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xBA-BA Leaders - Statcast Hitter Studs and Duds (Week 6)


This week, we're going back to the basics to look at batting average. Of course, with Statcast we are able to dig deeper than that and look at how hitters are either underperforming or overperforming by comparing their averages to expected stats, or xBA in this case.

Expected stats for an all-encompassing stat like average will analyze how a hitter should be performing based on a variety of factors such as exit velocity, launch angle, plate discipline and more. Keep in mind that xstats are not meant to be predictive, so while those who are seeing the biggest differences between expectation and performance certainly could be risers or fallers in the near future, it's not guaranteed.

As always, I will omit the names of players that will do no good to analyze to the typical fantasy owner. Instead, I will mention some surprising players who might be worth your attention on the waiver wire, trade block, or chopping block. Now, let's see who could be due for regression, either positive or negative, as we head to Week 6 of the MLB season.

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xBA Overachievers

These players are overperforming on their xBA and represent the biggest positive differences. They could see negative regression and a decrease in batting average in the near future. All stats current as of May 5, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 50 Plate Appearances (PA).

The top 10 contains a slew of catchers, many of whom are part-timers and not fantasy-relevant outside of two-catcher leagues (which should be banned btw). Mitch Garver leads the pack with a +.118 differential, while Robinson Chirinos comes in second as the only other player over .100 points in the positive differential category. Omar Narvaez (.074) should be starting in most 12+ team leagues but Tony Wolters (+.073) and James McCann (+.071) just don't have enough pop to warrant consideration.

 

Tyler White (1B, HOU)

.283 BA-.207 xBA= +.076 difference

I recently highlighted White in an article proclaiming Yordan Alvarez as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate, even though he hasn't been called up yet. This is mostly predicated on the fact that White has provided zero power at the DH spot for Houston, whereas Alvarez is tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A Round Rock. White's .281 average is decent enough but now we see that it's mostly a mirage too. He should be batting closer to the Mendoza line and has a .293 xwOBA.

The team would prefer to keep White around and it's a problem that Alvarez isn't on the 40-man roster right now, so a move isn't imminent. That said, White has no business being on fantasy rosters when he doesn't have a single homer and just two RBI despite playing in a favorable park with a stacked lineup. Ignore White but also keep an eye on Alvarez down the stretch in case the team tires of White's non-productivity.

 

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD)

.300 BA-.225 xBA= +.075 difference

The rookie sensation made a splash early before an unfortunate hamstring strain landed him on the IL. He's batting .300 with six homers, six steals, and flashy defense to boot. What's not to love? Well, Statcast doesn't care much for his exit velocity that ranks in the 30th percentile or his .326 xwOBA. Perhaps he should get the benefit of the doubt since an elite Sprint Speed in the 94th percentile can help him leg out some weak grounders and add value through the basepaths.

It should be a bit worrisome that there is such a large gap between the xBA and actual average though. You should be holding Tatis anywhere he's owned based on his power/speed potential, so don't worry too much even if he does wind up hitting closer to .250 by year's end. His sell-high window is probably closed anyway now that he's hurt.

 

Michael Chavis (2B/3B, BOS)

.354 BA-.281 xBA= +.073 difference

Now that the Vlad Jr. hype is dying down a bit, Chavis is the latest toast of Prospect Town. He's off to a blazing start, slashing .333/.460/.725 with a .439 xwOBA that is 10th-highest in all of baseball. He's already smashed six HR in 15 games and doesn't appear ready to head back to the minors any time soon. Now, time for some cold water.

He isn't going to hit .354 forever and it's a safe bet he won't end up with 50 home runs either. Chavis will fall down closer to the .300 mark, if not below it, at some point this season. His batting average fluctuated quite a bit throughout his brief minor league career. He did hit .303 in 33 Double-A games last year and has really just taken off in the last two years. Even if he matches his xBA of .281, Chavis should be held unless someone is willing to pay for his peak performance price and exchange a struggling star player like some of the sluggers we'll mention below.

 

xBA Underachievers

These players are underperforming on their xBA and represent the biggest negative differences. They could see positive regression and an increase in batting average in the near future. All stats current as of May 5, 2019 and display leaders among hitters with at least 50 Plate Appearances (PA).

At the bottom of the stat sheet, we see that some household names (Starling Marte, Jesus Aguilar, Kendrys Morales) that we already knew were struggling. For some reason, Jordy Mercer insists on making an appearance again (I'm not buying it Jordy!) and it appears Gary Sanchez (-.060) should be doing even better than he is! But who are the real buy-low candidates according to xBA?

 

Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, DET)

.226 BA-.294 xBA= -.068 difference

The Swiss Army Knife of fantasy leagues, Goodrum should be universally owned just because he's the only bench player you'll need. Goodrum doesn't just help at every position, he contributes in pretty much every category too. Goodrum has three HR, three SB, 13 R, 11 RBI so far but is being held back by a .224 average. The good news - he's hitting the ball well enough that he deserves a better fate. His .294 xBA is 43rd among qualified hitters, leaving a huge gap from his performance. Goodrum is above league average is every major Statcast category, including Sprint Speed and has an xSLG in the 85th percentile. The Tigers aren't an appealing lineup to buy into but Goodrum is the exception.

 

Nomar Mazara (OF, TEX)

.232 BA-.298 xBA= -.066 difference

One of my favorite preseason sleepers, Mazara hasn't paid dividends just yet. His power numbers are fairly good at six HR, 21 RBI, but a .233 average is leaving owners wanting more. It could be coming soon, as Mazara ranks eighth in negative differential from xBA-BA. His 39.6% hard-hit rate is down a bit from last year but his Barrel rate is up thanks to an increased launch angle. Mazara is capable of a homer binge any time, especially playing in Globe Life Park for one last season, which ranked 10th in HR Park Factor by handedness last year.

If buying into Mazara, it won't be for average anyway; he's consistently hit between the .250-.260 xBA range in his first three seasons. Mazara is also underperforming on his xSLG by 73 points and should see a turnaround soon. If you need a boost in the power department, he's one to target now.

 

Franmil Reyes (OF, SD)

.253 BA-.317 xBA= -.064 difference

If the 6'5" Dominican outfielder hadn't caught your eye yet, maybe his mammoth homer on Sunday measuring 447 feet did the trick. He's up to nine HR on the season and seems to have earned a near-daily spot in the Padres lineup. We know he's got the power like Snap but what about the average?

Reyes has been in the position all season of underperforming his expected stats, with a 64 point difference in batting average, ranking 10th-highest, and a 113 point difference in slugging, ranking 13th-highest. Reyes ranks in the 95th percentile or higher in exit velocity, Barrel%, xwOBACON, xSLG, and xBA. The opportunity to snag Reyes from an unwitting opponent may no longer be present but it's worth trying because Reyes could very well be this year's Jesus Aguilar.

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