There are so many variables that go into a hitter’s performance. Luckily, we have advanced analytics to show us that sometimes we can’t take a hitter’s results at face value. Baseball is a hard enough sport as it is. To then have a run of misfortune on the field can really derail a season. Identifying players who’ve had particularly bad luck can help us get value on their bounce backs. I’ve come up with five players ready to turn their fortune around and provide value in drafts.
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5 Bounce Back Hitters
Marcell Ozuna – OF, Atlanta Braves
2019 Stats: .243/.330/.474, 549 PA, 29 HR, 12SB
A good bet to bounce back this season, Marcell Ozuna was a massive disappointment for both the Cardinals and fantasy owners. Unless players impersonating Spider-Man while they should be playing defense is your thing, of course. On the year, he slashed .243/.330/.474 with 29 home runs and 12 steals. By the advanced metrics, no one in baseball was unluckier than Marcel Ozuna.
Among players with at least 450 plate appearances, he was the top underperformer on both batting average and wOBA(weighted on-base average). His xBA was an excellent .288, while his xSLG of .548 had a .076 differential from his actual SLG. This difference was the third largest among underperformers. By xwOBA, which takes into account both quality of contact and plate discipline, he measured as the 19th best hitter in baseball. Though his actual wOBA of .336 came in at 85th.
Ozuna displayed career-highs in both average exit velocity and barrel percentage. But, his results went the opposite way of his gains in batted ball skills. Not only did he hit the ball better, but he also showed his best plate discipline with an 11.3% walk rate. He finds himself in the best situation of his career now in Atlanta. Don’t hesitate to take him ahead of his 102.15 Fantrax ADP and benefit from the bounce back.
C.J. Cron – 1B, Detroit Tigers
2019 Stats: .253/.311/.469, 499 PA, 25 HR
C.J. Cron has never had more than 600 plate appearances in his career. That could change this season as he makes his way to Detroit. While he made the most of his playing time in Minnesota with 25 home runs in 125 games, it could have been much better. Cron slashed .253/.311/.469 on the season. His xBA and xSLG? .278 and .550, both among the highest differentials in the league.
Expected statistics aside, Cron had a .277 BABIP. His BABIP over his career has generally sat in the .290’s, and his batted ball directional data was consistent with his career norms. He didn’t hit more fly balls nor did he pull the ball more, both of which could affect BABIP. Cron should hit for a better average and maintain the home run pace he set last season after finishing with a career-high 15% barrel rate.
First base is a tricky position this season, as it looks to be more shallow than it’s been in recent memory. You can see how it stacks up in our first base rankings. Cron is a sleeper breakout option you can count on for late power in drafts.
Dansby Swanson – SS, Atlanta Braves
2019 Stats: .251/.325/.422, 545 PA, 17 HR, 10 SB
Many were quick to write off Dansby Swanson as a bust after hitting .238 with 14 home runs and 10 steals in 2018. He began the 2019 season on a mission to prove himself, hitting .263 with 17 home runs and seven steals before injuring his heel on July 23. The injury ultimately derailed his season as failed to hit another home run and only stole three additional bases.
The end of season numbers don’t represent how much improvement Swanson made. He’s been on a trend of reducing his ground ball rate over his last three seasons. The rise in launch angle helped him raise his barrel rate from 4.1% in 2018 to 10.1% last season. And he displayed his best average exit velocity at 89.8mph. Despite his improvements, he could have had a much better year as indicated by his .271 xBA and .480 xSLG. The differential in his expected statistics and his actual statistics were among the league leaders. I expect Dansby to bounce back from the poor second half and provide value as a sleeper at the shortstop position.
Lorenzo Cain – OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2019 Stats: .260/.325/.372, 623 PA, 11 HR, 18 SB
There really isn’t much about Lorenzo Cain’s profile that suggests he should have fallen off in batting average the way he did. The .260 average was his lowest since 2013. When looking at his stats, one thing does stand out. Despite a league average .301 BABIP, the number is significantly lower than his norm. Here are his BABIPs over the last four years: .357, .340,.341, .347.
Going over to his Statcast metrics, Cain had a .290 xBA and an average exit velocity that is also right in line with his norm at 89.4mph. His Fantrax ADP sits at 202. He’s worth the gamble for a bounce-back in 2020. Cain will be hitting leadoff in a good lineup, in a good park, and providing two of the most scarce stats in the game, steals and batting average.
Khris Davis – OF, Oakland Athletics
2019 Stats: .220/.293/.387, 133 PA, 23 HR
What a disappointing season it was for Krush Davis after going in the fourth round in drafts last season. One of the most consistent bats in the game turned in a dud. It didn’t start off that way though. Davis hit 10 home runs through April before injuring his hip on May 5. He then injured his hand on a pitch in late June. Perhaps the injuries played a significant part in his down season as he only hit 13 more home runs from May on.
Digging into the Statcast data. Davis was the biggest underperformer in xwOBA on line drives and fly balls. His actual wOBA was .507, whereas his xwOBA was .601 on these batted ball types. Hitters that profiled similarly with Davis in combined line drive and fly ball rate, barrel rate, and xwOBA on non-ground balls include Michael Conforto, Renato Nunez, and Kole Calhoun. All of these hitters totaled over 30 home runs. Davis finished with 23. Even an injured Khris Davis should be on par with these hitters. If he can return with a clean bill of health, we could see a bounce-back season for the slugger.
Any other hitters you think are due to bounce back? Let us know in the comments below.
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