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Low BABIP Players from 2021: Will They Bounce Back? (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
Feb 20, 2022
Eugenio Suarez

Eugenio Suarez may be a valuable late-round draft pick that can bounce back from a tough 2021 season.

Recently, I took a look at the Top-10 hitters with the highest BABIP’s in 2021 and tried to ascertain whether they were bound for regression in 2022. Today, I’ll flip the script and take a look at the players with the lowest offensive BABIP in 2021. The goal is to determine whether a bounce-back season in 2022 is likely.

For each of the bottom-10 players, I’ll list their BABIP and batting average from 2021, along with their career averages before last season. Please note that this list is limited to those with 500 or more plate appearances.

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Eugenio Suarez (3B/SS – CIN)

2021 BABIP:  .224   |   2021 BA:  .198
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .310   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .261

Suarez’s issues are two years running now, as he struggled to a .214 BABIP (and a .202 BA) in 2020. That’s a long time to be hitting near the “Mendoza-Line.” It appears he started to sell out for the long ball starting in 2019 when his K-rate and SwStr% jumped from his career norms. It worked in 2019, his best season, but it has been an issue the past two years. While that may help explain the BA drop, it doesn’t explain why his BABIP has been so low. One possible explanation lies with his HardHit%, which was in the mid 30% range that past two years after being in the mid 40’s the prior two. Or maybe he’s just been unlucky.

It’s hard to know if Suarez’s average will bounce back in 2022, but there’s a good chance it will, to a certain extent at least. The power is still there, so if his BA recovers a bit, he could be a nice sleeper considering his current ADP is 179 and he has shortstop eligibility.

Carlos Santana (1B – KC)

2021 BABIP:  .227   |   2021 BA:  .214
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .266   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .248

Like Suarez, Santana’s struggles go back to 2020. However, he does not strike out much, and his xBAs the past two seasons were also much better than his batting average. He’ll be 36 shortly after the start of the season (should it start on time), and the former catcher doesn’t possess much speed. But he has good enough plate discipline to suggest a correction in 2022 could occur, assuming he’s got anything left.

Santana won’t cost you much in a fantasy draft, as his ADP is 340. In other words, he won’t even be drafted in many leagues. As he’s only eligible at 1B and offers little upside, it may be best to wait and see if he’s performing before committing a roster spot to him.

Kevin Newman (2B/SS – PIT)

2021 BABIP:  .236   |   2021 BA:  .226
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .309   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .278

Newman had a great season in 2019, with a .308 batting average assisted by a .333 BABIP. However, he has not been very productive in his other three seasons at the major league level. As a player with decent speed and a low K%, Newman is likely to see a BA rebound in 2022, but will it matter for fantasy leagues? He’s currently the 55th-ranked shortstop according to the ECR and the 66th-ranked second baseman. He simply isn’t the type of player who tends to lend much to a fantasy team, even when luck is in his favor.

Andrew McCutchen (OF – FA)

2021 BABIP:  .242 |   2021 BA:  .222
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .323   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .285

McCutchen’s BABIP was the lowest of his career in 2021 by a fair amount. His second-lowest mark was .281 in 2020. At 35 years old now, McCutchen’s best years are behind him, even though he did drive 27 balls out of the park last year. His batting average should bounce back to the .250ish range, and if he ends up signing somewhere where he gets the opportunity to play every day, he could still contribute to your team. Given his splits, the likelihood is that he’ll end up a platoon player vs. lefties, though. Should this be the case, it would render him fairly useless for fantasy baseball.

Joey Gallo (OF – NYY)

2021 BABIP:  .246   |   2021 BA:  .199
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .270   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .208

Outside of 2019 and 36 games in his rookie year when he was extremely fortunate with his BABIP, Gallo’s batting average has hovered in the .200 range his entire career. Given his 37% career strikeout rate, he will never be a high average hitter. Even in 2019, when his BABIP was .368, he only batted .253 – by far his seasonal best.

So what you see is what you get with Joey Gallo. He could hit 40+ HRs and drive in 100+ runs while batting .200 next season. If your team can compensate for the low BA and needs power, he’s still an excellent choice. Just don’t expect his batting average to rebound very much.

