Will 2018’s Busts Rebound?

Yesterday, I discussed seven of last year’s breakouts and concluded with a verdict on whether I expect each to hold onto at least 80% of their 2018 end of season (EOS) dollar value this year. Today, I will discuss nine of 2018’s busts and conclude each blurb with a decision on whether they are likely to rebound.

Let me remind you of the rules I created, this time of a bust.

I excluded pitchers from this analysis, since we could more easily discern between those who were the victims of poor fortune (Nick Pivetta) and those whose skills declined, supporting the busting (Jake Arrieta). I also excluded hitters who recorded significantly fewer plate appearances in 2018 than 2017.

In order to avoid overly punishing a hitter for being putrid, as opposed to simply bad, I changed any hitter’s end of season (EOS) $$ value to $0 if it was in the negatives. I don’t care whether Chris Davis “earned” -$15.40 or -$3, it’s all the same — he hurt your team!

Finally, I needed to create criteria on how to define “rebound”. I ultimately went with rebounding to earning 80% of the player’s 2017 EOS $$ as the benchmark. If I believe the hitter will earn that much, I’ll deem him “REBOUND”. If I think he’s likely to fall short of that earnings level, I’ll deem him “STILL A BUST”. Note that I am completely ignoring ADP, as that’s very league dependent.

There are a whole lot more busts than this, of course, but we’re going to discuss seven of the biggest.

2018 Busts
Name 2018 EOS $$* 2017 EOS $$* Diff 80% of 2017
Joey Votto $5.20 $28.50 -$23.30 $22.80
Dee Gordon $4.10 $25.50 -$21.40 $20.40
Brian Dozier $4.80 $24.30 -$19.50 $19.44
Charlie Blackmon $26.50 $44.60 -$18.10 $35.68
Marcell Ozuna $13.60 $31.60 -$18.00 $25.28
Giancarlo Stanton $25.60 $42.30 -$16.70 $33.84
Eric Hosmer $5.90 $22.40 -$16.50 $17.92
*Using the default FanGraphs Auction Calculator settings

Joey Votto

Isn’t it crazy when a guy posts a wOBA of .370 and gets labeled a bust?! Poor Votto has to deal with such high expectations. Can you believe that since 2009, Votto had posted a wOBA of at least .400 in every single full season through 2017? That’s mind boggling and simply incredible. Votto’s disappointing season was entirely due to a sudden collapse in power — his HR/FB rate was cut in half and his ISO was nearly 100 points below his career average. Recently, it was reported that Votto believed it was a mechanical issue, rather than a matter of physical strength. His Statcast metrics and xHR/FB rate doesn’t completely agree — his barrels per true fly ball and average fly ball distance both finished at four-year lows. The good news is that xHR/FB rate does believe he deserved far a better result, but not quite near his previous highs. I’d certainly expect a rebound, but at age 35, it’s not going to be near previous peak levels.

Because his 2017 was a high watermark and actually his second highest season home run total, capturing 80% of that value as a 35-year-old is going to be tough, and it’s impossible to project. So even though I think there could be profit potential depending on your league, I have no choice here with my verdict.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Dee Gordon

What happens when you’re best fantasy attribute is speed and your running game slows down dramatically? You become a bust. Gordon’s stolen base total was cut in half in 2018, after he swiped at least 58 bases in his previous three full seasons. One reason is that he was rarely on base, as his walk rate, already too low for comfort, plummeted to a hilariously low 1.5%. He walked nine times all year!

The Mariners’ acquisition of Mallex Smith likely pushes Gordon to the bottom of the order, as the former is forecasted for a drastically higher OBP than the latter. Hitting ninth is going to make it near impossible for Gordon to regain his former glory.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Brian Dozier

The typically consistently good Dozier saw his wOBA plunge to a career low over a full season as he ended up barely better than a replacement level player. While he didn’t miss any time due to injury, perhaps it was a bone bruise suffered in April that hampered his performance. His xHR/FB rate does confirm he lost power, but again, was it the injury that if healed, will result in a rebound? Who knows. His BABIP also fell to a career low, but xBABIP suggests this has been the unluckiest he’s been.

