Top 10 for Batting Average: 2014 Fantasy Baseball Predictions

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Kyle Braver - RotoBaller


Top 10 for Batting Average in 2014 Fantasy Baseball

Today I'll be taking a look at another one of the major categories in roto formats: batting average. There's a certain type of player that fantasy owners can count on to hit for a high batting average. I'm talking about players with excellent line drive rates, low pop-up rates, and a good sense of the strike zone. The 10 players below are those who I believe exemplify these skills, the players I expect to lead the league in batting average going forward into 2014.


1) Miguel Cabrera

2013 BA: .348

2014 Projection: .330-.335

Is anyone surprised to see Cabrera's name here? Nope? No one? Okay good, let's move on.


2) Mike Trout

2013 BA: .323

2014 Projection: .315-.320

Anyone? Some surprise? Just a little? Okay, once again moving on.


3) Joe Mauer

2013 BA: .324

2014 Projection: .315-.320

Finally someone I can talk about! The danger of a little knowledge is misunderstanding and misapplication, and no where is this more evident than in the case of Joe Mauer. Every season I meet some fantasy owner who points to Mauer's Batting-Average-On-Balls-In-Play (BABIP) and exclaims at how much over league average it always is and how that makes Mauer a prime candidate for regression. It's making a grave mistake however  just look at a player's BABIP and use that as the sole basis for your conclusion that they're due for regression. Some players are able to sustain a higher than average BABIP, just in the same way that some players are able to run faster than others or hit more home runs than others. What I mean is that there's a reason Joe Mauer has been able to sustain a career .349 BABIP over the past 10 seasons while the league average has hovered around .295, and that reason is directly tied to his underlying peripheral numbers. While the league had a line drive percentage (LD%) of 21.2% last season, Mauer had one of 27.7%. While the league had a pop-up rate (IFFB%) of 9.7% last season, Mauer had one of 1.1%. I could go on, but in sum you get the picture of a hitter who simply has a better approach than league average, makes better contact than league average, and, unsurprisingly in retrospect, has better results than league average.

Mauer should also benefit greatly from his move away from catcher to 1st base. While I don't think that this will necessarily increase his underlying rate numbers, it should do wonders to keep Mauer healthy as the season drags on, and a healthy Joe Mauer means more plate appearances for fantasy owners. Simply put, Mauer is going to be a stud for whoever drafts him, especially in the batting average category.


4) Adrian Beltre

2013 BA: .315

2014 Projection: .305-.310

Beltre has been nothing but consistently great for years now, and even though he's beginning to get older he hasn't shown so much as a hint of wearing down. His LD% and IFFB% have actually both been improving over the previous 3 seasons, and with a BABIP of only .322 last season he doesn't need to be too much above league average to support continued elite production. Arlington Park is one of the nicer parks to hit in and he has the underlying numbers to take full advantage of his circumstances.  He's one 3rd baseman you can count on, especially in batting average.


5) Troy Tulowitzki

2013 BA: .315

2014 Projection: .305-.310

I love Tulo in the batting average category. While his underlying numbers are actually somewhat ordinary (his LD% of 20.8% for example was just a tick below league average even for shortstops), playing half his games at Coors Field magnifies his potential in a way that most hitters can only dream of. Coors Field is thought of primarily for its power boosting potential, but what is sometimes overlooked is that in the effort to make their park more playable for their pitchers, the Rockies designed one of the largest outfields in all of baseball. This is a huge boon to hitters who make good contact, because even the best outfielders have trouble covering the sheer expanse of their assigned territory. Balls put in play at Coors fall for hits far more often than they would in other areas, and Tulo owners are blessed to have a hitter who had a contact rate almost 5% above league average (87.3 vs. 83.7%) in the last 3 seasons.

Health is of course always a concern with Tulowitzki because as we've learned by now, at some point during the season, Tulowitzki is going to pull or strain something in his lower body and land on the DL. Until that happens though I fully expect him to be a very above-average contributor in batting average. And there's always the hope that he stays healthy.....a man can dream I suppose.


6) Joey Votto

2013 BA: .305

2014 Projection: .300-.305

Fun fact about Joey Votto: since debuting in the major leagues 7 years ago, he's hit a total of 12 popups. To put that in perspective Hunter Pence hit 12 popups in the first half of last season alone. Votto has the most astounding talent of being able to make consistent hard contact with every swing at a rate where there simply isn't anyone on his level. His LD% of 27.2% is elite and his approach is one of the most refined in all of baseball (if you've ever heard him in an interview, you'll agree with me when I say that this man treats hitting like a science). With his skillset he has one of the highest floors for potential batting average in all of baseball. I'd be shocked if he didn't hit .300 next season.


7) Ryan Braun

2013 BA: .298

2014 Projection: .300-.305

I know that Braun's name is a controversial one considering his recent steroid suspension, and that there's always the risk that his bat goes the way of Melky Cabrera's now that he's off the juice, but I believe in Braun going forward. I don't think steroids will rob him of everything that made him an MVP just a few years ago. His batting eye will still be there, his approach will still be there, and his swing will still be there. You might be able to argue that he's in for a power reduction, or that without steroids artificially aiding his recovery times, he's a bigger injury risk going forward, but I think batting average is one category that you can count on him for. Even with the question marks, I consider him a solid 2nd round pick and a .300 hitter just like before.


8) Andrew McCutchen

2013 BA: .317

2014 Projection: .300-.305

This man didn't win an MVP for nothing you know. The results of the last two years (.327 and .317 respectively) prove that he's an elite batting average contributor. His LD% is nicely above average at 24.5% and the great foot speed he has allows him to beat out a good chunk of close plays to 1st every season. That rather rare combination of line drive swing and elite speed is a big part of why you see him post back to back BABIPs of .375 and .353 the last two seasons. I do see a bit of regression coming in his numbers, mostly because any time a player puts up the best numbers of his career one season, the next is going to probably be a disappoint in comparison. Even still, I think his floor is .300, with upside for much more.


9) Robinson Cano

2013 BA: .314

2014 Projection: .300-.305

I've talked about this in previous posts, so I won't go into too much detail here, but the short version is that I'm not as scared about Cano's move to pitcher friendly SAFECO Field as much as many are. Talent trumps park every time in my book, and in terms of home/road splits Cano has actually been a better hitter on the road for what it's worth (career .312 away vs. .305 at home). This man helped me win a league last season, and I trust him to help you all win yours this season.


10) David Ortiz

2013 BA: .309

2014 Projection: .295-.300

Ortiz's age made me hesitate for a couple seconds before including him on this list, but I realized not including one of the premier hitters in baseball would be a mistake regardless of his age. Ortiz has hit above .300 in each of the last 3 seasons, and had one of his best seasons ever just last year for the Red Sox. There's always risk in counting on a player at his age, but considering his bat I'm comfortable accepting that risk when I say he'll be a stud for fantasy owners in batting average (and most other categories) next season.