Potential Batting Average Decliners — May 20, 2021

Yesterday, I used Statcast’s xBA calculation to discuss the hitters whose batting average’s have most underperformed and could be due for a surge over the rest of the season. Today, let’s flip over to the hitters who have most overperformed their xBA marks as calculated by Statcast. This group could suffer a batting average decline over the rest of the season, and perhaps a significant one, without a dramatic change in underlying skills, like strikeout rate.

Potential BA Decliners
Player BABIP BA     xBA     Diff
Yermin Mercedes 0.422 0.368 0.288 0.080
Randy Arozarena 0.362 0.257 0.185 0.072
Eric Sogard 0.291 0.258 0.188 0.070
Jean Segura 0.356 0.317 0.248 0.069
Francisco Mejia 0.333 0.290 0.225 0.065
Yordan Alvarez 0.421 0.346 0.281 0.065
Yonathan Daza 0.410 0.327 0.263 0.064
Jazz Chisholm 0.413 0.308 0.245 0.063
Tucker Barnhart 0.433 0.287 0.227 0.060
Ryan Zimmerman 0.354 0.292 0.233 0.059
Tim Anderson 0.411 0.318 0.261 0.057

Yermin Mercedes’ has been one of the season’s biggest surprises as we hit the quarter point. A career minor leaguer that some might label “journeyman”, Mercedes is with his third organization since making his professional debut in 2011, and just got his first taste of big league action last year with one plate appearance. He has typically been a solid hitter in the minors, but with no defensive value, simply never got his shot. Now he has and he’s taken full advantage. Everything is actually pretty much in line with what we should have expected given his minor league numbers…except his BABIP, and resulting batting average. Obviously, you don’t expect a slow hitter with a fairly league average batted ball profile to be BABIPing over .400. While I think the rest of his metrics are sustainable, meaning he should remain an above average hitter for the White Sox, that batting average is due to plummet. At Util only, it’ll make him close to replacement level in shallow mixed leagues and he’ll be at risk of losing playing time since the team could start anyone at DH.

It’s probably been a disappointing start to the season for fantasy owners who bought Randy Arozarena at his small sample regular and postseason success inflated price. The HR/FB rate has come tumbling down to a more normal range, which combined with a decline in FB% to sub-30% means just four homers so far. However, he’s made up for it by BABIPing .362, even despite a lowly 13.4% LD%. That’s hard to do! Line drives fall for hits significantly more often than grounders and fly balls, so when you’re hitting so few of them, you have to think there’s a ton of good fortune involved to still BABIP at a high rate. Unfortunately since he has already been a bit of a disappointment, there’s no selling high here like you could potential do with Mercedes. Ignoring last year, he has still been better than this on the power front in the minors, so it’s certainly possible he goes on a hot streak improving all his skills, even while his BABIP drops. So I’m not sure there’s much you can do if you’re an owner aside from just hoping he rediscovers some of what we had during last year’s amazing run.

That .356 BABIP by Jean Segura doesn’t look so crazy, but it would mark a new career high for him. Even with the .351 OBP, he has only attempted one steal, so it seems pretty clear that his basestealing days are over. Since he’s barely a double digit homer guy, you kind of need a strong batting average to avoid starting a replacement level shortstop in shallow mixed leagues. It wouldn’t be so silly to try to find an upgrade if you own him, even if that means benching or outright dropping him.

Over 70 plate appearances, Francisco Mejia has looked like a potentially decent second catcher in deeper or AL-Only leagues. But the batting average is a mirage and he continues to show little power. Since Mike Zunino is actually hitting, there might be even less playing time for Mejia. I would strongly consider moving on, even in a deep league, though with the acknowledgement that your replacement options might be sorely lacking.

If you haven’t dived into the numbers, you would think Yordan Alvarez has enjoyed a nice comeback after missing the majority of last year due to a knee injury that required surgery. That’s definitely been the case, but in actuality, it’s been a truly bizarre season. His walk rate has plummeted, while his HR/FB rate has declined dramatically, but still remains above the league average. Offsetting those issues is the BABIP, which has skyrocketed above .400. He does own an elite batted ball profile though, heavy on liners, and light on pop-ups, but obviously a .421 mark just ain’t sustainable. Statcast still calculates a .281 expected batting average, which still produces positive value, but it’s a ways away from his current .346 mark. As an Alvarez owner myself, I’m not going to take any action, as I’m just happy he’s healthy and clearly still has his hitting mojo.

It’s been less than 100 plate appearances, but Jazz Chisholm has been another of the league’s pleasant surprises. Strikeouts haven’t yet been an issue, but things could come tumbling down quick once his BABIP falls below .400. I think the biggest surprise here might actually be his eight stolen bases. That’s a 58 stolen base pace over 650 plate appearances, which is crazy for someone whose best 650 PA pace was just 31, and that came during his professional debut in the Rookie league all the way back in 2016. From 2018-2020, he was always on just a 20-23 steal pace, so you have to wonder if he’ll keep running at anywhere near his current pace. Of course, once his OBP declines from his .382 mark, he’ll have far fewer opportunities to steal. The real bottom line though is even his xwOBA sits at .359, which is likely far better than anyone projected or expected. As a former top prospect who owns an array of skills, he almost looks Tatisian.

If Tatis isn’t the right comp for Chisolm, perhaps Tim Anderson is. Except Chisolm both walks and strikes out more, which is why I didn’t make that comparison to begin with. Anderson has posted inflated BABIPs in what would now be four seasons out of six and every single year, his batting average has sat well above his xBA. Clearly, he’s doing something not captured by Statcast’s xBA, but even so, it’s hard to believe his true talent BABIP is .380 or above. If you’re an owner though, I totally get that it would be hard to trade him away under the assumption a batting average dive is coming!





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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kid
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kid

Tatis is way out of bounds for a Jazz comp. Tim Anderson is closer, but Tim’s plate discipline is better and Tim has also demonstrated a better pure ball-striking ability (.281, .291 and .261 xBA last 3 seasons). I actually think that Jazz’ best comp is the current iteration of Javy Baez; their Statcast profiles are almost identical, save for a few more BBs for Chisholm. They both strikeout a lot, barrel a ton of balls, and run really fast.

carter
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carter

Agreed. He feels like a baez. He is going to have some huge seasons and be drafted super high (Baez first rounder before) and then have some bad seasons and be underrated

Azizal
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Azizal

also agree, right down to being flashy and fun to watch. Not to mention they both were SS’s who started off at 2B.

kid
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kid

Yes, that’s a great way to put it. I picked up Jazz in a few leagues, so I’m rooting for him, but he’s a 23-yo who has struck out 25-33% of the time at every MiLB level, including 33% of the time through exactly 100PA this year (including 3 more today, 5/22). He seems to have that innate ability to barrel balls, and he seems to have the green light to run whenever he wants, so the power/speed is there. I’m just afraid it comes with a .229 BA.