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7 MLB Players who Will Regress

Feb 14, 2017

Justin Verlander's surprise 2016 could be hard to replicate

Justin Verlander’s surprise 2016 could be hard to replicate

Baseball is an American pastime where even the most casual fans can just enjoy themselves at the ballpark without knowing much about the sport. The intricacies of the game, however, are always present. To the average fan, a player batting .270 with 9 HRs is a decent player. What if that same player had a line of .305 and 22 HRs at the same point during the previous season?

The point is, there will be players who struggle. And while in some cases, it’s due to bad luck, in other cases it’s due to the very real signs that a player was due for regression. For fantasy purposes, these are the players you will want to be more cautious about drafting. To help identify who these players could be, we’re turning to our featured experts below who were asked to name pitchers and hitters they expect to fall off in 2017.

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Q1. Which pitcher are you watching heading into Spring Training that you expect to regress significantly in 2017?

Justin Verlander (SP – DET)
“I want whatever Justin Verlander had last season. Are you kidding me? He posted his second best K/9 rate, third best ERA and second best WHIP in his career all last season, at age 33. This comes off the heels of two dismal seasons and one fairly average one. The biggest regression I see is in his strikeout rate. I see it falling back to the mid-seven range, so those drafting him expecting 200 strikeout will be disappointed. ”
Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

“Heading into Spring Training two years ago, I replied simply, “No” when asked in a podcast if Justin Verlander was still fantasy-relevant. And he wasn’t; until his performance last season. I do not believe that there is any chance that we see anything like his 16-9; 3.04 ERA; 254 K performance from last year. He is far too injury prone, and he hadn’t thrown for 200 K’s since 2013. I will not roster him in any of my leagues.”
Brad Jerde (Fantasy Team Advice)

Julio Teheran (SP – ATL)
“Teheran tallied a 3.21 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and he has a track record of success, but most of the advanced metrics (3.93 SIERA and 4.13 xFIP, for instance) are never as big of a fan of his work as the surface stats. According to Baseball Prospectus, his work in 2016 resulted in a 3.11 DRA, so at least one advanced metric supported his low-3 ERA, but I’m not buying a repeat. The righty’s 22.0 K% was a pinch above the league average (21.1%), per FanGraphs, and was supported by his slightly above average swinging strike percentage (10.3% versus 10.1%). His 5.4 BB% is great and beat the league average (8.2%) by nearly three percent, but that’s where the positives run out. Among the 73 qualified pitchers last year, his 33.1% hard-hit ball percentage was the 18th highest, and the high percentage of hard-hit balls make a repeat of his .260 BABIP allowed (.280 career BABIP from 2011-2015) unlikely. He’ll also be pitching in a new home ballpark, SunTrust Park, that seems unlikely to suppress homers as greatly as Turner Field did (20% to lefties and 17% to righties using a 3-year rolling average, per StatCorner) when factoring in the differences in dimensions of the two parks. Finally, factor in that he has a pair of walking corpses patrolling the corner outfield in the forms of Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis, and defense could prove problematic for a pitcher who yields more fly balls (41.9% FB% in 2016 and 41.0% for his career) than ground balls (39.1% last year and 37.4% for his career). He’s a hard pass for me at his current FantasyPros ECR of SP26.”
Josh Shepardson (Fantasy Cruncher)

Jon Lester (SP – CHC)
“Everyone expects Rick Porcello to take a major step back for plenty of reasons I’ll cover in a featured player profile article later this week, but the one I’ll be watching for regression in Spring Training is Jon Lester. Last season, his ERA dropped from 3.34 to 2.44 and his wins soared from 11 to 19 despite his BB-rate, HR-rate and K-rate all going backwards. So you would be correct to assume BABIP will regress to the mean, while his wins and ERAs follow suit this season. Especially when you consider that he is a bit of a nutcase (see throwing over to first base) and that his personal catcher retired. I’ll be intrigued to see how Lester handles the transition to a new catcher this spring.”
Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Q2. Which hitter are you watching heading into Spring Training that you expect to regress significantly in 2017?

Willson Contreras (C/LF – CHC)
“Hitters are so difficult to figure out during Spring Training because so many of the veterans are working on random skills like picking up a slider or fouling off pitches. The ones who approach the spring like the regular season are those we can glean fantasy information from, and those are players fighting for jobs. Believe it or not, Willson Contreras is not guaranteed playing time in that stacked Cubs lineup. He batted .350 in the minors with loads of power before obliterating major league pitching, but now that pitchers have the book on him, it will be interesting to see if he becomes a strikeout machine or begins taking an inconsistent approach at the plate like many sophomores have done in their slump seasons.”
Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Robinson Cano (2B – SEA)
“Cano had himself quite a season in Seattle last year after having two very down years his first two there. Call me crazy, but I don’t see a repeat of 39 home runs, 107 R and 103 RBI. The reason for regression is his HR/FB rate will return to its pre-2016 and he will hit less fly-balls in general. This will result in less power all-around, back closer to his first two years in Seattle.”
Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

Trea Turner (2B/CF – WSH)
“I’m not actively looking for regression here going into Spring Training, however, in the several industry mock drafts with which I have been involved, I have noticed a trend which is a bandwagon I will simply watch roll by. Trea Turner, based on an admittedly terrific — but far too few — 307 AB last year, is being drafted in the middle of the 2nd round… and moving closer and closer to the first turn in snake drafts. Too soon for me. The same is true of Gary Sanchez… far, far too high based on 201 AB last season, especially for a Catcher.”
Brad Jerde (Fantasy Team Advice)

Kris Bryant (1B/3B/LF/RF – CHC)
“Let me preface by saying I like 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant, and I’m thrilled to own him in a keeper league, but some regression seems inevitable and it could be stark given how high he set the bar last year. Bryant’s power is legit, and his high BABIP is supported by the fact he tears the cover off of the ball (40.3 Hard%, tied for 12th highest among qualified hitters in 2016) when he does make contact. What doesn’t look legitimate is his 22.0 K%, a mark that was 8.6% better than in his rookie year. Bryant’s 13.0 SwStr% was the 18th highest among qualified hitters last year, and his 81.1 zone contact (Z-Contact%) was the 13th lowest. One way he helped curb his strikeout rate was by being aggressive against pitches in the strike zone (74.2 Z-Swing% was 20th highest among qualified hitters last season), therefore giving himself more opportunities to make contact. I’m not projecting a regression to his rookie-year strikeout rate, but Steamer’s projection of a 24.0% strikeout rate seems fair with the potential for a worse strikeout rate than that. Steamer pegs him for a .275 average, and again, that seems reasonable. The Cubs’ lineup is stacked and will provide Bryant ample run production upside, he’s a strong bet to once again best 30 homers, but his inefficiency on the bases (eight stolen bases in 13 attempts) could result in fewer stolen base attempts. A nearly 20-point drop in batting average alone would constitute significant regression, in my opinion, and little more give back across the board with the drop in average is probable.”
Josh Shepardson (Fantasy Cruncher)

Thank you to each of the experts for taking the time to name their regression candidates. Be sure to subscribe and listen to our podcast below for more great fantasy content.

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