The Most Disappointing Hitters: Will They Rebound?

Last week, I compared CBS’ projected rankings versus their actual rankings to determine which starting pitchers have disappointed the most. Today, I’ll check in on the hitters. I used the same simple math, subtracting projected ranking from actual ranking and then sorted by the difference in descending order. I excluded injured/suspended players not expected to return soon, hitters who missed a chunk of time to injury that has limited their counting stat production, and those in the minors. I limited the players to those projected inside the top 200. Basically, if they were only projected to earn a couple of bucks, is it really so disappointing if they’ve “earned” -$10 so far? Nah.

Hitter Disappointments
Player BA R HR RBI SB Projected CBS Rank Actual CBS Rank Diff
Chris Davis 0.157 19 10 30 1 185 634 449
Gary Sanchez 0.188 37 14 41 0 28 258 230
Ronald Acuna 0.260 27 8 20 4 88 317 229
Marwin Gonzalez 0.233 31 6 37 2 132 332 200
Eduardo Nunez 0.252 36 6 24 4 111 303 192
Salvador Perez 0.223 28 14 45 1 75 239 164
Buster Posey 0.286 39 5 32 3 62 219 157
Paul DeJong 0.258 33 8 21 0 184 337 153
Delino DeShields 0.208 42 2 18 16 147 289 142
Willson Contreras 0.279 34 8 35 4 68 199 131
Eric Hosmer 0.245 41 10 41 4 61 192 131
Kris Bryant 0.278 46 11 43 2 10 130 120

We all probably could have guessed that Chris Davis would easily end up atop this list. He sits with the lowest WAR among qualified hitters in baseball. Literally everything has gone wrong this year — he has continued with the elevated strikeout rate that spiked last year, his walk rate has slipped to its lowest mark since 2012, his LD% is at a career low, and his HR/FB rate is at its lowest since 2011, when he wasn’t even a full-timer yet. It’s hard to determine what’s wrong by looking at his plate discipline metrics as everything looks normal. If it means anything, his power has rebounded since his benching in mid-June, with a 20% HR/FB rate since. But that’s the only metric that has rebounded. The beginning of the end? I guess if you’re desperate for power and don’t care about the potential destruction to your batting average, he’s worth holding onto, but that’s about it.

It’s mostly been a BABIP thing for Gary Sanchez and his batted ball distribution explains why — a pathetic 13.8% LD% and inflated 21.5% IFFB%. No liners and too many pop-ups is no good. I’m not sure what has led to such a brutal batted ball profile, but he’s been better in the past and you have to think he’ll improve in the second half. If his owner has become impatient waiting for his average to jump back above the Mendoza line, I’d buy.

I hate to say I told you so. Marwin Gonzalez had one of those out of nowhere seasons last year with all kinds of good fortune, which naturally inflated expectations for his performance and fantasy value this year. But, I wasn’t buying it, and even went s far as boldly predicting he would be worthless in 12-team mixed leagues. I’m shocked he has continued to earn every day at-bats. I don’t see him getting the playing time the rest of the way to rebound, so there’s no need to hold onto him in shallower leagues.

Eduardo Nunez was supposed to be the Red Sox starter at second base for a month or two, giving way to Dustin Pedroia upon his return. Instead, Pedroia has yet to debut, and may not return at all this year, which has made Nunez an every day player for the entire first half. If you heard that, you would have expected strong fantasy value as a part of an excellent offense. Instead, his strikeout rate has surged to a career worst, he’s popping up like crazy leading to a decline in BABIP, and worst of all, he’s only swiped four bases in just six tries. Is the 31-year-old suddenly going to rediscover his lust for stealing bases in the second half? It’s doubtful. I’d chalk it up to a good offensive team not wanting to give away outs on the basepaths.

What happened to Buster Posey’s power? His plate discipline has remained strong, but his HR/FB rate has now slid for a fourth straight season and is now at a mere 5.6%. He’s still a plus in batting average, but even playing every day has only resulted in 71 RBI + runs. His name value might still be worth more than his actual fantasy value at this point, making him a difficult guy to trade for.

Not every one of last year’s surprises is going to repeat. In fact, most won’t. Paul DeJong is a prime example of a guy who broke out last season in surprising fashion, which made him appealing as a fantasy starter at shortstop or MI. Instead, his unsustainable BABIP has declined, and his HR/FB rate has dropped. Part of the problem is that he’s pulling his fly balls less frequently, and instead going the opposite way significantly more often. Unless you possess elite power, that’s almost certainly going to result in fewer homers on those fly balls. With no speed and iffy batting average potential, I’m not excited about a potential rebound.

Do the Rangers have such limited minor league depth that Delino DeShields and his .265 wOBA continues to play every day?! His batted ball profile looks fine, but his BABIP has collapsed, reminding us of his 2016 season. His power has also disappeared, reducing his potential for double digit homers. He’s still stealing bases, but an OBP just over .300 isn’t giving him a whole lot of opportunities. I think the BABIP improves, but he’s stuck at the bottom of the lineup and a good manager would keep him there. If you need steals, then by all means, but he’s likely a one category contributor the rest of the way, and won’t earn the second half value pace paid at drafts.

Willson Contreras has essentially been the same hitter as last year, except he’s missing one thing — home run power. His HR/FB rate has been more than cut in half, as his Hard% on fly balls has tumbled from his previous two seasons. Since his Pull% is right around league average and his Oppo% has spiked, he can’t afford to be hitting his flies more softly. Still, with a catching pool that is awful this year, Contreras remains one of the best options over the rest of the season.

LOL at Eric Hosmer. Right?! Not only is he striking out more than ever before, but he’s taked his already strong ground ball tendency to new heights. His 61.3% ground ball rate is second in baseball among qualified hitters, which is just ridiculous for a guy who has routinely posted above average HR/FB rates and is now above 20% for a third straight season. C’mon Hosmer, you can’t take advantage of your ample power if you keep hitting the ball on the ground! It’s really not rocket science.

Is Kris Bryant the quietest disappointment in terms of power output? Very possibly, as he sits with just 11 homers, but not much has been made of it. It’s hard to believe that the guy with such massive power in the minors, including mid-20% and low 30% HR/FB rates, has a career Major League high HR/FB rate of just 18.8%. Perhaps he has focused on making better contact at the expense of his power? He hasn’t posted a wOBA below .371, so he remains an excellent hitter, but not exactly the type we expected him to become. I think pulling more of his fly balls would help, but this year his Center% has spiked to a career high. So he’s hitting the majority of his fly balls to the deepest part of the ball park. No wonder his HR/FB rate has declined to a career low!

We hoped you liked reading The Most Disappointing Hitters: Will They Rebound? by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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jonsnowzeliak
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jonsnowzeliak

DeJong missed two months with a HBP broken finger. How much of his drop has been down to that absence and his slow start since his return? He was hitting well before the injury, with a marked improvement in his plate discipline.