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Outfielder Breakouts Due for Regression in 2019

It’s inevitable that we see players breakout in baseball every season. In these scenarios, certain athletes may have a total blindsided outburst that no one anticipated coming, or perhaps it’s a savvy veteran who finally took that next step in their professional development. In either circumstance, we pay up for it in the following season in fantasy baseball drafts.

We sometimes can misconstrue the worth of these players by paying full price on their stock in the subsequent season. A common mistake by drafters is to overpay for previous year’s statistics, and we need to focus on what we will get for a return in the present season. Our goal is to find value, meaning to discover players who will exceed their draft day cost.

Some of the highlighted talents in this article will continue to post excellent numbers in the majors, but their cost may be inflated because of their performance a season ago. Regression finds every major leaguer, whether it’s positive or negative, and we’ll dive into why these players will see a pullback in numbers in 2019. It may have you second guessing whether or not you want to pull the trigger on these outfielders at their current price tag.

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Christian Yelich (MIL) ADP - 7.1

After several middling seasons in Miami, Christian Yelich broke out in a big way in 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Earning NL MVP honors, he hit .326 with 36 HR, 118 R, 110 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. With massive numbers in every category, this stat line is undoubtedly worth a first-round selection. It’s his 2019 stats, however, that we should focus on when eyeing him for our fantasy rosters.

Yelich doubled his home run output from 2017 where he hit 18 taters in over 40 more plate appearances in that season. It’s no secret that Miller Park is a significant upgrade from his former confines at Marlins Park, but it hardly merits a complete double-up in long balls. Yelich equaled his Launch Angle from 2017 (4.7°) and lowered his FB% nearly 2% to a 23.5% mark. He did set a new high in Hard Hit% at 50.8%, but the fact that his league-leading 35.0% HR/FB in 2018 exploded over his 20.3% career-rate proves that this homer pace is unsustainable. With absolutely no change in approach, other than hitting the ball harder, Yelich could wind up closer to his previous career-high of 21 HR rather than his 36 from a year ago.

With an imminent decline in home runs, a loss in RBI and runs will trickle down with it. Yelich will continue to be fluent in batting average and on-base percentage so the counting stats will accumulate to a healthy level, but it would be an anomaly for more than one of his roto categories to improve in 2019. Yelich has the same skillset that he’s had in every one of his other seasons when he was getting selected as a top-50 player. Now that we’re forced to pay full price for his talents, the value isn’t there anymore, especially for depreciating 2019 numbers.

 

Eddie Rosario (MIN) ADP - 86.1

While Eddie Rosario’s true breakout may have taken place in 2017, his numbers in 2018 were his best on a per game basis, and fantasy owners have taken notice. Rosario batted .288 with 24 HR, 87 RBI, 77 runs, and eight stolen bases in 138 games last season. A rock-solid contributor in all five categories, will this production carry over into 2019?

On the surface, these numbers look desirable, but there are a few underlying metrics that raise an eyebrow. Rosario had the fifth-worst O-Swing% in the majors last year at 42.9% which led to a troublesome 12.7% SwStr%. He has improved on these marks slightly since his first couple of seasons, but these metrics don’t scream a .290 hitter. When pitchers realize they don’t need to throw him as many strikes, Rosario will get himself out. It already started to show last season as he batted just .240 after the All-Star Game.

Rosario's HR/FB mark in 2018 (12.0%) was nearly identical to his career rate (12.6%), but he did generate more fly balls off his bat than ever before. He’ll have to keep this approach up if he wants to eclipse 20 HR again. The lefty swinger hit 12 of his homers last season measured as just enough, that's good for a 50% rate of wall-scrapers compared to only one knock labeled as a no-doubter.

Rosario will bat in the top third of an improved Twins lineup in 2019, so his counting stats will still look presentable. Expecting for him to repeat a near .290 average and flirt with 25 HR may be too trusting for the 27-year-old as these stats are likely to see some regression. You can find Rosario’s same skillset in the ensuing rounds of your draft, and you shouldn’t pay full price for numbers that he won’t duplicate.

 

David Peralta (ARI) ADP - 133

In a season where the addition of a humidor at Chase Field seemingly limited offensive production, David Peralta’s stats somehow became inflated. For the second consecutive year, Peralta hit .293 with a .352 OBP, the epitome of consistency. His home run total wasn’t nearly as consistent as he hit more than double the amount that he had in 2017 (14). Knocking 30 out of the park a season ago, he swatted 87 RBI while scoring 75 runs to finish up a career-year. Not bad for a former pitcher.

