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2020 BABIP Outliers – What to Expect in 2021

Typically, at the midway point of the regular season, I cover BABIP outliers to buy and fade for the second half. However, since we only had a 60 game season, I’ll cover buys and fades for 2021. During the 2019 season, I wrote this piece and by in large, regression set in for most of these hitters in the second half.  Let’s apply that same thinking to the hitters below for 2021. Keep in mind that the expected BABIP (xBABIP) I calculated below is descriptive, so it doesn’t mean that’s what we should expect going forward. That being said, she’s outliers are where I expect regression sets in closer to the hitter’s actual skillset. There are a number of factors that may not be covered in the xBABIP equation that I’ll touch on in the player blurbs below including

  • Sprint Speed
  • Shift and pull rates
  • Park Factors





The table below includes a list of the largest underachievers in terms of BABIP aka the biggest gap between xBABIP minus BABIP. The minimum qualifications are 150 at-bats. You’ll notice a bunch of slow-footed left-handed batters with high pull rates. I wrote a piece last offseason covering the hitters who have been shifted on over 50% of the time and in many cases these players underperformed their xBA. Many of them you’ll see on this list below which can explain at least a portion of the difference between xBABIP and BABIP. In the cases of Matt Carpenter, Kole Calhoun, Kyle Schwarber, Matt Olson, and Max Kepler, they all qualify as pull-happy lefties with average to below-average speed. These hitters regularly show up on underperforming outlier lists so I wouldn’t necessarily expect much of a BABIP rebound as some of the others on this list. 

First I’ll touch on some elite hitters who showed up on the underachievers list. While not outliers, it’s encouraging to know that their production is very likely something they can maintain over the course of a full season. Fernando Tatis Jr., Corey Seager, Luke Voit, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Mookie Betts all underperformed their xBABIP by at least 0.030. Acuna, Betts, and Tatis are all top-5 picks next year, nothing changes for them. For Seager and Voit, I’ll be ranking both inside the top-50. Seager has a chance to hit .330 with 30 homers if healhy and Voit is a legit threat to hit 45+ homers whle hitting .275+. A few others to note include Alex Bregman, Franscisco Lindor, and George Springer. All were very unlucky in 2020. Bregman and Lindor were first round picks in 2020 but will both fall into the second round. I think both will be great values in 2021. I’ll be all over Springer in 2021. He’ll be 31 next year and has kind of been labeled as a boring veteran. I could see his ADP settle around 50 overall with some sexier options jumping him. His metrics look great and his strikeout rate has settled in below 20%. I’d peg him for a .280 BA with 35 homers.




BABIP Underachievers - 2020

PlayerPAxBABIPBABIPxBABIP-BABIP
Gregory Polanco1740.3290.1930.136
Christian Yelich2470.3650.2590.106
Nick Castellanos2420.3600.2570.103
Gary Sanchez1780.2610.1590.102
Kole Calhoun2280.3070.2110.096
Anthony Rizzo2430.3070.2180.089
Shohei Ohtani1750.3140.2290.085
Max Muncy2480.2850.2030.082
Cody Bellinger2430.3250.2450.080
Carlos Santana2550.2910.2120.079
Kyle Schwarber2240.2960.2190.077
Bryan Reynolds2080.3070.2310.076
Miguel Cabrera2310.3580.2830.075
Matt Olson2450.3000.2270.073
Joey Votto2230.3060.2350.071
Bryce Harper2440.3480.2790.069
Eduardo Escobar2220.3120.2440.068
Anthony Santander1650.3140.2480.066
Justin Upton1660.2830.2190.064
Matt Carpenter1690.3130.2500.063
Max Kepler1960.2980.2360.062

Gregory Polanco (OF – PIT)

What the hell happened to Polanco this year? He was mostly healthy but hit a dreadful .153 with a career-high 37.4% strikeout rate. He’s been riddled with injuries over the last four years missing over 200 games since the start 2017. Most recently, he dealt with offseason shoulder surgery before the 2020 season. Typically, a hitter will show poor quality of contact upon return from a shoulder injury, but not Polanco. He ended up with a career-best barrel rate and a hard-hit rate. He even managed a strong 30% line drive rate and cut his previously ugly popup%. He sold out for power, there’s no doubt but he clearly deserved better. I don’t know what to make of GP for 2021 because he’ll still be just 29 years old. He’s a lefty who was a victim of the shift and the strikeout rate concerns are real. If he cuts it below 30%, he could be a hit .250 with 25-30 homers. If he can’t fix his contact issues, he’ll see the bench or worse as he’ll be in the last year of his deal (club options in 22-23).

