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Positive & Negative Regression: Chris Taylor, Whit Merrifield, Yasmani Grandal (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
May 9, 2022
Chris Taylor

Unfortunately, if Chris Taylor keeps striking out 36% of the time, he won’t be helping in the batting average category much longer.

Welcome to another edition of “Positive & Negative Regression,” where I dig into some analytics every week to identify two players due to heat up and two who are likely to cool down.

Last week, I dug in on a few starting pitchers, so let’s shift to the batter’s box this week. Specifically, this article will focus on batting average and, consequently, all the other stats that come with it. To identify the players due for positive or negative regression, I’ll focus on three stats in addition to their current BA: BABIP, xBA, and K%. If you are unfamiliar with these statistics or any others mentioned below, you can find definitions here.

I like this trio of stats as they address most of the critical components that make up a batting average. How often is the batter putting the ball in play (K%)? How hard is he hitting it when he hits it (xBA)? How lucky has he been at finding holes (BABIP)? Taken together, we can develop a pretty good idea of whether the batter’s success or failure will continue.

Let’s start with the two hitters primed to rebound. Please note that all the statistics listed below are through Saturday’s games.

Positive Regression Candidates

Whit Merrifield (2B, OF – KC)

BA xBA BABIP K%
.151 .257 .171 12.9%

Merrifield has been one of the most disappointing fantasy players thus far this season. With an ADP of 32, fantasy managers expected much from him, and he has yet to deliver. A .151 BA, three SBs, and four runs scored aren’t cutting it. However, if you are one of the unfortunate souls who drafted him, don’t give up. There’s a good chance he will turn it around. His xBA this year is very close to his 2021 total of .263, and he’s actually striking out less often this season. With his tremendous speed, Merrifield has a lifetime BABIP of .325 – almost double his current rate. The batting average will improve, and so will his runs and SB totals when it does. After all, it’s hard to steal bases and score runs when you can’t get on.

Yasmani Grandal (C, 1B – CWS)

BA xBA BABIP K%
.154 .241 .175 16.3%

Yasmani Grandal isn’t going to win a batting title. After all, his lifetime batting average is only .238. However, he will improve on his abysmal average of .154. Grandal still has an excellent eye, as is demonstrated by his 16% K rate and 14% BB rate this year. His SwStr% (swinging-strike rate) is only 7.3%, and his O-Swing% (out-of-zone swings) is only 22.6%. So he’s not chasing a bunch of bad pitches, and his Statcast data is in line with his career averages. He’s just had some bad BABIP luck. He should be able to get his BA back up near his career norm with some positive regression. Frankly, the more significant concern with Grandal is the lack of power. He only has one HR and two doubles this year. He needs to find his power stroke to be fantasy relevant.

Negative Regression Candidates

Chris Taylor (2B, 3B, SS, OF – LAD)

BA xBA BABIP K%
.278 .230 .447 36.3%

Chris Taylor is an awesome guy to have on your fantasy team. He’s the perfect bench player as you can slot him in almost anywhere. If you drafted him this season, you’ve gotten pretty good production, though the HRs are a bit lacking. Unfortunately, if he keeps striking out 36% of the time, he won’t be helping in the batting average category much longer. He’s thriving as his BABIP is the highest in MLB (minimum 73 plate appearances) this year. Taylor traditionally strikes out less than 30% of the time, so perhaps he’ll get the Ks under control. If not, you can expect that average to plummet in the weeks ahead.

Robbie Grossman (OF – DET)

BA xBA BABIP K%
.273 .234 .412 29.8%

Grossman’s 2022 profile is similar to Taylor’s in many ways. He’s hitting for a better average than expected (he’s a lifetime .250 hitter), but his counting stats have been disappointing. Grossman stole 20 bases, hit 23 home runs, and scored 88 runs last year, making him a good fantasy player – not his BA. Sadly, his current BA probably won’t last as his K% and BABIP are higher than his norm. His xBA is identical to his 2021 season when he batted .239, which is likely where he’s headed. Hopefully, he’ll start running more and find his power stroke. If not, he won’t be on many fantasy rosters a month from now.

CTAs


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Scott Youngson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Scott, check out his archive and follow him at @jscottyoungson.

 

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