 with a seasonal best of .326. His HR/FB% sits at 22%. His career mark is 7% with 11% being a seasonal high. Digging deeper, nothing points why the breakout is happening.

His walk and strike rates are within 2% points of his career numbers. He’s pulling the ball at his career rate (39%). The one item with some variance is his groundball rate. It’s jumped from 35% to 43% to 29% to 42% over the past four seasons. In 2016 when he posted the 43% GB%, he only hit 2 HR. It’s time to go digging into the StatCast data for answers.

Jed Lowrie’s StatCast Information
Season Max EV Avg EV Avg LA
2015 105.8 89.0 16
2016 107.0 85.7 11
2017 106.3 88.8 19
2018 108.1 91.1 13

The launch angles (LA) move in sync with his groundball rate.

First, ignore the numbers from 2016 when he missed a ton of time dealing with lower foot injuries which ended up costing him the last third of the season.

This season, his maximum and average exit velocities are both up 2 mph. Using some of my previous work, his ISO should be around the .225 mark if his EV stays up.

Overall, I expect some heavy regression from Lowrie except for his power which I don’t see regressing as much. He’s hitting the ball harder than any time previously but nothing else points to his breakout being sustainable. Owners should be looking to sell when possible.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
kenai kings
6 years ago

Regarding Lowrie.
I read before the 2017 season that he had a medical procedure to deal with a sleep disorder. He proclaimed to feel much better and the early results confirmed that. If you were to look up his stats before and after that time it can not be denied he is a different player.
Don’t sell so quickly .

5 years ago
Reply to  kenai kings

Absurd that this got down voted

5 years ago

Absurd that your post got as many upvotes as his informative post too.

5 years ago
Reply to  kenai kings

He got hit in the face with a ball during a camp years ago, and had surgery to repair a deviated septum (partially obstructing airflow, couldn’t get decent rest at night).

He also had a joint capsule repair on his big toe (issue thought to be a bunion for a couple years) and is moving more easily.