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Batting Average Fallers - 2018 MLB Season Recap

The 2018 season has now come and gone (so sad!), so it is now time to dive into trends and projections for next season! One of the main stats for measuring batters’ success is batting average.

Surprisingly, Jose Altuve is the only player that was a holdover in the top 10 of batting average from 2017 to 2018. Injuries to Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Avisail Garcia saw them drop from the list while players like Eric Hosmer and Buster Posey had uncharacteristically poor seasons.

Here is the list of the top BA fallers from 2018.

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BA Fallers of 2018

Avisail Garcia (OF, CHW): BA Decrease 2018(.236)-2017(.330) = -.94

Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia was a top prospect with the Tigers before coming over to Chicago, invoking comparisons to Miguel Cabrera by some. In 2017, he started to play like the former MVP, as he hit .330 with 50 extra-base hits and 80 RBI. While there was a lot of skepticism leading into 2018, mainly since he hit .252 between 2016 and 2017, he was still a decent sleeper leading into the season.

By the end of 2018, though, Garcia's batting average had dropped to .236 and, with a lack of walks as well, he had a .281 OBP. That is a far departure from his successes in 2017 and has many fantasy owners disinterested in him for 2019. While that is a fair criticism, you also need to recognize that he had 19 home runs in just 356 at-bats last season after hitting 18 in 518 at-bats in 2017.

It is too soon to say that 2017 was a huge outlier for Garcia, but it is likely that he is not going to hit .330 once again. This is not to say that Garcia has no value, it looks like his 2018 results were more of an outlier than 2017, but he will likely not provide as much in the way of average. If he is able to approach a .280 batting average with 20-25 homers, which is very likely, he will have mixed-league appeal.

Zack Cozart (SS/3B, LAA): BA Decrease 2018(.219)-2017(.297) = -.78

A player with a 79 OPS+ coming into the 2017 season, Zack Cozart made the most of his free agent season with the Reds. After posting a career-best 16 home runs in 2016, Cozart slashed .297/.385/.548 for the Reds in 2017, hitting 24 home runs in just 122 games. This led to the Angels signing the infielder, even with Andrelton Simmons in place, and moving him to third base.

Cozart's first season in Los Angeles was far from ideal, as he is currently dealing with a shoulder injury and only played 58 games for the Angels. In his first season, Cozart had a .219/.296/.362 slash line, the fourth time in his career that he had a sub-.300 OBP. The only reason that fantasy owners should consider Cozart going forward is that his hard hit ball rate was a career-best 36.8% in 2018 while his BABIP was a career-worst .244.

The Angels will likely use Cozart at third when healthy, but do not expect him to put up numbers as he did in 2017. In fact, once he loses his SS eligibility, it will be very tough to see him as a CI option without good power numbers. Cozart is best kept on waivers.

Eric Hosmer (1B, SD): BA Decrease 2018(.253)-2017(.318) = -.65

There was a lot that went right for Eric Hosmer during the 2017 season, as he had career highs in many statistics, including a .318 batting average. He added 25 home runs, 94 runs scored, 98 RBI and looked like a strong option as a CI for 2018 at a minimum. Hosmer parlayed a strong 2017 season into a big money move with the Padres, looking to bring a stable option at 1B for San Diego.

That was not the case, as a huge drop off in batting average was one of the issues for Hosmer in his first season with the Friars. A .253/.322/.398 slash line was not what the Padres were looking for when they inked him to a seven-year deal, especially since he was a career .284 hitter coming into 2018. The most positive thing to say about his poor season in 2018 is that Hosmer has a tendency to bounce back after poor seasons in his career.

In San Diego, Hosmer's value is obviously suppressed and he is not a good option as a starting 1B. There is some promise in the future with the Padres farm system, which could put him in a better position for run creation, but he is not a traditional slugger. He might fit as a CI option in deeper leagues, as he is a good contact hitter.

Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL/MIL): BA Decrease 2018(.233)-2017 (.293) = -60

After hitting 57 home runs in 2016 and 2017, Jonathan Schoop was a hot name to break into the top-five (or even top-three) of fantasy 2B going into 2018. Much of that stemmed from the fact that Schoop also hit .293 in 2017 and, while his career-high 32 home runs were nice, that boost in average led many to believe he could do more than just hit for power. Furthermore, Baltimore is known as a hitter's ballpark and a consistent string of seasons with a .280 batting average and 25 or more homers were expected.

The power showed up for Schoop in 2018, as he finished with 21 home runs, but his average slumped to .233 in 473 at-bats. He also had a change of scenery during the season, moving to the Brewers, where he only had a .577 OPS and .202 batting average in 124 at-bats. While Schoop's soft hit ball rate was similar year over year, 23%, his hard hit ball rate dropped from 36.1% to 27.8% and his BABIP slumped from .330 to .261.

Schoop is a free agent, so a lot of his value depends on where he goes for 2019. He still looks like a player that could hit 25-30 home runs, but it is unlikely that he hits .290 or above again. Known as more of a free swinger, bet on Schoop for power and run production rather than average going forward.

Dee Gordon (2B, SEA): BA Decrease 2018(.268)-2017(.308) = -.40

Fantasy owners thought that they knew what to expect from Dee Gordon leading into 2018, as he was a .308 hitter with 60 stolen bases for the Marlins in 2017. While his batting average yo-yo'd a bit in his career, he showed that he was a .290 hitter and that whatever soft hit issues that he had would be mitigated by his speed. Furthermore, he was traded to the Mariners who, while they did not have as good of a lineup as the Marlins, would also give him an opportunity in the outfield.

The combination of speed, average, and multi-positional eligibility had Gordon coming off of the board as early as the third-round coming into 2018, but his .268 batting average and 30 stolen bases were a massive disappointment. In fact, both were career-lows (minimum of 325 at-bats) and, in a lineup where he was expected to lead off and score runs, he only scored 62 runs. Even though he had poor results in 2018, Gordon did have a career-best 20.4% hard hit ball rate, his ground ball rate was only 55.2% (career average of 57.8%), and had 22.4% line drives. It is easy to see that a lot of issues came from his BABIP dropping 50 points (from .354 to .304), possibly from his fly ball rate jumping three points.

It is tough to imagine that Gordon has an average in the .260s once again in 2019, as he is known for his speed and average. If he does not have an average that approaches .300, which he has a demonstrated ability to do, he has very little value. Look at Gordon as a bounce-back candidate for 2019 with potential for a .300 batting average and 40 or more stolen bases at the top of the Mariners lineup.

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