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Positive & Negative Regression: Jose Abreu, Matt Chapman, Brandon Marsh (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
May 22, 2022
Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk was a hot commodity in leagues that drafted late this year as he was traded to the Rockies on March 24.

Welcome to another edition of “Positive & Negative Regression.” Each week we’ll dig into some analytics to identify two players due to heat up and two who are likely to cool down.

Believe it or not, we’re almost one-quarter of the way through the 2022 season already. As such, slow starts are becoming more worrisome, and fast starts are starting to feel real. Below are two hitters we should continue to wait on as there are some strong indicators that they will turn things around. In addition are two hitters who probably can’t keep up their current level of production.

For each player, we’ll list their current VBR and draft day ADP along with some relevant statistics. For help with definitions, check out FantasyPros’ Sabermetrics Glossary. Also, please note that all statistics are through Saturday, May 22.

Positive Regression Candidates

Jose Abreu (1B, DH – CWS) 

VBR among First Basemen: 41 | ADP among First Basemen: 8

The 2020 MVP is off to a terrible start this season, as evidenced by his fantasy production:

4 17 17 .207

This isn’t the kind of production you were hoping for from the big man. Has the 35-year-old Abreu hit a wall, or is there reason to believe he’ll get it going? Fear not. There are some positive signs:

YEAR K% BABIP Barrel% HardHit%
2022 17.6% .229 8.8% 57.5%
2021 21.7% .293 10.2% 49.0%

Abreu is striking out less often than last year, and his BABIP is low. On top of that, he’s hitting the ball hard — maybe even harder than last year. His Barrels are down slightly, but his HH% is quite a bit higher. So he’s hitting it hard and not striking out — that’s a recipe for success. This is furthered by his xBA/xSLG/xwOBA line of .269/.504/.365 vs. his AVG/SLG/wOBA line of .207/.343/.289.

All signs point to Abreu having some bad luck so far this season. So if he’s on your team, don’t panic. If he’s not, and you can get him on the cheap from a nervous league-mate, go for it.

Matt Chapman (3B – TOR) 

VBR among Third Basemen: 34 | ADP among Third Basemen: 15

Those who drafted Chapman hoping that his 2021 season was a fluke have not been rewarded thus far in 2022:

6 14 16 .191

Yikes! So much for a better lineup and a better ballpark turning Chapman around. If you are considering cutting bait, it’s understandable. However, before you do, consider these same statistics that we looked at with Abreu:

YEAR K% BABIP Barrel% HardHit%
2022 26.8% .222 11.5% 53.1%
2021 32.5% .272 13.7% 41.7%

Look familiar? Chapman’s profile is very similar to Jose Abreu’s. He’s striking out less than last year, hitting the ball hard more often, and has had some bad luck with BABIP. In addition, his xBA/xSLG/xwOBA line of .250/.494/.358 blows away his AVG/SLG/wOBA line of .191/.368/.288. Chapman is not going to hit for a good average, given how often he strikes out. However, he’s likely to raise his BA to a more palatable level, and the counting stats should come along with it in Toronto’s loaded lineup.

Chapman may not be worth the risk of buying low due to the batting average. However, if he’s on your roster and you can hold onto him for a bit longer, he may be worth it.

Negative Regression Candidates

Brandon Marsh (OF – LAA) 

VBR among Outfielders: 28 | ADP among Outfielders: 112

Brandon Marsh has been a big surprise this year with his fantasy production, especially when you compare it to his totals from 2021:

2022 4 16 23 3 .267
2021 2 27 19 6 .254

In 2021, Marsh had 260 plate appearances vs. 132 so far this season. Thus, in roughly half the PAs, he’s surpassed his totals from last year in HRs and RBI and is hitting for a better average. His high RBI total is driving Marsh’s fantasy value, and his BA with runners in scoring position of .387 bears this out. This .387 average puts Marsh at twelfth in the league in this category. Perhaps Marsh is just clutch? Maybe, but he certainly wasn’t last season when he hit .184 in such situations.

Let’s look at the same underlying stats for Marsh that we did for Abreu and Chapman:

YEAR K% BABIP Barrel% HardHit%
2022 32.6% .375 6.5% 40.3%
2021 35.0% .406 10.9% 51.7%

Marsh is striking out slightly less than he did last year, but still a lot. He’s had BABIP luck both seasons but isn’t hitting the ball as hard this year. His Statcast projected line also looks worse than his actuals: .226/.398/.307 expected BA/SLG/wOBA versus .267/.405/.324 actual.

The good news is you may not have even drafted Marsh, and if you did, it was likely towards the end of your draft. So you’re playing with house money. Enjoy it while it lasts and be prepared to move on should he start to trend in a negative direction.

Randal Grichuk (OF – COL) 

VBR among Outfielders: 33 | ADP among Outfielders: 65

Grichuk was a hot commodity in leagues that drafted late this year as he was traded to the Rockies on March 24. Rockies hitters are always appealing, and so far, Grichuk has delivered solid results:

5 15 22 .283

Nothing in these numbers looks unsustainable. However, there are a few other statistics that bring some apprehension. Here’s our chart again, this time for Grichuk:

YEAR K% BABIP Barrel% HardHit%
2022 27.9% .360 5.0% 47.5%
2021 20.9% .266 8.5% 41.1%

He’s striking out considerably more often, yet his batting average is up (he hit .241 in 2022). Much of this is likely due to his high BABIP. His Barrel-rate is down, but his Hard-Hit percentage is up, which appears to be a wash. His expected BA/SLG/wOBA line is less encouraging: .251/.405/.300 expected versus .283 /.442/.300 actual.

The most bothersome thing is the increase in strikeouts. If we dig deeper into Grichuk’s plate discipline profile, we see that his CSW% (called + swinging strike) is 31.8%. This percentage is considerably higher than his CSW% of 24.9% from last season. His SwStr% is only up slightly – 12.8% vs. 10.9% in 2021, so he’s looking at a lot more strikes.

Perhaps this is just an adjustment to switching leagues or acclimating to Coors Field. Grichuk may work it out, but it’s good to keep a close eye on him if he’s on your roster. If you can get good value for him in a trade, you may want to consider it.

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