2nd Half Hitter Bust Candidates

On Monday, I identified four second half breakout candidates based on a combination of traditional evaluation methods I use, which include looks at both average batted ball distance and xBABIP marks. Today I check in on some potential busts for the rest of the season. Owners should strongly consider shopping these players in the hopes of executing a sell high trade.

Just to clarify, bust in this sense does not mean worthless, but instead disappointing compared to each player’s performance before the All-Star game.

Domonic Brown

Though he certainly appeared on many preseason sleeper lists, no one saw this coming. Brown is on pace for 39 home runs, 114 RBIs and 13 steals. It should be no surprise to read that I don’t think he comes close to reaching that home run total by the end of the season. At the beginning of July, I noted the huge disconnect between his average home run plus fly ball distance and his HR/FB rate. At the time, his HR/FB rate sat at 25% and it has fallen to 22.5%, so some regression has already begun.

His season could actually be described as a typical former prospect finally blossoming, but with a month — May — in which he went bonkers. He posted an insane 42.9% HR/FB rate that month, while every other one has been in the teens. Right now, his average distance sits at about 281 feet, which isn’t much higher than the league average. It is true that Citizens Bank Park inflates left-handed home run power. But that effect, along with his distance, matches up better with a low-to-mid teen HR/FB rate and certainly not anything above 20%. Speaking of his home park, his home HR/FB rate is double his away rate! Crazy. If we assume a 14% HR/FB rate the rest of the season, that would put him on a 24 home run pace for a full year. That sounds about right, and it’s a far cry from what he has done so far, potentially disappointing many of his owners.

Carlos Beltran

Beltran’s name also appeared in my early July look at surprising batted ball distances linked to above. Amazingly, his distance has deteriorated even further since. It now sits at just about 277 feet, which is easily the worst mark he has recorded since 2007, the first year this data is available. If you look at his historical HR/FB rates, you wouldn’t assume his current 17.8% mark is out of place. But when you realize that his balls are simply not being hit as far, then the alarm bells start to ring.

Unfortunately, he also no longer has that speed cushion to prop up his fantasy value. After stealing 13 bases in 19 attempts last year, he has just 2 in 3 tries this season. Given his age (36) and his injury history, you couldn’t reasonably expect a sudden stolen base flurry over the rest of the season. While his BABIP has not benefited from any luck, remember that his line drive rate is at a career high, so that is probably going to decline. His career BABIP is at .303, 26 points below his current BABIP. If you assume some HR/FB rate decline in the second half and a small BABIP drop, then it becomes quite likely he hits below .300. Then throw in the possibility of injury at his age and always fragile state and you’re left with all the ingredients for a strong sell high candidate.

Allen Craig

Craig caused lots of controversy in the preseason as some absolutely loved him after his strong 2012, while others remained concerned about his injury history and ability to record 550 at-bats. So far, the optimists have been correct, as he is not only on pace for 612 at-bats, but also to knock in a whopping 130 runs to go along with his .333 batting average. His power has been a bit of a disappointment though, but his average distance of 278 feet validates his close to league average HR/FB rate.

So now let’s count the reasons why he’s unlikely to remain the fourth most valuable first baseman over the remainder of the season. First, his BABIP is up in the stratosphere at .380. While his batted ball profile does support a mark well in excess of the league average, his xBABIP is a much more reasonable .340. So while the two projection systems still project him to hit around .300 RoS, that is a 30 point drop from where he sits now.

Next, it’s time to talk about all those runs batted in. Craig has posted a .430 wOBA with men on base and a herculean .498 mark with runners in scoring position. This compares to a measly .332 wOBA with the bases empty. Unless you believe that he was born with inherent clutchiness skills, then you have to assume those non-bases empty wOBA marks are going to drop and bring the RBI pace down along with it. When that happens, you’re suddenly looking at a first baseman who isn’t all that different than Billy Butler. That is of course nothing to scoff at, but it’s also not one you would ever count on to deliver the fourth highest fantasy value at the position.

