Fantasy Baseball Regression Alert: Matt Carpenter is making up for lost time, but what other hitters are due to regress?
Heath Cummings looks at Matt Carpenter and seven hitters who have regression coming.
More Fantasy Baseball:| Eight who could still be great at first base
Regression is one of the more commonly used terms in Fantasy Baseball and one of the least understood. Obviously we've got the constant debate about whether all regression is negative (it's not). Then there is the hot streak fallacy. Matt Carpenter is a great example.
Carpenter was extremely unlucky for most of 2017 and the first six or seven weeks of this season. I've been saying he was due for regression for so long that I was even starting to question the underlying numbers. Then he went bananas. In Carpenter's past six games he's 13 for 26 with seven doubles and a home run. His season slash line (.210/.331/.391) is still far below what I would expect rest of season, and with a 45.9 percent hard contact rate, a .266 BABIP and a 9.3 percent HR/FB rate, I would still call him a definite regression candidate. That doesn't mean he's due to keep mashing as he has the last week, but it did make him a great buy low candidate a week ago.
This is hard for me because I'm a big Nomar Mazara guy. But very little about his breakout looks real. Mazara has 10 home runs already this year and is on pace to smash his career high of 20. He's done it while hitting more ground balls than he ever has (56.1 percent), and a very good, but not great, hard contact rate.
When looking at Mazara's career norms you see a hitter who is hitting the ball hard more often than he ever has, but he's also striking out more and hitting the ball on the ground more often. The fact that he's pulling the ball more often helps explain the home runs a little bit, but not enough to pass the sniff test.
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This isn't to say that I think Mazara will be bad moving forward. He's still a 23-year-old hitter who has essentially been a league average hitter over his first 1,384 career plate appearances. There's plenty of time for him to improve his launch angle and have a legit power breakout. But if you have someone in your league who believes this is for real and values him like a top-25 outfielder, I'd be looking to make a move.
Odubel Herrera is another player I generally think has been underrated by the Fantasy community, but his hot start has flipped that on its head. The BABIP is too high, but not as much of a concern because Herrera has one of the highest career BABIPs (.362) in major league history. What I don't believe at all is the power breakout.
Herrera's extremely low hard contact rate coupled with his 29.6 percent fly ball rate are both around his career norms. Those career norms have led to a career high of 15 home runs for Herrera, and that was in a season where he had 656 plate appearances. He has seven already this year, which has had a positive impact on his run production and his batting average. He's also continued last year's trend of not running, with just 10 stolen bases since the start of 2017.
In a points league, Herrera's improved plate discipline could still make him a top-25 outfielder but his Roto value is going to be hampered by a lack of power and steals.
We've gotten a lot of questions about C.J. Cron's hot start, so I'll try to be as clear as possible. No, I don't buy it. Cron's HR/FB rate is almost 50 percent higher than his career average and his BABIP is 20 points higher than his career norm. While the hard contact rate is up as well, he's still making soft contact 20 percent of the time, and his line drive rate is down to 17.1 percent.
Cron is currently the No. 3 first basemen in Rotisserie leagues, so he could handle some regression, if we thought the current landscape at first base was the new reality. But we expect all those struggling first basemen to bounce back while Cron regresses. I'd be surprised if he's top-24 at the position when all is said and done.
When I do this regression stuff I like to pick one guy whose batted ball profile makes no sense at all. Ian Desmond is that guy. Should he have some positive regression coming in his BABIP? Absolutely. Do his seven home runs look like a total fluke? Yep.
Desmond has continued last year's trend of hitting way too many balls on the ground (64.4 percent) and making poor contact way too often (24.6 percent). He's lucky those home runs have left the yard or he may be in a full time bench role by now. Desmond doesn't walk enough and strikes out too often, so even when that BABIP regression happens, I don't expect he'll have much value in Fantasy.
If there was one player I could pick out who will obviously be better than he has been so far, it would be Rizzo. His strikeout rate and soft contact rate are both below 14 percent, which is just incredible. He's making quality contact and lifting the ball, he just hasn't got the results yet.
While I feel like most of the struggling first basemen are buy low candidates, Rizzo is easily the best. I'd take him straight up for Paul Goldschmidt, who was being drafted a round before RIzzo in the preseason.
It's easy to find struggling players who should be better moving forward, but what if a player is already one of the best hitters in baseball and has been unlucky? That's Bryce Harper. Sure, his HR/FB rate is a little high (but he is mashing the ball). However, a .196 BABIP with his hard contact rate and a 22 percent line drive rate? That's absurd.
Harper has been walking more than ever, striking out less than ever and hitting the ball harder than he ever has. Yet somehow he's hitting .231.We should be talking about him as the MVP candidate. And we could be soon. If someone in your league thinks J.D. Martinez, Freedie Freeman or Manny Machado has done enough to surpass Harper, go get that deal done.
Maybe Matt Olson was a regression candidate coming into this year because we knew he couldn't keep up his 41 percent HR/FB rate from 2017, but no one expected a drop like this. Olson's spike in hard contact rate has come with a drop in soft contact (8.9 percent), and while I don't think he can maintain 50 percent, I do expect he'll be near the league leaders.
He should also be near the league leaders in home runs, but has just seven so far this season. That has crushed his run production numbers (21 runs, 19 RBI hitting in the middle of the Athletics order). Someone may be fed up with Olson's strikeouts and lack of production, and you should sweep in with a buy-low offer and reap the benefits of his coming regression.
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