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Top Five Breakouts from 2014 Due for Regression


Many hitters have great years that seem to come out of nowhere. Players like Todd Frazier and Dee Gordon who perform at a high level, creating the expectation that they can repeat that level of productivity.

The difficult part of every hitter's breakout season is the follow up season. Was that breakout year a fluke? Can they repeat on their success? Here are five players whom I expect to experience a regression in fantasy value next season:

 

Todd Frazier (1B/3B, CIN)

The biggest issue for the Reds in 2014 was their disabled list that seemed to grow day by day. What managed to keep the Reds in competition for a decent part of the season was due in large part to breakouts from Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier. And while Mesoraco is a safe bet to repeat on his 2014 success, the same cannot be said of Todd Frazier.

Frazier was the Reds leader offensively, owning a slash line of .273/.336/.459 with 29 home runs, 80 runs batted in, 88 runs scored, and a surprising 20 stolen bases. Most of the numbers indicate that while his batting average and on-base percentage may stay the same, his power numbers and speed numbers may experience a regression. Frazier has not hit more than 20 home runs at any professional level, let alone hit nearly 30. Granted, he has not always hit at Great American Ballpark. He does have the power potential to hit 20-25 home runs, but close to or above 30 would be surprising.

He will also experience a steep regression in stolen bases. It was no secret that new manager Bryan Price wanted to have most of the players run more often, but Frazier wasn’t expected to steal a lot of bases mainly because he isn’t that fast. The majority of his stolen bases were the result of the pitcher not keeping an eye on Frazier and him getting a jump that made it impossible to throw him out. Needless to say, if a runner steals 20 bases in a season, pitchers will start to pay more attention to the runner.

 

Dee Gordon (2B, MIA)

The expectation was that Billy Hamilton would run away in the stolen base category. And he would have had it not been for Dee Gordon. Gordon filled in as the starting second baseman very well for the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave them a legitimate leadoff hitter throughout the season. He owned a .289/.326/.378 slash line with 92 runs scored and 64 stolen bases.

But is he a top ten second baseman? No. In spite of moving to a ballpark that is much friendlier to his style of play, Gordon was the beneficiary of some good luck last season that is unlikely to follow him into the 2015 season. He had a .346 BABIP and only walked at 4.8% of the time. Granted his speed makes it tougher for him to get out on a ground-ball out, he still hit an insanely high 59.7% ground ball rate (14.9% above league average). He will most likely bat first or second in the Marlins’ lineup, but don’t count on a .280 season with more than 60 steals.

 

Josh Harrison (2B/3B/OF, PIT)

Last season, Josh Harrison broke out as a super-utility player, appearing like the NL version of Ben Zobrist a player who can play any position but must be in the lineup because of his offensive abilities. He was an All-Star for the first time in his career and possessed a slash line of .315/.347/.490. And while his speed turned in 18 stolen bases, a modest total for someone who possesses enough speed to steal up near 30, his runs scored total of 77 was more than enough to make up for his lack of power and stolen base total.

But Harrison had a lot of things going for him last year that will come back to hurt him next year. He had a career-high .353 BABIP thanks in large part to a career-high line drive rate at 24.0%. In the past, Harrison has not hit a line drive rate that high and has never seen a BABIP even close to the gaudy .353 in 2014 (his career BABIP is .313) so a decline in batting average is definitely to be expected.

Harrison also has a tendency to be an aggressive swinger at the plate. He rarely walks (as evidenced by his 3.3% career walk rate) and swings at pitches outside the strike zone well above the league average (he chases 37.9% of outside pitches compared to a 31.3% league average). His aggressiveness and an inflated BABIP contribute to a major batting average dip in 2015 which will drain practically all of his value.

 

Lonnie Chisenhall (1B/3B, CLE)

The Indians had been waiting a long time for a breakout from their third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall. They were all set to give up on him, preparing to move Carlos Santana to third base but then Chisenhall broke out. He hit a slash line of .280/.345/.427 with 13 home runs, 59 runs batted in, and 62 runs scored. But before people start saying that the 26-year-old is about to breakout even further as a top ten third-baseman, a glance at his underlying statistics must be taken. In the first half of 2014, Chisenhall had a .332 batting average with nine home runs and a mere 45 strikeouts in 79 games.

The second half was a different story all together with Chisenhall hitting .218 with four home runs and 54 strikeouts in 63 games. His BABIP was at .328 while his career BABIP sits at .297 indicating that he will probably see a regression in batting average as well. Chisenhall was a great story for Cleveland in 2014, but it won't continue into 2015.

 

Anthony Rendon (2B/3B, WSH)

The contribution of Anthony Rendon to the Washington Nationals in 2014 was one of the major factors into how they would end up winning the division by so much and were easily one of the best teams in baseball. He split time for the injured Ryan Zimmerman at third base and the offensive black hole in Washington that was second base. His versatility also came into play in the lineup where he hit mainly in the two hole but also spent several games hitting leadoff and batting third. His versatility was invaluable to the Nationals. But a regression lies ahead for the Nationals third baseman (with Ryan Zimmerman now playing first base full time).

Another reason to watch out for a regression is his knee injury. All-Stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce have suffered similar knee injuries in the past and it has consistently shown that a decline in power is to follow. Batting second, he may still get a lot of runs scored opportunities and he could bat about .280 again, but don’t expect 83 RBI next season and don’t expect the 21 home runs or the 17 stolen bases.