So you’re guessing how much the injury affected his power and assuming his BABIP will rebound. But, he’ll be 32 this year, and that makes it a bit harder to rebound in my view. He’ll also have a tough time cracking the top of the Nationals order.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Charlie Blackmon

Obviously, repeating Blackmon’s eye-popping 2017 was unlikely. Between the career high .371 BABIP and near 20% HR/FB rate, the 725 plate appearances, and the 137 runs scored, it was a dream fantasy season. His stolen base total has now declined for three straight seasons, and his elite power/speed combo was one of his main value drivers.

I’m projecting a very similar performance to 2018, and that’s just not good enough to come near his 2017. I’m happy to buy, but he fails to qualify as a REBOUND.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Marcell Ozuna

Isn’t that funny — Ozuna appeared in the breakout version of this article last year, and I shared my verdict that he would be a BUST. Sure enough, here he is on that very 2018 BUST list I predicted.

Of course, he did miss some time with right shoulder inflammation last year and ultimately underwent surgery after the season ended. So it’s possible the shoulder hampered his performance and bothered him all season. But now returning from surgery isn’t a good omen either, as it could take some time to regain his previous power. I think he’ll perform better this year, as his xHR/FB rate was actually right near his 2017 mark (suggesting his 2017 HR/FB rate was rather fluky). But because of the shoulder, and the I-don’t-expect-anywhere-near-a-repeat 2017 homer and RBI mark, this is an easy call.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Giancarlo Stanton

Lesson: Just because you go from a pitcher friendly venue to one of the best home run parks in baseball doesn’t automatically mean your HR/FB rate is going to rise and you’re a threat for 60 homers. I couldn’t help but laugh when everyone was so excited Stanton was getting out of Marlins Park and was now clearly a sure bet to exceed his lofty 34.3% HR/FB rate, like what he posted was automatically his current skill level. Previously, he had posted marks in the 20% range in six seasons compared to just two above 30%. Why was the assumption he’s now a 30%+ HR/FB guy?! Reminder to not only look back more than one year when shaping your upcoming season projection, but also first determine whether the player’s results the past season were real to begin with.

That said, I do expect better output this year, as he actually slightly underperformed his xHR/FB rate and his career rate sits above what he posted. But man, obviously no projection system or human can forecast anything close to 59 homers again, and certainly not 255 RBI + runs scored.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

Eric Hosmer

We all laughed at the contract Hosmer received from the Padres, and after just one season, we were right to have done so. It wasn’t about his home run power and his BABIP wasn’t that much lower than his career mark. Instead, his strikeout rate jumped above 20% for the first time, driven by a career worst SwStk%, which hampered everything else.

Plus, remember how pathetic Hosmer’s fly ball rates have been? Well, things got even worse, as his already too low FB% fell just below 20% for the first time. For a guy who can post a 20% HR/FB rate, why is he hitting so few fly balls? It’s not like he hits a ton of line drives, and his career BABIP isn’t that much above the league average. I just don’t get how he benefits from that swing plane.

It would be easier to call for a rebound here, but now he needs to reverse two ominous trends in his strikeout and fly ball rates. That’s too much to actually project a rebound here.

Verdict: STILL A BUST

—-

So…every player is still a bust. I didn’t know this going into writing the article, but it does make sense given these hitters were coming off some fantastic fantasy seasons. The label of REBOUND or STILL A BUST is arbitrary of course and if I chose 70% instead of 80% of the hitter’s 2017 value, some may have flipped to REBOUND. So I’ll share who came closest to reaching their 80% of 2017 EOS $$, using some early valuations that definitely won’t be the same once I finish.

Charlie Blackmon
Eric Hosmer
Joey Votto

According to one valuation system I’m using with my Pod Projections, these three are projected to earn between 80% and 90% of their target 80% OF 2017 EOS $$. That’s not that far away.

Brian Dozier was by far the worst at just a third of his target, while the remaining three were all just below 70%.

Do you think these 2018 busts rebound or stay busty? Which other 2018 busts do you have a strong opinion on?

We hoped you liked reading Will 2018’s Busts 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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CreativeMace
Member

I read every verdict in caps and italics as if Maury was reading it to his audience.

Rhythm825
Member
Rhythm825

In the case of *insert baseball player from the list* – you….are……STILL A BUST! *audience goes crazy*