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.
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.
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.
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.
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.