With a little over a month left of the season, BABIP marks shouldn’t change too significantly through the remainder. The five hitters with the highest BABIPs could potentially be overvalued in fantasy leagues next year as a decline could trigger a drop in batting average. Let’s see if that may be the case.
A power surge and an insane BABIP has led to Andrew McCutchen‘s breakout year. His batting average is up nearly .100 points from last season, which is crazy. We don’t need to perform any kind of deep analysis to know that McCutchen will not be posting another .400+ BABIP next season, and likely no where close to it. Previously, his career best was just .327, and while he has hit a bunch more line drives this year and fly balls became grounders, I would say a mid-.300 BABIP (say .340 or so) would be a more realistic expectation. In fact, a .342 mark is exactly what ZiPS is projecting for the rest of the season. With some of his increased power being sustainable, that still leaves him with a batting average around .300. McCutchen has really surprised me this year as I expected his power to take a step back and certainly not to jump ahead further. With his combination of skills, it doesn’t feel right to bet against him, but he will very likely be overvalued next season.
What else is there to say about Mike Trout? It’s just not normal that a 21 year old has a legitimate case for being considered the best player in baseball already. As a non-owner watching him fill up the box score for the team in first place in my home fantasy league, it’s been bittersweet to follow to say the least! He simply refuses to slow down. In the minors, he had always posted enormous BABIP marks and his current batted ball distribution and low IFFB%, combined with his power and speed, suggest his true talent BABIP is indeed well above the league average. Maybe even league leading. He’s almost a certainty not to end up on any of my fantasy teams next year, but his speed makes him safer than you might think.
Austin Jackson is up to his old ways, posting another inflated BABIP. Back during his 2010 rookie year, he posted an even higher .396 mark, so this is nothing new. It seems that the biggest factor in his strong BABIP skills is that he rarely hits pop-ups. In fact, he has hit just 1 all year and is tied for 3rd in baseball in IFFB%. Combine that with good speed, a power surge and a better than league average line drive rate, and you have the recipe for BABIP inflation. Aside from continuing to post a strong BABIP, he has reduced his strikeout rate, which has led to his first .300+ batting average. The power surge appears to be mostly sustainable, but a declining stolen base success rate offsets some of the added value provided by those additional home runs. I have a difficult time paying for a .380 BABIP, so although his history shows he could do it again, he could be quite a risk.
While I don’t think PEDs could actually impact a hitter’s BABIP, it is quite the coincidence that Melky Cabrera has enjoyed a career best mark the season he was caught.
Dexter Fowler has a career .349 BABIP, no doubt helped by the thin air at Coors Field. In his career at home, his BABIP has been .360, while it was still a strong, albeit less spectacular .336 in away games. While he has always hit an above average percentage of line drives, that skill has really improved this year, as he ranks fourth in baseball in LD%. After never hitting above .266 for a season, Fowler is now flirting with .300, finally providing positive value in the category for his fantasy owners. Unfortunately, that kind of line drive rate is unlikely to repeated, which will hurt his BABIP, plus a decline in HR/FB ratio will result in some additional fly ball outs. He still hasn’t become the type of stolen base threat many had hoped, so he isn’t as susceptible to being overvalued like some of the other names on this list as fantasy owners simply won’t keep paying for an expected breakout in the category any longer.
**And yes, it was pure coincidence that all these hitters happen to be outfielders!