After taking a couple of weeks off to focus on rankings and the Fantasy Baseball launch, it's time to focus on the hitters ready to regress. Hitters can be a little bit trickier because stats like BABIP we largely see the pitchers having little control over we attribute more to what the hitters are doing.
You would be hard-pressed to find a hitter who underwent a bigger transformation in 2015 than Bogaerts. As a 22 year old he sold out for contact and saw it transform him into a .320 hitter who offered little more than doubles power. There are plenty of people projecting Bogaerts will continue his development by melding his rookie year power with his sophomore contact rate. That would be amazing, but it seems unlikely.
It's extremely difficult to hit for power with a hard contact rate like Bogaerts' while hitting 32 percent of your batted balls to the opposite field. Even if you expect Bogaerts to repeat what he did last year, that seems unlikely. Somehow he pulled off a fairly miraculous feat of lowering his strikeout rate by nearly 30 percent while swinging at 20 percent more pitches out of the strike zone.
I don't know which version of Bogaerts we'll get, but I doubt it's his 2015 average and K rate with his 2014 ISO and hard contact rate. My best guess is that Bogaerts remains a contact hitter with a lower BABIP, which may lead to something like a .295 batting average with an ISO in the .110 range. He should hit more home runs than last year, but it will come at the expense of his average. In that case, he'll still probably be a top five shortstop, but he won't be threatening Carlos Correa.
Justin Upton has escaped Petco and will find himself in the middle of an increasingly threatening lineup. That lineup matters a lot because Upton's 81 RBI last year were not befitting the rest of his production. You'd also expect a hitter with a .330 career BABIP to bounce back slightly from .304.
If you projected a five percent increase in average, with a 10 percent increase in home runs, you've suddenly got a hitter than could be a 30-100 guy with something close to an .830 OPS again. Upton will be helped by an upgrade in his surroundings and his teammates, so even a slight uptick in his fortune could lead to his best year since 2012.
I should probably start by admitting I was way wrong on Nelson Cruz in 2015. I didn't think there was any way a 34 year old moving from Baltimore to Seattle would be able to match his career season from age 33. Cruz did that and more. He his .300 for the first time since 2010 and set career highs in runs and home runs. Cruz made several of us, but most definitely me, look silly for questioning him. But he didn't do it in a way that looks sustainable at all.
Cruz's HR/FB rate was the highest since Ryan Howard in 2008. You might think that's because Cruz hit the ball harder. Well, he ranked 10th in hard contact rate amongst the 13 hitters to maintain a HR/FB rate above 20 percent. As if that wasn't enough, Cruz posted a BABIP that was 62 points higher than 2014 and 44 points higher than his career mark. All of this while striking out at the highest rate of his career.
Everything we see in Cruz's 2014 numbers points towards a considerable dropoff, including the fact that he turns 36 in July. If he finished with numbers that more closely resemble Justin Upton's 2015 than his own, no one should be surprised.
People seem to really be down on Jones largely because he missed 25 games in a season for the first time since 2009. If you look at Jones counting stats and extrapolate over the 156 games he'd averaged over the past five years, you'd see a very Adam Jones line of 31 HR, 93 RBI and 84 runs. Then all you'd be left to complain about is the batting average and lack of steals.
Jones' steal totals have dropped every year since 2012, and no type of extrapolation is going to change that. The batting average is another story. Jones BABIP should absolutely regress back towards .310, if not all the way there. If he can maintain the lowered strikeout rate he had in 2015 that could actually mean than Jones threatens .290 for the first time in his career.
Jason Kipnis: Kipnis won't maintain his .356 BABIP from last year but he should still be better than his dreadful 2014
Miguel Cabrera: Cabrera has battled through injuries and seen his power numbers slump the last two years because of that. He won a batting title last season on the legs of a .384 BABIP. I'd project something around .310 this year with around 25 home runs.
Logan Forsythe: Forsythe went from a lefty-mashing platoon player to a full time player in 2015, but I'm still not sure he can hit righties. He had a .273 average because of his .330 BABIP, but his .375 SLG and .102 ISO left much to be desired.