Chrsitian Yelich (OF – MIL)

You’re probably not surprised to see Yelich on this list. He still absolutely crushed the ball finishing in the top two percent in HH% and exit velocity. Let’s take a look at his exit velocity histogram.

The majority of his batted balls were hit over 95 mph with the two largest groups being between 100-105 and 105-110. That’s where an elite hitter wants to be. His issues were solely related to the strikeout rate. He finished with a 30.8% strikeout rate which was more than 10% worse than a year ago. He became extremely patient, to a fault. That boosted his walk rate but really got him into deep counts elevating his K%. He also struggled early in the season with a zone contact% under 75% but bounced back in September with a Z-Con% around 85-86%. I have virtually zero concerns with Yelich going into 2021 even if his strikeout rate settles in around 25%. Pep this, if Yelich would have had neutral luck with his BABIP given his expected stats, he would have hit .265. That’s w/ the ugly K% which I think comes down quite a bit. Easy buyback here.

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)

I made no reservations about my love for Castellanos going into 2020 especially given the move to Cincinnati. He got a massive park boost for power which came to fruition hitting 14 bombs in 60 games. That’s a 38 homer pace across 162 games or 11 more than his previous career-high. What I failed to consider is the BABIP drop he may see with a less expansive home outfield. His 2020 BABIP fell over 70 points below his career average. xBABIP still believes he’s a beast pegging him for a .360 xBABIP. I’m a little skeptical about him holding that mark and an elevated K% looms. That being said, I had him right around 50 overall in 2020 and nothing’s changed. He should still hit .275 with 35 homers and 100 RBI in 2021. 

 Gary Sanchez (C – NYY)

What are we going to do about Gary Sanchez next year? He had by far the lowest BABIP of any qualified hitter in 2020 to go with an atrocious 36% strikeout rate. We’ve seen suppressed BABIPs before from Sanchez but not like this. His batted ball distribution was BETTER than in 2019 but he did pull the ball over 50% of the time and was crushed by the shift (.218 wOBA vs the shift). Only one other time in his career has he had a BABIP this low over a 60 game stretch. That being said, he crushes the ball on contact, better than any catcher, by far. Because of his poor speed and results against the shift, he’ll likely never have another BABIP over .250 so he’s probably outside of the top-three catchers for 2021. It’s going to difficult to stomach a batting average at .200 for a full season.


Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA)

Here’s the first player on this list who may have a massive discount. It also depends on how he’s used, whether or not he pitches, etc. Then there’s still Albert Pujols lingering for one more season. I think Ohtani was hurt this year. Before 2020, his career BABIP was .352. There’s no way that I buy Ohtani as a .200 hitter. His exit velo was down but I think that’s a product of an injury. He’s too good of an athlete in his prime to fall off that quickly. He was also suppressed a little by the shift which I don’t expect to change. He still plays in a great park for home runs to centerfield where he excels. I’ll hold firm that Ohtani is a top-50 hitter if he receives everyday at-bats.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)

I don’t need to say much about Bellinger. His strikeout gains carried over from 2019 but he may have sacrificed some hard contact. There was also some weird stuff going on at the start of the season about him changing his swing. It made no sense and hurt his production early without a full season to recover. He’s also still running, pacing for 16 SBs across a full season which is right in line with his previous two seasons. He’s been healthy, missing only six games between 2017 and 2018. Still just 25 years old, he’ll be a top-12 pick for me in 2021.

Bryan Reynalds (OF – PIT)

Reynolds is going to be a completely forgotten man next year in drafts. He’s boring, plays for an awful team, and completely fell on his face in 2020. However, this is a guy who has never hit below .312 at any level including his rookie season in 2019 where he hit .314. He saw a jump of 6% in strikeout rate without much merit. His plate approach, chase%, and contact rates remained nearly identical from a year ago. He even boosted his barrel rate but also added more weakly hit balls. Overall, it seems like very little has changed from a year ago. The weakly hit balls are reflected in his xBABIP which at .307 is still about 70 points below his career-numbers. I think there’s a little bit of pop here and wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back with a .290 average and 20 homers with a handful of steals. Looks a little like Jeff McNeil just a lot cheaper.

Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)

So xBABIP thinks Harper should have hit .300 in 2020. So, with that being said, the soon to be 28 year old Harper would have hit .300 with 35 homers and 22 steals across a full season. Not so fast though. He’s another victim of the shift. He hasn’t outperformed his xBA since his 2017 season when he was only shifted on 21% of the time. His shift rates have been over 50% since then and continue to climb. Either way, Harper cut his K% significantly in the shortened season and is still in his prime. I’ll lock him in for a .275 BA, 35 HR, and 15+ steals. 

Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B – ARI)

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I might be in on Escobar next year. He was a complete fade for me coming into 2020. He went from being one of the luckiest hitter in terms of power in 2019 to one of the most unfortunate in 2020. Not only did he hit just four homers on nine barrels but his BABIP plummeted. I don’t think he will finish around .312 but something around a BABIP of .280 seems legit. He should once again hit in the middle of the DBacks lineup and provide solid run production. I think he’ll hit .260 with 20+ homers but will be drafted after pick 200.





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Catcher Rankings for 2019

CATCHER RANKINGS FOR 2019

The catcher landscape in 2019 looks relatively dreadful. As I was going through my projections, after the first seven or eight catchers, I got pretty depressed. Not really, but after that point, there were so many catchers that I projected to have sub-.250 batting averages with 10-15 homers and very low counting stats. The catcher position is really going to be a drain on most fantasy teams, especially in two-catcher formats. Even in 12 or 15 team single catcher formats, after Ramos, you’re looking at three to four categories that will hurt you in Roto leagues. Personally, I’m either grabbing someone in the Molina-Jansen range between picks 150 and 225 or waiting until my last pick to grab someone in the Chirinos to Mejia range.

RankPlayerTeamPositions
1J.T. RealmutoPHIC/1B
2Gary SanchezNYYC
3Yasmani GrandalMILC
4Yadier MolinaSTLC
5Buster PoseySFC/1B
6Wilson RamosNYMC
7Willson ContrerasCHCC
8Danny JansenTORC
9Welington CastilloCWSC
10Tucker BarnhartCINC
11Francisco CervelliPITC
12Robinson ChirinosHOUC
13Francisco MejiaSDC
14Mike ZuninoTBC
15Isiah Kiner-FalefaTEXC/2B/3B
16Willians AstudilloMINC
17Omar NarvaezSEAC
18Yan GomesWASC
19Jorge AlfaroMIAC
20Austin BarnesLADC/2B
21Tyler FlowersATLC
22Jonathan LucroyLAAC
23Austin HedgesSDC
24Kurt SuzukiWASC
25John HicksDETC/1B
26Christian VazquezBOSC
27Chris IannettaCOLC
28Grayson GreinerDETC
29Roberto PerezCLEC
30Jason CastroMINC
31Russel MartinLADC/3B
32Brian McCannATLC
33Alex AvilaARIC
34Martin MaldenadoKCC

J.T. Realmuto takes the top spot in 2019. I’ll have to give myself a small pat on the back from placing him #2 at the position prior to the 2018 season ahead of Posey and Contreras. Realmuto did not show his speed as much in 2018 but still possess a very good batting average floor with low 20s homers. He should chip in 4-6 steals which gives him the nod over Sanchez.

You may be surprised to see veteran red bird Yadier Molina at number three but he’s been consistent as any catcher the last several seasons. He’s really transformed himself into a very good hitter with well above average contact rates, good batting averages, and slightly above average power. The Cardinals improved their team offensively in the offseason with the addition of Goldschmidt. I see Molina hitting sixth, so his RBI opportunities should be plentiful.

Danny Jansen, the rookie catcher of the Toronto Blue Jays gets the nod over highly touted prospect Francisco Mejia because of his advanced plate discipline. While I think Mejia has the long-term upside, Jansen showed very impressive contact skills in his limited plate appearances in 2018 but also showcased them in the minors. His ability to take walks and developing power means, he should be a decent source of batting average and moderate power from a position that seriously lacks batting average upside.

Everyone’s favorite sports hero, Willians Astudillo comes in at 15 and therefore, is draftable in all 15-team leagues. Maybe it’s his dad-bod or his resemblance to Bartolo Colon. Either way, Astudillo is anything but ordinary. His contact rates are absolutely off the charts with incredibly low strikeout rates. The only thing he does less than strikeout and is walk. His minor league strikeout rates typically sat between three and four percent and in 97 plate appearances in the majors, struck out just three times! He doesn’t have much power but in addition to catching, the Twins put him at 2B, 3B, and the outfield. Unfortunately, the Twins, signed Nelson Cruz, so DH is off the table. Astudillo is not guaranteed 400 plate appearances but should hit around .290 given his contact skills and around 10-12 homers. You can do much worse 15 catchers deep.

Hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats w/ any Fantasy Baseball questions.

(Photo Courtesy of MARK CUNNINGHAM / GETTY IMAGES)

Will the Yankees Break the Single Season Home Run Record?

The all time record for home runs in a single season is 264 held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.  Some things that come to mind as I write this:  The team was comprised of peak Ken Griffey Jr., a hulking Jay Buhner who hit 40 bombs that year, a young stud shortstop named Alex Rodriguez, and this was of course during the steroid era. In fact, prior to 2017, eleven of the top fifteen home run hitting teams played during the steroid era.  There is some debate on when the era began and ended, I’m going with 1991 through 2003 for reference.  In 2017 however, The Yankees led the way with 241 home runs good for 9th all time! The Astros and Rangers were not far behind, both jumping into the top 15.  So naturally the team with the most power in 2017 adds even more power with Giancarlo Stanton in 2018.

The knee jerk reaction to the question in the title is yes, the Yankees will demolish this single season home run record. They added the best power hitter by HR/PA in this generation coming off a 59 home run campaign, so why wouldn’t they break the record?  To get to the answer we first have to look at batting order and plate appearances.  Based on the information above it may not surprise you to know that the Yankees led the majors in plate appearances with 6,354. That comes out to over 39 PA per game, 39.22 to be exact. The average for all teams in 2017 was about 38 PA/game, so it’s really only about 200 more PA over the course of the entire season above the league average.  For reference the Cubs led the league in PA in 2016 with 6,335.  So let’s go with a slight regression for the Yankees in 2018 based off this information to 6,340.  Here’s a table showing the  number of PA by spot in the bating order using our estimated 6,340 as a team in 2018.

Order GS PA % of PA PA Using
6,340
Batting 1st 4860 22678 12.24% 776
Batting 2nd 4860 22136 11.95% 757
Batting 3rd 4860 21632 11.67% 740
Batting 4th 4860 21153 11.42% 724
Batting 5th 4860 20621 11.13% 706
Batting 6th 4860 20110 10.85% 688
Batting 7th 4860 19581 10.57% 670
Batting 8th 4860 18978 10.24% 649
Batting 9th 4860 18406 9.93% 630
Total 185295

I rounded them to the nearest PA to make the math easier. Now we have to figure out the batting order and since we know the same 9 players won’t play all 162 games, we have to adjust for that.  Since this is theoretical, let’s assume 145 games played for all starters and 135 for Gary Sanchez at catcher (but can also DH). For second base I’ve combined Torres and Torreyes not only because their last names are so similar but the position is Torreyes’ until Glayber Torres is healthy and ready to be called up.  That could be in the first few weeks, it could be mid season, I don’t know.  I don’t expect Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier to be on the team all season, in fact, I expect one to be traded before the season starts, so those 250 PA are essentially for one player.  After all is said and done the total number of plate appearance has reached 6,340.

Projected Lineup  Position Plate App.
Brett Gardner CF/LF/RF 695
Giancarlo Stanton RF/DH 678
Aaron Judge LF/DH 662
Gary Sanchez C/DH 603
Greg Bird 1B/DH 632
Didi Gregorious SS 616
Aaron Hicks CF 600
Chase Headley 3B 581
Torreyes/Torres 2B 630
Bench
Ellsbury / Frazier OF 225
Romine C 200
Dustin Fowler OF 95
Tyler Wade SS/2B/3B 120
Total 6340

