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The importance of the batting average in Major League Baseball has decreased over the past decade. Teams have (rightly) recognized it's more important to get on base, and hitters have changed their swings to produce more home runs and fewer singles. An increase in strikeouts has resulted as baseball has moved towards more "three-true-outcomes" than in the past. Add in the shifts, and averages are plummeting. How much so?
In 2008, 28.8 percent of plate appearances ended in a walk, strikeout or home run. The league batting average was .264. Last year that former number ballooned to 33.8 percent. The league average was .248.
Of course, .248 is still a terrible average in Fantasy Baseball because (at least in most mixed leagues) we don't roster the worst hitters. Well, except for catchers.
I bring up catchers because that's one of the easiest ways to protect (or ruin) your batting average in a standard CBS league that requires two catchers. The league average for the position in 2018 was .232. Of the 27 catchers who had at least 300 plate appearances, only six of them hit better than .267, which was good for seventh place in Rotisserie leagues. Seven catchers hit below .230.
So step one in making sure your average doesn't crater is to not wait to fill both of your catcher slots until the end of the draft. Lucky for you, our batting average sleeper should help protect your average from the catcher position, and he's available in the double-digit rounds.
- Mookie Betts - .346
- J.D. Martinez - .330
- Christian Yelich - .326
- Jose Altuve - .316
- Mike Trout - .312
- Scooter Gennett - .310
- Freddie Freeman - .309
- Michael Brantley - .309
- Anthony Rendon - .308
- Lorenzo Cain - .308
What you need to win
Below you'll find the average by place for the category in 2018. These numbers are for a standard mixed, 12-team league. In an eight- or 10-team league, these numbers would be higher. In a 15-team league you could aim lower.
Danny Jansen hit .247 in 95 plate appearances in 2018. That's certainly not good, even if it's well above-average for a catcher. It's also well below what I would expect from Jansen in 2019. Jansen hit .285 in Triple-A and .291 in Double-A. He made a habit of striking out less than 20 percent of the time in the minor leagues and he walked more often than he struck out in 2017 and 2018. He has a consensus ranking outside of the top 200 and profiles as a good bat who should play regularly for Toronto. I expect him to be a top-12 catcher in 2019 with upside beyond that.
Jurickson Profar took a leap forward in 2018, but it sure didn't show in his batting average. Despite cutting his strikeout rate to 14.8 percent, increasing his hard-hit rate to 37 percent and hitting 20 home runs, Profar posted a mediocre average. I do have some concern about Profar's power in Oakland, but the park shouldn't hurt his average.
Profar's batting average should climb 15-20 points to a career-high in 2019. That, along with his power-speed combination and positional flexibility should make him a popular pick in the double-digit rounds.
There are plenty of things you could see regressing with Javier Baez this season. Nearly all of them would negatively affect his batting average. His .347 BABIP was only 10 points higher than his career average, but it was also his career high. His 24.3 percent HR/FB rate was almost six points higher than his career average and 4.6 higher than his previous career-high.
Baez is likely to take a step back in every Rotisserie category, but that's what happens after you have a career-year. He's a career .267 hitter, and Steamer's projections have him at .269. I expect he'll be within five points of that number one direction or another.
Yandy Diaz was dealt from the Indians to the Rays in the offseason, and should get an opportunity to win an everyday job with Tampa. We're just not sure where. It's expected the Rays will try to change his launch angle, which could have a negative impact on the average, but would hopefully lead to more (some) power. I still don't expect he'll be much help in home runs, but he should be a solid source of average in AL-only.
Like Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist has some regression coming. His .331 BABIP in 2018 was the highest of his career. But Zobrist has hit at least .270 in six of the past seven seasons and currently has a consensus ranking in this 400s. He's more valuable in league's with daily-lineup setting, but should provide a boost in average in any NL-only format.
So which Fantasy Baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued pitchers can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Scooter Gennett's huge breakout last season, and find out.