8 Players who Will Regress in 2018 (Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 13, 2018

Don’t expect the same numbers from Gio Gonzalez in 2018

We saw some amazing performances last season and if you owned Giancarlo Stanton, it was certainly a welcome bounce-back campaign. Fortunately, Stanton was always capable, he just needed to stay healthy. For a few others, though, there’s definitely a chance for regression and you won’t want to be on the wrong end of that regression after draft day.

Now we know that players can have positive regression, but that’s not who we’re concerned about in this article. Instead, we asked our featured experts below give their thoughts on which pitchers and hitters they expect to come back down to earth. Here’s who they picked.

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Q1. Which pitcher do you expect to negatively regress significantly in 2018?

Gio Gonzalez (SP – WAS)
“It’s an obvious answer, but the biggest regression candidate is Gio Gonzalez. His 2.96 ERA was backed up by a 3.93 FIP, a 4.24 xFIP, his lowest K/9 since his rookie season, and a ridiculously low .258 BABIP despite a higher-than-average 29.3% hard-contact rate. Not enough for you? How about that his walk rate was his highest since 2011 and his strand-rate was a whopping 81.6%, fourth in the league in between Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer. Simply put, there’s almost nothing to back up Gonzalez’s miraculous 2017 season, and I’d bet on him being worse than his career averages next season.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Robbie Ray (SP – ARI)
“Ray will be worth drafting for the strikeouts, but his ERA and WHIP will slide a long way towards his 2016 levels. Last season’s 1.3 HR/9 and .267 BABIP defy belief, as hitters drove flyballs against him for an average of 327 feet (per Baseball Savant). He won’t likely compensate with a lower walk rate. Ray threw in the strike zone less often last year, and yet he wasn’t substantially better at getting batters to chase bad pitches.”
– Al Melchior (Fantrax)

Drew Pomeranz (SP – BOS)
“I’ll be avoiding Pomeranz in fantasy drafts this season because I’m expecting his 3.32 ERA and 17 wins to both take significant knocks back toward reality. His K/9 went backward last year, his BB-rate went up, and yet he still somehow won 6 more games than the previous year. This was because of an unsustainable FB/HR rate and an 80% LOB rate. Expect his ERA to be much closer to his 4.15 xFIP from 2017 and the wins to end up near a dozen instead of the 17 he gifted fantasy owners with last year.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Jake Arrieta (SP – FA)
“Regardless of where he signs, Arrieta will unlikely frequent any of my fantasy teams this season. His average fastball velocity has dipped from 94.6 to 93.7 to 92.1 mph over the last three seasons, and I’m not willing to bet on that trend reversing during his age-32 campaign. While he maintained a strong 8.71 K/9, his swinging-strike rate tumbled from 10.5 to 8.7 %, his first single-digit mark since joining the Cubs. His ERA, WHIP, FIP, SIERA, and FB% all increased in 2016 and 2017, so I want no part of him as a No. 2 or 3 fantasy starter, especially now that the Cubs eliminated a possible reunion by signing Yu Darvish.”
– Andrew Gould (Bleacher Report)

Q2. Which hitter do you expect to negatively regress significantly in 2018?

Elvis Andrus (SS – TEX)
“One of the least-talked about phenomena of the 2017 season is that Elvis Andrus, who had 35 career home runs over eight seasons in the majors, popped 20 long balls last year. Let’s accept that the balls are juiced and that Andrus made a concerted effort to change his approach to have more of a power profile (fewer walks, more strikeouts, and a higher pull percentage). Even if Andrus keeps his power gains, it’s hard for a hitter to see his batting average be far above his career norm when he is lowering his line-drive rate and raising his fly-ball rate significantly, as Andrus did last season. Also, Andrus is reaching an age (entering his age-30 season) where a sudden drop in steals, especially considering his newfound power stroke, is more than plausible. Regardless, I’m personally willing to bet against the 2017 version of Andrus being the new norm given his slap-hitting career, and would expect most of his numbers to return to closer to his career mean.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Marcell Ozuna (OF – STL)
“The only thing Ozuna did clearly better last season was swing more often at pitches in the zone. That improved selectivity should continue to pay some dividends. However, his batted ball profile looked awfully similar to the one he compiled in 2016, so I would expect he will do no better than split the difference between his stats from the last two seasons.”
– Al Melchior (Fantrax)

Didi Gregorius (SS – NYY)
“Gregorius’ career-high 25 home runs traveled an average distance of 375 feet. Alcides Escobar hit his six homers 385 feet per pop. Billy Hamilton’s four long balls traveled an average of 380 feet. It should thus come as no surprise that his xStats estimated 15.2 home runs based on his battled-ball profile. His batting average also spiked to .287 despite a regressed contact rate, so expect closer to 2016’s .276, 20-homer line (if not worse) from someone whose main value stems from inhabiting a premium lineup spot in a loaded Yankees lineup.”
– Andrew Gould (Bleacher Report)

Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
“If the second half was any indication, Aaron Judge owners will be in for a rough 2018. He was no better than Joey Gallo in that time, who is a quality fantasy asset, but nowhere near worthy of a top 20 pick. Judge’s .357 BABIP is unlikely to be repeated, especially if his shoulder injury lingers, as is occasionally the case with shoulder injuries.”

– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for naming their regression candidates. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for more advice all season long.

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