Francisco Lindor (SS – NYM)

2021 BABIP:  .248   |   2021 BA:  .230
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .298   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .285

Lindor’s BABIP and batting average were the lowest of his career last year in his first season with the Mets. In addition, his K%, BB%, and SwStr% were all the highest of his career. So something was a bit off for him in 2021. Perhaps he was pressing under the pressure of a new contract. If you’re looking for a positive, Lindor finished the season strong, hitting nine HRs and driving in 25 runs in the months of September and October.

Lindor’s BABIP and BA should rebound in 2022. Perhaps he’s not a .280-.300 hitter anymore, but he’ll likely be at least in the .250-.270 range. Add to that 20+ HRs and 10+ steals, and he’s a solid fantasy shortstop. However, his current ADP of 46th overall feels like a bit of a stretch to me. It seems early fantasy drafters are counting on a rebound. I’d pass on him in the fifth round and take Corey Seager (SS – TEX) a round later instead.

Nolan Arenado (3B – STL)

2021 BABIP:  .249   |   2021 BA:  .255
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .299   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .293

Judging Arenado’s 2021 BABIP is tricky since it was his first season away from playing half his games in the thin Denver air. A deeper dive shows his road BABIP in 2018 – 2019 (his last two full seasons as a member of the Rockies) was around .270. So a slight rebound in 2022 may be coming, but Arenado is not likely to be a .300 hitter again – probably closer to .260-.270.

Early drafters are still pretty bullish on Arenado, as his ADP is 55 overall. Taking him this early seems risky to me, but I suppose his consistency makes him a safer option than Alex Bregman (3B – HOU) and Kris Bryant (1B/3B/OF – FA), who are going after him.

Austin Meadows (OF – TB)

2021 BABIP:  .249   |   2021 BA:  .234
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .326   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .276

Thanks to good power numbers, Meadows was a pretty productive fantasy option last season despite the low batting average. His BABIP, and consequently batting average, should rise in 2022 and keep him relevant as a fourth or fifth fantasy outfielder. However, he’s not likely to improve much beyond this unless he can start hitting lefties better. There are rumors the Rays are shopping him, which could help his value if he lands with a team that will play him every day.

Meadows is currently the 35th outfield-eligible player being drafted, so his price is not too high. If you’re looking for a cheap power source in the middle rounds of your draft, he’s not a bad option.

Jorge Soler (OF – FA)

2021 BABIP:  .250   |   2021 BA:  .223
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .312   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .252

Soler had a weird 2021. In 94 games with the Royals, he batted .192 with a .229 BABIP and a 27% K-rate. In 55 regular-season games with the Braves, he hit .269 with a .278 BABIP and a 19% K-rate. Now he’s a free agent. Hopefully, he’ll land in the National League, as it seems to agree with him. Soler’s batting average and BABIP have jumped all over the place throughout his career. His relatively high K-rate will keep him from ever helping out your batting average, however, regardless of his BABIP.

Where Soler lands after free agency will contribute to his fantasy value. As of now, his ADP among outfielders is 55 – surprisingly low considering his second-half and postseason heroics. He’s not a great hitter, but he does have some pop. So if you can grab him towards the end of your draft, he could pay handsome dividends.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF – SF)

2021 BABIP:  .250   |   2021 BA:  .263
Pre-2021 BABIP:  .340   |   Pre-2021 BA:  .281

Despite being 31 years old, Yaz only has three seasons in the majors under his belt. His BABIP and batting averages were high during his first two campaigns and low last season. So which is the real Mike Yastrzemski? The safe bet is somewhere in between, making him a borderline fantasy option.

His overall ADP at this juncture is 248, and he’s the 72nd choice among outfielders. While that’s not exceptionally high, he is being drafted ahead of players like Raimel Tapia (OF – COL) and Austin Hays (OF – BAL), who, in my opinion, have far more upside.

To sum up, most of these players should see some degree of rebound to their batting averages in 2022. However, it may not move the needle for them that much from a fantasy baseball perspective. Plus, the most prominent names on this list, Lindor and Arenado, already seem to have a rebound built into their ADPs. To me, Suarez and Soler seem like the best gambles, given their relatively low draft stock and power potential. If either can deliver a respectable batting average in 2022, they could prove to be draft-day bargains.

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