Regression Candidates: Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Jared Walsh (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Welcome to another edition of “Positive & Negative Regression,” where we dig into some analytics each week to identify two players due to heat up and two likely to cool down. Today we’ll look at a stat developed by Baseball Prospectus a few years ago called Deserved Runs Created Plus (DRC+).
DRC+ is an all-encompassing stat that measures a batter’s contributions regardless of the outcomes of their at-bats. It is similar to wRC+ and OPS+ in that it puts the player’s value on a scale, with 100 being the average. Baseball Prospectus claims that DRC+ is slightly more accurate than wRC+ and OPS+ and, more importantly for fantasy, more predictive. You can find much more about DRC+ on Baseball Prospectus.
We pulled DRC+ data through Saturday, July 3, and compared it to season-to-date fantasy production to help us identify some regression candidates. Below are four players who seem primed to regress either positively or negatively. For each, we’ll start with their year-to-date 5×5 stats along with their DRC+ and FantasyPros’ VBR. If you need assistance with any of the statistics mentioned below, check out our Sabermetrics Glossary for definitions.
Positive Regression Candidates
Soto is not having a great fantasy year by his standards. Those who spent a first-round pick on him have not received adequate compensation to this point. His HRs and runs have been acceptable, but 33 RBI and a .226 BA are not cutting it. The good news is, according to DRC+, he’s been the 11th best hitter in 2022 at +40% to average. If that is any indication, Soto could be in for a big second half (assuming his current calf injury isn’t serious).
Part of Soto’s problem this year is a .227 BABIP, which is hurting his BA. The lack of RBI may continue to be an issue for him, though, as the Nationals have one of the worst offenses in the leagues, and he gets pitched around often. Even so, Soto looks like an excellent buy-low trade candidate if a disgruntled manager is looking to shake things up. He’s too good to struggle for an entire season.
Bregman’s DRC+ is +18% higher than the average hitter, yet he hasn’t performed that way this season. His low HR total and low BA have been an issue. Like Soto, he’s been unlucky with BABIP (.251), and his HR/FB ratio is only 12%. The Statcast estimates also support a turn-around, as he carries a .267 xBA and a .463 xSLG. Bregman is coming off a solid June, in which he hit .273, so perhaps he’s already turned the corner.
Bregman is in a good position to turn things around. He has excellent plate discipline and a ton of offensive talent around him in Houston. He’s probably not a 30+ HR guy anymore, but expect a better batting average and a lot of runs and RBI in the second half.
Negative Regression Candidates
Walsh is having a pretty good fantasy year despite DRC+ thinking he’s a below-average hitter. -11% below average, to be exact. Walsh has had luck on his side in terms of BABIP (.324) and his HR/FB ratio (28.3%). Given his nearly 30% K-rate and low BB-rate (4.7%), some negative regression may be headed his way.
It’s not all bad news for Walsh, however. He hits the ball hard, and his Statcast estimates align with his production. Also, he maintained a high BABIP last year, so maybe he can do it again. Most likely, his batting average declines, but he retains his power in the second half. In any case, Walsh probably won’t see his numbers increase, so if you have an opportunity to sell, you should consider it.
Alfaro has come out of nowhere to become a solid #2 fantasy catcher this year. He’s been splitting starts with Austin Nola (C – SD) recently after being the clear backup to start the season. Fantasy managers have noticed, too, and his Roster% on Yahoo is now up to 36%. However, according to DRC+, this is likely a mirage as he’s a well below-average hitter.
To be fair, a lot of catchers are below-average hitters. But, out of the 29 catchers with at least 150 plate appearances this season, Alfaro ranks 23rd in DRC+. A look at some other stats reveals a similar script: a high BABIP (.385), a high HR/FB ratio (20%), and a high K-rate (33.8%). So if you are considering adding Alfaro to your roster, you may want to reconsider. Most likely, he’ll fade back to his career norms, which won’t do much for your fantasy team.
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