Didi Did It…Gregorius Adds Power, Boosts Fantasy Stock

Man, no one saw this coming. Didi Gregorius ended up finishing 11th in fantasy value this year, actually making him worthy of a starting shortstop slot in shallow mixed leagues! We certainly didn’t expect this. Our preseason rankings valued him as just the 22nd best shortstop, and the most bullish ranking had him at 16th. Although he only improved marginally on the offensive side from a real baseball perspective, he made enough small gains to push himself into fantasy asset territory.

One of the key strides he made was with his strikeout rate, which hit a career best mark. It was driven by a decline in SwStk% to a career low and a jump in Swing% to a career high. So he both swung more often and made contact with greater frequency. That also explains his troubling walk rate trend, a mark that has declined each season! It fell to a laughably low 3.2%, which ranked third worst in baseball among qualified hitters. That’s how you could post a respectable batting average 20 points above the league average, and yet still manage an OBP nearly 20 points lower than league average. He still managed to score 11 more runs than he did in 2015, but it should have been more given the increased power output.

Speaking of that increased power output, Gregorius was one of the many who helped drive the leaguewide power spike. His ISO surged to a new career high, jumping from well below average in 2015 to just above league average this season. His HR/FB rate also reached double digits for the first time. Let’s see if his Statcast metrics provide an explanation:

Didi Gregorius Statcast Metrics
Season Fly Ball Exit Velocity (FB EV) Barrels/Batted Ball Event (Brls/BBE)
2015 83.04 1.3%
2016 83.76 2.9%

Hmmm, not so encouraging. His FB EV barely budged and sat far below league average, and while his Brls/BBE more than doubled, it came off a tiny base, so it still remains extremely low. What’s interesting is that he pulled his fly balls at a lower clip this year, which would normally be a negative since every single home run he’s hit in his career has been pulled. But, the fewer pulled flies obviously didn’t hurt him. We also can’t point to Yankee Stadium because he was there in 2015 as well, and he has only posted marginally higher HR/FB rate marks at home versus away. Unlike some other surprising power surges, this one looks like a real fluke, unsupported by the advanced metrics.

Although Gregorius has posted good strikeout rates, he has never been much of a batting average contributor. That’s because his career high BABIP sits at just .297, and career average stands at .289. Unless he changes his batted ball profile, xBABIP doesn’t see much hope for optimism in the future. His 2016 xBABIP sat just slightly higher at .296, while his career xBABIP is .294. That’s just below league average.

Since we can’t count on any more than just a handful of steals, his BABIP upside, and resulting batting average potential, appears limited, and his power spike seems like a fluke, he’s at great risk of dropping back into worthless territory in shallow mixed leagues next year.

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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