Jhonny Peralta

Peralta’s name appeared on my list of the luckiest BABIPers last week. He ranks second in all of baseball with a .385 BABIP, but his xBABIP is a more modest .342. Peralta’s career BABIP is just .315 and he has posted a BABIP above .320 in just half of his eight seasons. So he hasn’t historically shown an ability to post league leading type BABIP marks. That BABIP has led to a batting average above .300 for the first time in his career. He sports just a .267 career mark and his current career high season mark is .299. Only twice has he hit above .276 over a full season.

At times during his career, you used to be able to count on Peralta to contribute above average power for his position. Unfortunately, that power was MIA last year and it has not reappeared this season (his average distance is 281 feet, just above the league average). He also doesn’t steal bases. What all this means is that if Peralta isn’t hitting for average and he doesn’t suddenly rediscover his power stroke, he’s not worth a whole lot in fantasy leagues. He currently ranks fifth among shortstops in fantasy value according to CBS. When that BABIP drops, and it may very well experience a precipitous decline, then you could be left holding a near replacement level shortstop in 12-team mixed leagues.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

35 Responses to “2nd Half Hitter Bust Candidates”

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  1. Dan Greer says:

    Peralta shows up on another list which is equally concerning.

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  2. I moved Beltran in Tout Wars yesterday as part of a larger deal for many of the reasons that you’re stating.

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  3. ihefowj says:

    puig snubbed again???

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  4. josh says:

    Craig as a second half bust? All he’s done is hit. Minors. Majors. Little league. He’s doing right now exactly what he’s always done. There’s no indication that says he’s going to be a “bust” for the second half. Slowing down his production over the next half of ball doesn’t qualify him as a bust. People have been saying all season that there’s no way he can continue on his pace, but he just keeps on keeping on.

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    • MyrAn says:

      Bust compared to his 1st half. Article says his average should be a little over .300 rather than the .333 it’s at and the RBI rates should go down.

      Still a good fantasy play. Just not the nutso numbers he put up in the 1st half.

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      • josh says:

        but that’s my point. regression to .300 is not a bust player by fantasy, physical, video games, or any other means of analysis. batting .200 for the second half could classify his production as a bust, but .300 is not a slouch number.

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    • Y2K says:

      Pods even says in the article “a first baseman who isn’t all that different than Billy Butler. That is of course nothing to scoff at” so he clearly agrees he won’t be a bust, but the difference between Craig’s first half and a typical Billy Butler half is signifigant.

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      • josh says:

        still not the point. if the title is actually about second half busts, then you can’t talk about guys who may (or may not) regress to numbers that you then claim is “nothing to scoff at.” that’s not the definition of a bust. he’s trying to be bold and “predict” a bust without coming out and saying that Craig is going to completely dismantle in the second half. so if Craig continues on his same pace, Pods can say that he wasn’t really off-base with what he said citing the Billy-Butler-numbers comparison or the ~.300 batting average, and he still looks credible in his analysis. but if Craig does implode and bats .173 in the second half, he can claim that he “predicted it” first.

        if you’re going to call out “busts,” then for goodness sake, make a bold prediction. say “his numbers suggest that we could see a drastic decline in his production to the point that he may be benched.” or “he’s showing he can’t hit the long ball, and his production solely revolves around the great players around him getting on base, so when they’re production goes down, and they stop getting on base, then Craig will be just another guy.”

        what i’m getting at is the title suggests (explicitly) that he’s predicting busts for the second half, but his analysis straddles the fence on Craig because he knows Craig shouldn’t be on this list. so why put him on it unless he’s going to lean way out there on that limb and say “i just don’t think he has it in him…” that’s a start to “bust analysis.” not “he’s probably going to still hit .300…he’s busting (but only compared to his first half).”

        we all know plays regress. but a regress in production does not equal “bust” numbers.

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    • Theo says:

      If his wOBA drops by 40 or 50 points in the second half (not all that unreasonable considering his BABIP alone) or if he gets injured, one can certainly call that “BUSTING”

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      • josh says:

        but he doesn’t predict that. that’s what my point is. he’s going along with the RoS number, and i have qualms with calling anybody that bats ~.300 a bust no matter what they’re first or second half numbers look like.