Finally, let’s get to the home run projections. I’ll fly through the “low power” hitters but will go into more depth for the Yankee Bombers: Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and I’ll throw Bird in there as well.  The Bench:  Tyler Wade and Ellsbury are speed guys with minimal power; Wade hit a career high 7 in 2017 in 450 PA and Ellsbury has settled into a 7-10 home run hitter (outside of the 2011 season).  Fowler has some developing pop but is only above average based on Eric Longenhagen’s 50 raw power grade.  Frazier has a similar 20 home run power upside but neither of them will get much playing time with the already crowded outfield.  Catcher Austin Romine has never hit more than 7 HRs in a single season.  So, without much analysis I’ve projected this bunch of players to get 640 total PA (by this estimation); which is basically a full season for one player; should only get about 15 HRs.  Working our way up Torreyes; he has almost no power to speak of and Torres while having significant power upside, will only be 21 and has a season career high of 11.  I do expect Torres to get more of the PA, so I’ll put the home run total at 14 for the #9 spot in the order.  Headley, ugh. We have a 33, soon to be 34 year old third baseman with below average power.  He’s averaged 13 home runs over the last 5 years.  I’ve got him at 13, simple.  This isn’t looking good right now.  We are at 42, only 223 to go!  Aaron Hicks is a wild card, he’s a very good player but can’t stay healthy.  Luckily for me in this experiment, he does stay healthy!  Over the course of his career, he’s averaged 1 home run for every 38 PA but had 15 HR in only 361 PA in 2017 or 1 HR every 24 PA.  He’s in his prime and playing in a good hitter’s park, I’ll have him somewhere in between and give him 21 HR.  On to Didi Gregorious.  I don’t like his projections, check out my bust post about him.  In there I have him pegged for 15 HRs, so that’s what we’ll go with.  Brett Gardner was a surprising source of power in 2017 hitting over 20 for the first time in his career (21 to be exact). He did it with a career high 13.5% HR/FB which at age 34 seems high even for a lefty playing half his games at Yankee Stadium. I say he drops back down to around 11.0% and hits 17 home runs in 2018.

This is where things get interesting.  Greg Bird is a prototypical power hitting left handed first baseman. He’ll be 25 during the 2018 season so he’s entering his prime.  He’s not Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton in terms of power but who is?  Given his 24 HR in only 348 PA in the majors, you can expect big things from Bird given a full season of at bats. His 50% FB rate combined with hard contact and Yankee Stadium provides some high hopes. Yes, he will strikeout and hit popups limiting his batting average, but all we care about in this article is home runs.  All that being said, I’ll give Bird 32 home runs in 632 PA.
Gay Sanchez has been a monster since entering the majors in August of 2016 hitting 53 home runs in 177 games! His PA/HR almost matches Aaron Judge’s: 13.8 PA/HR to 14.2 PA/HR. In this experiment I’ve projected less PA for Sanchez due to the wear and tear catchers have to deal with day in and day out.  Now Judge does hit more fly balls and hits the ball harder and a result, his HR/FB% is higher as you’d expect (33.3% to 29.3%).  These are both elite. I do expect both to drop in 2018 because it’s difficult to improve on rates that high even for the best power hitters in the game.  I expect Sanchez to be around 25% and Judge to be around 28-29%. That brings us to 35 home runs for Sanchez and 44 home runs for Judge. 

We have 206 projected home runs for the 2018 Yankees with Giancarlo Stanton to go. He needs 59 to get the Yankees to 265 for the season. Isn’t that a coincidence, he he hit 59 in 2017 and will now be playing half his games at Yankee Stadium.  Although I’ve seen articles that overlaid Yankee Stadium over all his home runs from 2017 and it would have added between 1 and 3 home runs for the entire season.  Why?  Well, because a 475 foot fly ball is a home run anywhere. In 2017 Stanton changed his approach, he changed his stance to where his front foot is extremely closed.  It helps him see the ball better and limits his leg kick creating more contact. It helped cut his strikeouts down below 25% for the first time but did lower his hard contact. That’s OK though because Stanton, along with Judge, can hit a ball at 80% and it be a home run.  I have Stanton hitting 2nd giving him 678 PA which is 14 less than he had in 2017. His 34.3% HR/FB was a career high (not a surprise) but he did have a 32.1% HR/FB% in just under half a season in 2015, so it’s not insanely high for him. His FB% was under 40% and his IFFB% was a career high, so those are bad signs but I do believe in the decrease in strikeout rate.  He cut his SwStr% by almost 3% and his O-Swing% was below 28% for the first time in his career.  Ok, enough with analysis, what’s his HR total for 2018?

I’m going with 50 HR for Stanton in 2018. The Yankees fall 9 home runs short of breaking the record and 8 short of tying it with 256 home runs in 2018.  It’s interesting because on the surface it looks like a virtual lock that the Yankees will break this record in 2018.  It’s possible that Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and Bird all stay healthy for a full season giving 150+ games each and break the record but guys like Bird and Hicks haven’t proven to be healthy for a full season and Stanton has certainly missed his share of time. Sure, the 2018 Yankees could demolish the record by hitting 280 or something like that but if I’m putting money down on it, I’d bet against it. There’s too many variables and things that need to go right for the Yankees for this to happen.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be awed by the spectacle of every 500 foot bomb hit by Judge and Stanton and enjoying the chase for 265.