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Five Sell-High Hitters

Credit: ProspectInsider.com

We’re moving into the second half of the MLB season, which means we are nearing the trade deadline (both real life and fantasy). For the most part, you are stuck with your teams at this point, and if you’re still paying attention to fantasy content, you’re probably competing for a playoff spot. A common mistake is to take certain players’ production for granted. Maybe you can plug Mike Trout in for some solid numbers, but here are some hitters due to regress.

Marcell Ozuna

At first, Ozuna’s .345 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) looks impressive, and that suspicion is confirmed by a staggering .381 batting average on ground balls. Ozuna has enough speed to profile as a 10-15 steal player, but that isn’t enough speed to assume that BABIP will last. Since he strikes out 27.1% of the time, his batting average, currently at .276, could drop substantially over the second half.

George Springer

For the most part, wishful thinking and home run numbers are blinding baseball fans. He is sitting at 19 dingers, so it’s hard not to think he’s becoming the fantasy stud we are expecting, but his 26.8% HR/FB (Home Run to Flay Ball rate) is otherworldly. ESPN’s home run tracker, HitTrackerOnline.com, backs this up, claiming that 8 Springer home runs have just cleared the fences.

There is evidence that Springer has not yet adjusted to big league pitching. His contact rate on pitches inside the strike zone is the worst in the majors among qualified hitters, and Springer has managed a 33.2% strikeout rate. Since one can’t get hits when one doesn’t put the ball in play frequently, Springer will be a batting average liability unless he can make more contact. It is worth noting that pitch weights mark him as a great fastball hitter, so we know his problem is hitting the offspeed stuff.

Jose Abreu

Remember the ESPN home run tracker? Circling back to it, the system says that of Abreu’s 29 home runs, 13 have just cleared the fences and 4 were lucky. According to the Average True Distance stats kept by ESPN for each league, Abreu’s home runs travel just further than the average AL hitter’s home runs. Abreu obviously has tons of skill, but some luck is making him look a lot better than he really is. I thought a 34.9% HR/FB was impossible to sustain over a full season, but Ryan Howard actually pulled off 39.5% when he hit 58 round trippers in 2006. Still, Abreu will have to rely on the same luck in the second half to sustain the home run numbers.

Like Springer, Abreu struggles with strikeouts, but due to a different cause. While Springer has trouble making contact on pitches inside the zone, Abreu chases far too many pitches outside the zone. His 41.6% chase rate would have him in AAA if he wasn’t Jose Abreu, holder of large contract. It doesn’t help matters that he is making contact on only 53.5% of pitches when swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. Unfortunately, when the home runs regress, so will the batting average, as it is fueled by a .463 average on fly balls.

Victor Martinez

I won’t waste your time with Martinez. He’s having a career year, with bests in walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run pace. I sort of made that last one up, but Martinez has been getting tons of recognition for his power burst, as he is on pace to shatter his career-high 25 home runs from 2007. While some of this can be credited to an increase in fly balls hit, it is mostly due to his 18.1% HR/FB. He should be able to sustain everything else, but the homers are a clear anomaly.

Robinson Cano

Everybody knows something has been up with Cano this year, but his stats have been fine, except for the home runs. He no longer gets to take advantage of the porch at Yankee Stadium, and he has also sacrificed some flies for grounders. This is probably a good idea since ground balls tend to go for hits more often than fly balls do, but he’s hitting so few fly balls now that I’m not sure 20 homers is possible. He’s being touted as a buy-low and an elite option at second base, so sell while the perceived value is still high.

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