March 19, 2013 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2013 Fantasy Baseball Leaders and Laggards: Hitters’ BABIP Leaders Edition

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Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

The guys on this list also fall into basically two categories; Guys who played way over their heads in 2012 and guys who…wait. All these guys played over their heads in 2012. Some of them are still worthy of your attention on draft day and others are not. At least one guy being drafted in the first round this year will probably disappoint most fantasy GMs who assume that he’s “safe.”

Let’s take a look at a lot of guys who will probably start disappointing fantasy GMs in about three weeks! Get your “I-told-you-so”‘s ready for the leaders edition of this week’s Leaders and Laggards…

1. Dexter Fowler .390
2. Torii Hunter .389
3. Mike Trout .383
4. Andrew McCutchen .375
5. Austin Jackson .371
6. Buster Posey .368
7. Joe Mauer .364
8. Miguel Montero .362
9. Alex Gordon .356
10. Chris Johnson .354

Dexter Fowler’s career high BABIP was fueled by his career high 27.2% LD %. He’s never maintained a LD % anywhere near that high and he’s likely to regress. His 8.9% infield hit % and his 38.9% bunt hit % were both career highs and both are well above league average. Fowler could maintain a higher than average BABIP if he can repeat those numbers and finally take advantage of his prodigious speed. His career average is .353 and he’ll likely end up closer to that than .390 in 2013. Higher than average is likely sustainable, .390 isn’t.

Torii Hunter is probably the best bet on this board to regress. His career average is only .307 and he no longer possesses the above average speed that he had when he was younger. Age and regression to his career average are likely to take their toll on his numbers in 2013. Another issue with Hunter is that he’s coming off a season that saw him post a 2.05 GB:FB ratio. He’ll never hit over 20 homers again if he repeats those numbers while playing half his games in Comerica Park.

We have barely a full season of data on Mike Trout and it’s simply not enough information to make any educated guesses about Trout’s 2013 season. He did post a ridiculously high BABIP at almost every stop in the minors, so it’s reasonable that he could post high numbers at the major league level. Basically, feel free to invest in Trout if you think he can repeat a .383 BABIP and a 21.6% HR:FB ratio or stay away from him if you think those numbers aren’t repeatable.

Andrew McCutchen is viewed by some as a safer option in the first round. He really shouldn’t be. His .375 2012 BABIP was almost 50 points over his .326 career average. He did so without hitting a higher than average amount of line drives ( 21.9% LD %) and a 1.35 GB:FB ratio. He’s a solid bet to suffer some regression and he’s not nearly as safe as he looks in the first round.

Austin Jackson managed a .371 BABIP last year, but he went the full season without a successful bunt single. That’s got to be some kind of achievement. AJax owns a .370 career average, but he’s still a solid bet to regress.  His career average is fueled, in part, by the .396 BABIP he posted in 2010. Fantasy GMs that invest in AJax need to play close attention to his LD %, he’ll provide value as long as he stays above 20%. If Jackson dips below 20%, like he did in 2011, he won’t provide the batting average that fantasy GMs expect.

Buster Posey posted a BABIP 27 points over his 339 career average last year. His high BABIP was driven by his 24.6% LD %. He’s never posted a LD % over 20% in his career until last year. He’s coming off a career year and seems primed to regress in 2013. Stay away from Posey especially in the early rounds of your draft.

Joe Mauer posted a BABIP over .360 last year? Is anyone shocked by this? He’s always maintained a higher than average LD % and he only hit fly balls 21.5% last year. He simply doesn’t put that many balls in the air and it’s helping his numbers on balls in play. It’s killing his power numbers, but helping his numbers on balls in play. He owns a .345 career BABIP and will likely end up around that number….as long as he stays healthy.

Miguel Montero turned in almost an exact duplicate of his 2011 season in 2012. The only difference was that he posted a .317 BABIP in 2011 and a .362 BABIP in 2012. He’s a solid bet to regress and unlikely to repeat his .286 average. He’s never posted a BABIP anywhere near .362 at any level before last season. He was essentially the same guy he always was on his batted ball data. He owns a 20.0%/41.2%/38.8% LD/GB/FB slash line for his career and posted 20.9/43.0/36.0% slash line last year.

Alex Gordon owns a career BABIP of .324, but it’s skewed by his horrific .254 BABIP in 2010. He posted a .358 in 2011 and a .356 in 2012. The .254 is the outlier at this point. Staying away from Gordon due to BABIP concerns is foolish at this point. He’s posted line drive %’s over 20.0% for each of the last three years and posted a GB:FB rate over 1.00 for each of the last two years.

Chris Johnson was surprisingly useful last year. He’s never had much plate discipline (4.8% BB% for his career), but he owns a .347 career BABIP. A .354 BABIP isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a guy with a .347 career average and a 23.9% LD% for his career. Playing time could be an issue as Johnson appears to be in the undesirable side of a platoon in Atlanta. He’s a bench guy in a deep league until he can find a path to a job.


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