Positive & Negative Regression: C.J. Cron, Marcus Semien, Jurickson Profar (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
As we are only a few weeks into the 2022 season, we have to take all statistics with a bit of a grain of salt. However, it’s never too early to dig into the numbers in a few places to help us predict which players are due for positive regression and which are due for negative regression. Today I’ll focus on home runs.
To quote the great Greg Maddux from the classic 1999 Nike commercial: “Chicks dig the long ball.” So do dudes, for that matter. Heck, everyone who plays fantasy baseball loves homers as they help you in three categories in most formats. So when our sluggers aren’t slugging, we panic, and when we’re getting unexpected power production, we think it will last forever. That’s just the way most of us roll.
Below are a few players whose HR production is likely to rise or fall. Please note that all of the 2022 stats quoted are through Saturday, April 23.
Positive Home Run Regression Candidates
Miguel Sano (1B, DH – MIN)
If Sano is on your team, you drafted him hoping that his power production would offset his batting average. After all, he’s one of the purest power hitters in baseball. Coming into this season, Sano had homered in 5.8% of his plate appearances. Thus, one measly HR in 53 PAs won’t do – especially considering the .068 batting average accompanying it. Should you wait it out with him? That always depends on who else is available, but I will say that the HRs should come and the BA should also improve. Sano is hitting a league-high 71.4% of his balls into the air. They just haven’t reached the bleachers yet. His K-rate is down from last year, and his BABIP of .074 is insanely low. In addition, his plate discipline metrics look improved from last season. He should turn it around at some point if you are patient enough to hold on.
Marcus Semien (2B, SS – TEX)
I warned you about Semien in this column two weeks ago, but now I’m reversing course by boldly saying that he will hit some HRs this season. Probably nowhere near the 45 he hit last year, but still, a fair number. He’s among the league leaders in Fly Balls hit at 58.7%, so eventually, some will clear the fences. Perhaps he’s pressing a bit, trying to live up to that big contract as his O-Swing % of 32.8% is much higher than usual. Typically he sits in the mid-20 % range. He should settle down at some point, and the HRs will come. Just temper your expectations.
Adam Duvall (OF – ATL)
Adam Duvall hit 38 dingers last year. 38! This guy has some pop. So how does he not have any yet in 2022 despite 59 trips to the plate? Like Sano and Semien, some of it is just bad luck. His FB% is still high, as is his HardHit%. He is swinging and missing more, but that will likely even out in time. Duvall’s BA will drag you down as he strikes out a ton, but the HRs and RBIs will eventually come.
Negative Home Run Regression Candidates
C.J. Cron (1B – COL)
Cron’s six HRs through Saturday are the most in MLB (tied with Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)). He’s got legit power, hitting as many as 30 HRs in the 2018 season. Can Cron be among the league leaders in HRs this season? Probably not, but he’s got a chance if he stays healthy. The argument against him is that his HR/FB ratio of 37.5% won’t last – Shohei Ohtani (SP, DH – LAA) led MLB at 32.9% last year, and his ISO of .411 is absurdly high as well. So maybe he won’t hit the 60 he’s on pace for, but 30 to 40 is possible.
Jurickson Profar (1B, 2B, OF – SD)
Profar has been one of the big early-season surprises, playing nearly every game and matching his four HRs from 2021 already. Will he finally live up to the hype heaped on him as a youngster? Probably not. He’s hitting less of his balls in the air than last year; they just happen to be leaving the park at a 33.3% clip. Outside of his cup of coffee with the Rangers in 2012, his previous HR/FB% high is 14.9%. One thing he is doing more is pulling the ball, which may explain his jump in HardHit% from 29.5% last year to 38.9% this season. If he continues to do this, he could be a pleasant surprise, but I’d wait a bit longer before getting too excited.
Tommy Edman (2B, OF – STL)
Edman only has three HRs, so it’s not like he’s been the second coming of Babe Ruth. But considering his career-high is eleven, it is notable. Is it sustainable, though? On the surface, it doesn’t appear so. Edman is hitting fewer fly balls and making hard contact less often than in 2021. His barrel rate is up, and 37.5% of his fly balls have exited the park. It feels like he’s just gotten ahold of a few and that this is not likely a trend. Enjoy the SBs and runs you drafted him for, and consider the HRs gravy.
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