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Batting Average Risers - 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 breakouts from 2018.

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BA Breakouts of 2018

Mookie Betts (OF, BOS): BA Increase 2018(.346)-2017(.264) = +.82

Starting at the top, we have the best player in baseball for the 2018 season in Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. There are a lot of reasons to stake that claim and there also could be a case made that he was the biggest comeback player in fantasy baseball (although the second player in this article has a case as well). While he was a 20/20 player in 2017 (24 homers and 26 stolen bases) with 46 doubles, Betts limped to a .264 batting average and saw his OPS drop from .897 to .803.

His 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored were what made fantasy owners intrigued in Betts, but his .346 batting average was what made him the fantasy king. Maintaining his elite patience, 81 walks and 91 strikeouts, Betts topped his .318 batting average from 2016 and had a .438 OBP. His 1.037 OPS was a stark improvement on his career-best .897 from 2016 as well and his 32 home runs were also a career-high.

Betts will likely be in the discussion for the first pick with Mike Trout and there is good reason. He is coming off of the back of four straight 20 stolen base seasons and was two homers shy in 2015 from four straight 20/20 seasons. Betts also was over both 100 runs scored and RBI in 2016 and 2017 and is a safe bet to be a top-five player in 2019.

Trevor Story (SS, COL): BA Increase 2018(.291)-2017(.239) = +.52

Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story broke onto the scene in his rookie 2016 season, hitting 27 home runs in just 97 games and was one of the top picks to break out in 2017. The power was there for Story, as he had 59 extra-base hits, but his batting average slumped from .272 in 2016 to .239 in his sophomore season. Considering that he struck out 191 times in 2017 as well, many thought that Story would be the prototypical all or nothing player.

That was not the case in 2018, though, as Story rounded out his profile with a .291 batting average to go along with his 37 homers, 42 doubles, and six triples. He also stole 27 bases and was the top SS in fantasy baseball by the end of the season. A more aggressive approach at the plate led to more success for Story, as his swing rate went to 50.3% in 2018 from 46.2% in 2016 and 48% in 2017. He also saw his contact rate boom to 77.4% in 2018, with his zone swinging rate at 74.6%.

It will be tough for Story to duplicate his 2018 season, but he did have a track record in the minors as a player with a strong average coupled with power and speed. While the minors are not the big leagues by any stretch, remember that Story had a .332 batting average in Double-A in 2014 and has stolen 15 bases at every level other than Triple-A. Maybe he is not the top SS in 2019 (though Coors will help), but, if he can keep his average around .280, Story should be a top-five SS.

Matt Chapman (3B, OAK): BA Increase 2018(.278)-2017(.234) = +.44

A player that could be destined for multiple Gold Gloves at third base, Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman had 39 extra-base hits in just 290 at-bats in 2017. He had 39 runs scored, 40 RBI, and looked like a good power source for the Athletics going forward. The only issue, though, was his .234 batting average that made him look like another Bash Brother without plate discipline (92 strikeouts did not help either).

In 2018, Chapman put up a whole season of numbers and the power was still there; he clubbed 42 doubles, three triples, and 24 homers as the everyday 3B in Oakland. A pleasant surprise was his .278 batting average and .356 OBP that made him a 3B option in all formats. He scored 100 runs, tallied 68 RBI and the 25-year-old looks like the whole package for 2019 and beyond.

Chapman saw his contact rate jump from 73.2% to 78.7%, his swinging strike rate drop from 11.5% to 8.8%, and his zone contact rate go from 81.8% to 86.4%. A jump in hard hit ball rate to 43.2% shows that he made better contact as well and his strikeout rate went from 28.2% to 23.7% year over year as well. All of these things are very good to say the least and it would not be shocking at all if Chapman is a top-10 3B in 2019.

Matt Duffy (3B, TB): BA Increase 2018(.294)-2016* (.258) = +.36

After missing the 2017 season, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Matt Duffy had to rest on his poor 2016 season where he had a .253 batting average in 257 at-bats. He did have a .295 batting average in 573 at-bats in 2015, but his weak 2016 and injury-riddled 2017 had him off of the fantasy radar. To boot, he only had a .762 OPS in 2015 because of a .426 slugging percentage.

Healthier in 2018, Duffy solidified his role for the Rays, posting a .294 batting average and stealing 12 bases as well. Like in 2015, though, Duffy had a low slugging percentage (lower at .366 actually) and only hit four home runs. This season, though, he had a strong .361 OBP, which could put him in a better place for runs scored in the future.

Through two full seasons, it is clear what we can get from Duffy: a good amount of average with little to no power. For those looking for average to pair with a good slugger, Duffy makes a decent late round pick. At the end of the day, though, you need to remember that he will hit for basically zero power.

Jose Peraza (2B, CIN): BA Increase 2018(.288)-2017(.259) = +.29

While he is not the sexiest of players, and might not even be the best surprising player from his own team (see: Scooter Gennett), Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jose Peraza still had a nice bounce-back season in 2018. Peraza had a .324 batting average in 241 at-bats in 2016, but slipped to a .259 batting average in 487 at-bats in 2017. He had a sub-.300 OBP as well (.297) and only had 18 extra-base hits.

In 2018, however, Peraza had a .288 batting average and saw his power numbers jump as well, to 49 extra-base hits that included a career-best 31 doubles and 14 home runs. He stole 23 bases in 2018, tying his career-best from the season prior, and scored 85 runs as well.

Peraza might not be the best of options as a 2B, but his solid average, stolen base tallies, and a strong offensive ballpark make him an interesting MI option. If his power surge from 2018 extends to 2019, he could be a good pickup in the later rounds.

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