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Lucky 2020 Hitters To Avoid in 2021 (Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 4, 2021

the underlying metrics are making Alex Verdugo seem very over-priced.

“If there weren’t luck involved, I’d win ’em all” – Phil Helmuth

The great thing about fantasy sports is that when you win, you can always attribute your wins to your own brilliance and skill. And when you lose, the handy crutch of blaming it on luck is always right there for you.

Major League Baseball players also have this crutch to fall back on. However, in these days of advanced analytics, it is much easier to judge where the luck actually lies. In this post, we will be examining numerous categories that give us an idea about who was lucky and may be overvalued in 2021 because of it. Let’s get to it.

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Expected Batting Average (xBA)

If you aren’t familiar with expected batting average, you can check out the explanation of the statistic in our Sabermetrics Glossary here. Batting average is one of the most random categories in the game. This has to do with the limited control a hitter has after the ball is put in play. Poorly struck balls can go for hits, while well-struck balls can go right at a fielder for an out. xBA gives us an idea of what each hitter’s batting average should have been based on the launch angles and launch velocities they produced.

Analysis

The name that most pops here is LeMahieu. There shouldn’t be much consternation about his appearance here, just because nobody is actually expecting him to hit above .350 over a full season. The .364 batting average alone almost guaranteed he would end up here, and his .315 expected batting was actually third in the league so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to compete for a batting title once again in 2021.

As for guys like Mondesi, Yastrzemski, and Bogaerts, it may be worth taking a closer look before you put them in your draft queue here. Mondesi would be one of the most valuable fantasy players in the league if he could just avoid being a major crater on your team’s batting average, which he did in 2020. However, seeing the expected batting average at .208 makes his heightened draft cost seem much less appealing.

Yastrzemski has really come on strong the last two years and had an awesome 2020 season with that .297/.400/.568 line with 10 homers in 54 games. The power seems real, but a smarter projection would be to take him back to his 2019 batting average (.272) rather than expecting another plus in that category.

Other Notables

Trevor Story (+.036), Cavan Biggio (+.035), Nelson Cruz (+.034), Jeff McNeil (+.035), Tim Anderson (+.029), Trea Turner (+.029)

Expected Weighted On Base Average (xWOBA)

Same story with expected batting average here, except for using the wOBA metric that weights each hit by the total bases (doubles being worth more than singles, for example). Here are the biggest differentials from 2020:


Analysis

Lots of cross-over between this list and the last one, but Jose Ramirez and Trevor Story enter the picture as guys with first-round ADP’s for 2021. Story gets a bit of a pass since Coors Field’s massive outfield turns a lot of fly outs into base hits, lots of singles into doubles, and lots of doubles into triples. It’s a little concerning to see Ramirez here, and the luck is backed up as well by his career-high 18.9% HR/FB rate last year. He was among the league leaders in home runs hit last year, and there’s a good chance that won’t happen again if luck evens out for J-Ram.

Other Notables

Nelson Cruz (+.048), Cavan Biggio (+.048), Michael Conforto (+.042), Mookie Betts (+.041), Trea Turner (+.041)

BABIP

The original hitter luck stat! Here’s the top 10 from last year.

Players to Hesitate On

Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
He currently has an ADP of 121 after his strong 2020 season with a .308/.367/.478 slash line. That .308 line is really hard to believe given what we see above but also given that his strikeout rate ballooned to 20.4% last year (career 15.8%). It is pretty rare to see a guy see rises in both strikeouts and batting average. The 52.2% ground-ball rate also lowers power expectations for him as well. Last year was a really short sample (only 221 PA’s for Verdugo), but the underlying metrics are making Verdugo seem very over-priced right now.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF – SFG)
He made all three lists here, and while his big league resume is very impressive, he feels super over-valued to me in 2021. He lucked into a nice .297 batting average last year and also slugged a high .568 overcoming the tough home ballpark. It’s also true that he is turning 31 this year, which really lowers the ceiling in my eyes. He is currently going in the first 150 picks in most drafts, which is just too steep for me.

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KCR)
Mondesi is a strategy pick. Even if we knew for sure he would hit .200 next year, his steals ability would still make him a guy that needs to be drafted, but I’m afraid his draft price (ADP of 24 right now) is assuming that he will hit for a non-awful batting average. His six homer, 24 steal output in 59 games was really great for fantasy in 2020, and the .256 batting average didn’t nuke your team either. However, his strikeout rate stayed incredibly high (30.0%), so there is really nothing here to make you feel better after seeing the .208 expected average. His speed will continue to add on base hits that he shouldn’t have, and his career average is actually right on pace with what he did in 2020, but there is every bit the batting risk here that there has always been.

Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)
His awesome 2020 season has him in the first round, which is perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong. There are very few guys that will steal a ton of bases while contributing in every other category, and Ramirez will do that again in 2021. However, there may be some overly high power expectations for Ramirez after that good fortune propelled him to a near 50 homer pace last year. He will likely come back down to a 25-30 homer pace, so just keep that in mind.

Cavan Biggio (2B – TOR)
Biggio profiles as one of those three-outcome hitters with his career 16% walk rate, 27% strikeout rate, and 24 homers in about a full season’s sample. He just does not swing the bat very much, which works great in OBP leagues but results in tons of strikeouts. When he was making contact in 2020, he was running very hot with a .250 batting average versus a .211 expected. Someone striking out this much will post a damaging batting average more often than not, so don’t get your hopes up after he took a step forward in that category in 2020.

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Jon Anderson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @JonPgh.

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