Hitter xwOBA Underperformers — Jun 21, 2022

It’s been nearly a month and a half since I reviewed the hitters who had been most underperforming their xwOBA marks at the time. With nearly 40% of the season in the book, let’s revisit the underpeformers. I generally wait until June to truly dive into my roster and start looking to make trades, so now is a good time to identify targets.

xwOBA Underperformers
Max Kepler 0.261 10.2% 0.244 0.310 0.396 0.538 0.326 0.398 -0.072
Alec Bohm 0.308 7.7% 0.252 0.298 0.347 0.483 0.281 0.353 -0.072
Corey Seager 0.226 17.6% 0.230 0.294 0.440 0.580 0.321 0.392 -0.071
Giancarlo Stanton 0.289 27.5% 0.258 0.302 0.505 0.628 0.361 0.430 -0.069
Christian Walker 0.180 20.7% 0.201 0.275 0.483 0.610 0.336 0.405 -0.069
Will Smith 0.257 11.8% 0.243 0.294 0.416 0.576 0.336 0.404 -0.068
Max Muncy 0.184 6.9% 0.153 0.209 0.270 0.425 0.284 0.352 -0.068
Whit Merrifield 0.251 3.2% 0.229 0.278 0.312 0.440 0.259 0.327 -0.068

Max Kepler is the league’s biggest xwOBA underperformer and it’s thanks to a combination of underperforming both on batting average and slugging. However, his .261 BABIP is actually his highest mark since 2017 and above his career average, though he’s improved his batted ball profile, tilting it more toward grounders, which should have a positive effect. His 10.2% HR/FB rate looks in the range of possibilities, but Statcast thinks he’s significantly underperforming his xSLG, suggesting more homers should be flying out. He has also posted his best walk and strikeout rates of his career. There are actually a lot of good signs here, so he could make an excellent under the radar target.

The Phillies second overall prospect a couple of years ago, Alec Bohm’s MLB career hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. However, Statcast thinks he should be hitting for far more power than he has. One problem here is his low FB%, so even if he raises that HR/FB rate back into double digits, it still won’t result in a high home run total for a corner infielder. Perhaps an NL-only and deep mixed league target, but I don’t see him as worth it in shallow mixed leagues.

It’s a surprise to find Corey Seager’s name here, considering he’s hit 15 homers already, but an absurd .226 BABIP, his first sub-.300 mark in his career, is to blame. While he’s raised his FB% to a career high, which will hamper his BABIP, he’s hitting a high rate of line drives and kept his pop-ups to a minimum. He’s a pretty obvious batting average improver, but I don’t see the power getting any better than it’s already been. Are his owners really willing to sell at a discount because he’s batting .230? It’s hard to believe.

Giancarlo Stanton has amazingly managed to score just 22 runs, despite 14 of those coming from his home runs. That said, Statcast thinks this has been Stanton’s best offensive performance, as he has posted the highest xwOBA of his career. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s posted the second highest Barrel% of his career, but his HR/FB rate remains right around his career average. At age 32, I don’t think there’s another gear here, so I’m just going to ignore what Statcast currently thinks and figure he’ll continue to perform similarly for as long as he remains healthy.

What a bizarre season it’s been for Christian Walker. His power has fully rebounded and has taken another step up, but his BABIP has plummeted to just .180! Sure, he’s become an extreme fly ball hitter and hasn’t hit enough line drives, but surely he deserves better than this. Remember, Statcast accounts for his batted ball types and still thinks he should be hitting .275. When you pair that with his power, you’re suddenly left with a top first baseman! His surrounding offense is slowing down his runs scored and RBI counts, but with a rebound in batting average, he could be one of the better ones the rest of the way.

I never think of Will Smith owning such splendid plate discipline, but he’s never swung and missed often, and he’s reduced his strikeout rate to a career best this year. Once again, he’s hitting tons of fly balls, but surprisingly avoiding pop-ups and also hitting a high rate of liners. It’s like the ideal combination of batted balls to both hit for power and a strong BABIP, but the latter hasn’t come. Smith has not been an annual underperformer, so he looks like an excellent catcher target if you’re dying at the position (most of you probably are).

Is Max Muncy fully healthy? Health or not, Statcast is already accounting for his batted balls, so whether he’s hit those fully healthy or not is irrelevant. He should be seeing better results regardless. That said, even his xStats are less impressive than they have been in the past. A .209 xBA ain’t good, even if it represents better than his current mark. Particularly concerning is a maxEV of just 106.5, which would mark a career low. Better health could suddenly come at any time, but personally, I’d just stay away.

Whit Merrifield has posted a career low BABIP, but Statcast thinks his batting average should be right in line with his history. In addition, with just a 3.2% HR/FB rate and .083, his power has been M.I.A. even more than it has in the past. I often find him undervalued in drafts to begin with, so he looks like a prime trade target as value perception may have significantly dropped here.

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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5 months ago

Trying to ride it out with Christian Walker but it’s so frustrating. He was on an 0-15 stretch going into this past Sunday, so I put him on the bench in favor of someone else, and of course he socks 2 HR. He’s striking out at a remarkably low rate given how hard he’s hitting the ball, which is why I can’t bring myself to cut ties… I just keep hoping that we come into a prolonged period where his batted balls are finding grass instead of gloves so I don’t feel the urge to micromanage him around when I think he’s got a hot streak coming (which I’m obviously bad at assessing, anyway).

Recently managed to complete a trade where I gave Trevor Story (who I don’t believe in) plus some sweeteners for Corey Seager (who I do believe in). It’s purely bad luck with Corey, whose current BABIP is 100 points below his career BABIP.