With the departures of Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, Peralta is suddenly the best bat in the Diamondbacks lineup. Spending the majority of his ABs as the team's leadoff hitter in 2018, Peralta will likely wind up batting in the three-hole this season. With a lack of depth behind him in the lineup, opponents may wisely choose to pitch around Peralta, limiting the number of juicy pitches that he previously saw batting ahead of Goldschmidt a year ago.

Like Yelich, Peralta didn’t alter his approach drastically at the dish, but he did hit the ball extremely hard. His 45.7% Hard Hit% was over a 10% jump from 2017 and his HR/FB also skyrocketed from 12.2% to 23.4% from season to season. This number is sure to regress, especially since he tied Rosario for 12 just enough homers last season.

Peralta went from your run-of-the-mill average hitter to an upper-echelon power producer in a brief amount of time. A relapse to his former self seems unavoidable with multiple factors working against him. Batting third for the D’Backs, Peralta will still produce some solid counting stats, and his batting average will keep pace with a number around .290 once again. At the current price, you’re paying for a return in power as well as RBI numbers. It’s difficult to foresee either of these numbers getting eclipsed, and his HR total should only be projected to be a handful higher than his previous career best (17). Batting average is about the only category Peralta moves the needle on, and he should be passed over in drafts.

 

Franmil Reyes (SD) ADP - 222

Franmil Reyes made an incredible splash in the big-league waters in 2018. Not because he’s 275 pounds, but because he batted .280 with 16 HR, 36 R, and 31 RBI in 87 games with the Padres last season. A sizeable power threat, what else does the 23-year-old offer?

As the 27th ranked prospect in the Padres system a year ago, Reyes was a surprise contributor to their lineup last season. His .280 batting average is destined to regress as he was only able to surpass this number once since his debut in Single-A in 2013. If Reyes qualified as a hitter in 2018, he would have been in the league’s bottom-10 in Contact% (69.9%) and SwStr% (14.0%). That is an inferior batting company to be included as a peer.

Reyes also put the ball on the ground far more often than what should be expected from such a hulking figure. Only 24 qualifying bats had a GB/FB higher than Reyes’ 1.65 mark in 2018, and only two of these men were able to eclipse 25 homers (Yelich/Peralta). Reyes had a 29.6% HR/FB as a major leaguer, lightyears above his 12.1% career minor league rate; this number should regress somewhere in between the two moving forward. Reyes has proven to hit the ball hard, but he needs to put the ball in the air more to be a true home run threat.

Reyes underwent knee surgery during the offseason, which is a little concerning for a man of his stature. He hasn’t seen limited work during the spring, so it appears he’s fully healthy, but it’s something to note moving forward. The distressing factor looming over Reyes this season is playing time. It’s a crowded outfield in San Diego, and it appears Reyes is fourth in line for at-bats. It also doesn’t help his cause that he had a .247/.298/.449 slash line against right-handers last season, so he may not see as many starts versus these pitchers. Reyes has considerable home run upside, but he has some kinks to iron out in his game for these numbers to fully flourish in the majors. Until we see this occur, or he earns an everyday spot in the regular lineup, Reyes won’t return the results that fantasy owners are forecasting from him.

 

Teoscar Hernandez (TOR) ADP - 343

He may not have had the flashiest breakout season in 2018, but Teoscar Hernandez was beneficial to fantasy lineups in his first full year in the big leagues. Swatting 22 HR, he had 67 R, 57 RBI, and five steals to go along with a .239 batting average with the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Although he has a late-round ADP, there’s not as much upside to his skills than what we might initially anticipate.

Hernandez had a terrific first half of the season batting .257 with 15 bombs in 76 games, but in the second half, he failed miserably. Hitting .209 post-All-Star Break, the 26-year-old seen his 26.2% K% soar up to an awful 39.5% in this span of the season. Fortunately, his BB% was at a respectable 10.8%, but he still only managed to put up a .292 OBP in this timeframe and just a .302 OBP for the season. It was a gaffe on the Blue Jays part for having Hernandez bat leadoff or second in nearly half of his games, and he likely won’t be in this spot in the order in 2019.

Playing time, in general, may be hard to come by as he figures to be on the wrong side of a platoon with Billy McKinney in left field. McKinney bats left-handed and hits righties well, so Hernandez may only see the majority of his playing time against southpaws or to fill in if an injury occurred elsewhere in the Toronto outfield. It further dampens his outlook that Hernandez was one of the worst in defensive metrics among outfielders last season.

Hernandez has an excellent ability to barrel up the baseball and possesses good pop in his swing. He sells out in contact for the big fly as his 64.1% Contact% ranked second-worst in the league, so it may not be worth it to grab him solely for a 20 HR season. He’s a detriment to the batting average category, and with limited ABs, there isn’t enough projected in his counting stats to make a fantasy impact. The power is useful, but finding a player with more upside in your late rounds would be of more sound logic.




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