Chris Davis owners are experiencing an unexpected surprise this season. Instead of a possible corner infield or injury replacement, they have one of the top players in the league for pennies on the dollar. On the other end of the spectrum is B.J. Upton who Ron Shandler picked to have “40/40 upside”, but is in the discussion has the worst everyday player in the majors. Going into the 2013 season, Davis and Upton were projected to have similar production because of a uncertain skill set and the similarities ended then.
Every year surprises happen, but not usually with hitters. Some hitters may rise, some may fall, but usually no comes completely out of no where, like Davis, to possibly be the best hitter in the league. In Ottoneu leagues, 30% of first place team contain Davis. Looking at the top 3 ranked teams, 57% contain Davis. Getting Miguel Cabrera like production at a fraction of the cost is huge. The last Chris Davis non-rookie type breakout was Jose Bautista in 2010. 54 HRs and 124 RBIs from a player who was likely still on the waiver wire into May. The goal of any fantasy baseball owner is to find these players before others do.
Everyone likes a good breakout and figuring out who it may be. I went to one of my favorite little tools, Marcel Projection Similarity Application. What is does is take a player’s projection from any season, finds players with similar projections and then looks to see how the player actually performed. Most times, the projections are almost perfectly split with the same number above or below the sample set. With Davis selected with players his same age, a .020 variation in the stats, and going back to 1990, 15 comparable seasons were selected (*).
Generally, these players were high power, low AVG players. What I found was 10 of the 15 exceed their projected OPS, with most of the increase coming from a higher AVG. Some of the selected players really broke out (Kent and Ortiz).
So I decided to look again for similar players. I ran a query for players within 1 year of age of Davis and their AVG and ISO were within 0.010. Here are two of those players:
2013 ZIPS Projections: .251 AVG, .204 ISO
2013 FanGraphs+ Profile: Player 1 appears to have traded his on-base skills for power in 2012. He moves to a more hitter-friendly park as a member of the new team, and he is still young and good offensively for his position.
Average Draft Positions
Mock Draft Central: 35
Player 2 ZIPS Projections: .252 AVG, .198 ISO
Player 2 has hit for much better averages than expected given his high batting average on balls in play. While he’s a candidate to see some regression in that area, his power is definitely real.
Average Draft Position
Mock Draft Central: 80
As you probably guessed by the title of the article, Player 1 is B.J. Upton and Player 2 is Chris Davis. I know Upton has the advantage of more speed and better position, but not enough to be, on average, picked 70 places ahead of Davis.
The two players have performed as polar opposites, but these two are not the exception, a large percentage of players in the group either sink or soar.
Here are the players whose 2013 ZIPs projections are within 0.010 of Davis’s AVG and ISO and then their actual results are compared (**).
|Name||Age||Projected AVG||Projected ISO||2013 AVG||2013 ISO||Diff in AVG||Diff in ISO||Total Diff|
Some above, some below, a few dead on. The key to these player’s having more value is their BABIP. They are going to hit HRs, but their value skyrockets if they can get a few more balls to fall in play. For these guys an AVG over .270 is huge, but ones under are .220 a disaster.
When drafting or bidding for these low AVG, high ISO players, an owner must understand they may need to have a backup in place in case the player is non-rosterable. Second, they may need to look at trading the player or his replacement if the player has a decent AVG. They are players which will require action from the owner.
Low AVG, High ISO players, like Chris Davis and B.J. Upton, can drive an owner crazy with their swings in production. An owner needs to understand the possible roller coaster these player may take and plan accordingly.
(*) Pedro Munoz (1995),Jason Kubel (2009),Jorge Cantu (2009),Deion Sanders (1994),Adam LaRoche (2006),Jeff Kent (1995),Nate McLouth (2008),David Ortiz (2002),Bill Hall (2006),Jeffrey Hammonds (1998), Wilson Betemit (2008),Tino Martinez (1994),Butch Huskey (1998),Khalil Greene (2006), Phil Plantier (1996)
(**) Looking at the ZIPS(ROS) projections, Pedro Alvarez‘s name sticks out as player who fits the mold (.240 AVG, .240 ISO)
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