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The kings of pop

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Jose Reyes has been hitting pop flies as well as catching them, and it's hurting his Fantasy value. (USATSI)
Jose Reyes has been hitting pop flies as well as catching them, and it's hurting his Fantasy value. (USATSI)

The news that broke earlier on Monday about the impending promotion of Astros' prospect Jon Singleton rightfully set the Fantasy community on its collective ear, and the 22-year-old first baseman should make an impact for owners as well as for the Astros.

One concerning number that stands out in Singleton's stat line from Triple-A Oklahoma City is his 10.4 percent infield fly rate (according to StatCorner.com). It's a bit deflating, because with the progress he has made in his strikeout per plate appearance rate (dropping from 30.3 percent last season to 21.8 percent in 2014), owners might have reason to think Singleton could be more than a .250ish hitter.

Singleton has had issues with popups before, so we need to temper our expectations for him as a source of high batting average. The same is also true for a trio of experienced major league hitters who have fallen short in that category so far this year.

Jose Reyes' infield fly rate had been below a typical mark around 6 or 7 percent until last season, when he finished with a 9.5 percent rate. This year, that rate rests at 14.6 percent, and goes a long way towards explaining why a speedy hitter with excellent contact skills is batting just .250. Though Reyes has seen his batting average climb recently, it may not increase much further unless he can stem the rising tide of popups.

Jason Heyward has been more prone than a typical hitter to pop up, but his rate has exploded from last year's 11.5 percent to 17.6 percent. He has hit .292 since the beginning of May due to a dramatic decrease in strikeouts, but his popups haven't abated, so he could have a hard time sustaining his recent progress.

With a 14.4 percent infield fly rate, Yoenis Cespedes may appear to be doomed to a sub-.250 batting average, but in his case, there is some hope for improvement. He has been no stranger to the popup, with rates exceeding 13 percent in each of his three major league seasons to date. In both of his previous campaigns, however, Cespedes hit over .300 on grounders and notched at least 20 infield hits. He's on pace for roughly 20 infield hits again, but he is batting a mere .231 on ground balls. He has reduced his strikeout rate from last year, but has not seen the results in his batting average, possibly because of bad luck. Cespedes has been hitting for power, and with a batting average that looks due to rise, now might be a good time to buy.

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