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      • josh, from my intro- “Just to clarify, bust in this sense does not mean worthless, but instead disappointing compared to each player’s performance before the All-Star game.”

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      • jkirby says:

        so to clarify, that’s your definition of bust? seems that there would be other much better examples of a potential “bust” rather than a possible regresser…

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      • In this context, yes, that’s the definition and term I chose. If a hitter earned $30 in the first half, but I expect only $15 in the second, clearly he should still earn good value, but a $15 drop-off seems ripe for the bust label.

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  5. Mario Mendoza says:

    Peralta owner in an AL OPS league… I enjoyed it while it lasted. Is Brad Miller capable of replacing him in my starting lineup? (not that he would replace a 900 OPS, but that he would be a top-10 OPS SS in second half)

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  6. Drew says:

    How about Starling Marte?

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  7. josh says:

    Miguel Cabrera should be on this list. He’s one year older than he was last year, so there’s no way he can keep up with the pace he’s on currently.

    Chris Davis too because he’s likely to get busted for rubbing coyote mating scent on his biceps for endurance.

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  8. Oaktown Steve says:

    I hear you on Allen Craig, but as a Craig owner I will offer a slight counter as a ray if hope. His hr/fb ratio is off about 6-7 percent from where it was the past two years. The line drive rate is very high. Anecdotally. I’ve seen him batter outfield walls about half a dozen times this year with near misses on homers. If he goes on a home binge even as the other peripherals come down he’s going to continue to hold his value. Speaking from a qualitative standpoint, the guy can really hit. He passes the eyeball test for sure, so while I don’t disagree with your premise, I’m still hopeful for a solid H2.

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    • Giovani says:

      No reason to be anecdotal. Fangraphs player pages include LD% – he’s up to 26.3% on the year, a very solid number – good for 11th in MLB.

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      • Oaktown Steve says:

        I was talking anecdotally about near miss home runs not LD%. The LD rate is indicative of how often this guy squares it up. But from a fantasy perspective it would be nice to see the fb rate and the hr/fb rate go up a bit.

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  9. DJ2 says:

    mike, I get that you have to read between the numbers and all… but paralysis by analysis.

    Allen Craig simply has great hitting mechanics. his weight transfer and short compact swing are terrific. he hits in a great lineup.. i’m buying this guy all the way.

    his BABIP might be up and his walk rate is ok, but i want this guy in every league i’m in. i’ll get my power from somewhere else though.

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    • Giovani says:

      When you say buying do you mean willing to pay for his first half numbers with the expectation that he will be able to keep up that pace in the second half? That’s the question.

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      • DJ2 says:

        I’m not sure what I would pay for him because I drafted him on all 3 of my teams, but for as good as he’s been, his power should be coming too.

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  10. John says:

    I have been offered Sabathia for Brown. 2 player keeper league, where Brown can be kept for only $11 of the $260 budget next year. I have OF depth, Brown, Crawford, Elsbury, Ichiro, CarGo and Werth. Currently in second place and I need help in ERA, Whip and wins…seems like shoudl pull the trigger, what do you think?

    Brown would probably be one of me keepers at his price next year along with Carpenter for $5. Is CC worth adding?

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    • I think that’s a fair offer, though you should prob first counter and try getting Sabathia cheaper. I actually just traded for Sabathia in my local league 2 weeks ago, so I’m expecting a better rest of season.

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  11. MLB Rainmaker says:

    I don’t really see Brown as a Bust candidate. If you owned him, he’s been an above average regular, aside from 8 days in May where he went nuts. So the guy you’ll get for the second half is likely the same guy you’ve started for the last 14 out of 15 weeks. That said, I think he’s June is a good comp – .278/.347/.537, but with some regression SLG to below .500. I’d say 13 HR from here out — which I’d call an above average OF.

    I think the story with Beltran has always been the same: he’s got freaky talent, but he’s old and somewhat fragile. I’d be less concerned about his ability degrading than the likelihood that he breaks down.

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  12. marlinswin12 says:

    Yasiel Puig

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