Rookie Red Flags: Kipnis, Lawrie, Giavotella

A few rookies called up recently, Jason Kipnis, Brett Lawrie and Johnny Giavotella, have made a splash in their short time in the majors so far. The following is a look at the areas of concern for each player going forward that may bring their hot starts back to earth.

Jason Kipnis – Jason has been a huge addition for the Indians in their run for the pennant. He does have a couple of red flags, his K% and HR/FB.

In the minors, he K’ed at a rate generally in the high teens. Since joining the major league team, that number has jump to over 29%. His K% should decrease as the season goes on, but it could still be a drag on his value. K% stabilizes fairly quickly in the majors (R of .7 at 150 PA), so we should have an idea of his K% fairly soon.

Besides the K%, he will not be able to maintain a HR/FB rate of 37.5% (43% HR/OFFB). The home runs hit by the left hander have been off fastballs up and inside.

Pitchers will begin to adjust and the home run rate will probably go down.

Brett Lawrie – Brett looks to be the real deal, but as with Kipnis, the home run numbers don’t seem sustainable. The key numbers driving Lawrie’s home run numbers are a 50% FB rate and a 23% HR/FB ratio. These numbers work out to a home run every 10 times he puts a ball in play and are in the Jose Bautista range (47% FB, 24% HR/FB).

I would track the 2 values for the rest of the season to see if they regress (very likely) or stay at these levels. The values take a while to stabilize (R of .7 for FB% = 250 PA and 300 PA for HR/PA), but not as long as other values. Once he get a couple hundred more at bats, his true major league talent will be more evident.

Johnny Giavotella – Finally, Dayton Moore made the move to sit Chris Getz and begin to play Giavotella at 2B. The one item that seems a little out of place for Johnny is his 0.351 BABIP. After running the numbers, it is actually not that far off his xBABIP of 0.347.

Looking a little further, his 23.1% IFH% is driving up his BABIP. The current league leader for batting title qualified players is Peter Bourjos with a 16.5% IFH%. Giavotella does not have anything close to Bourjos’s speed. If Johnny’s IFH% dropped to a more reasonable level of 10%, his xBABIP would drop 30 points to 0.317, which still may be high for him. Johnny should be a decent 2B, but his 0.311 BABIP driven BA should be heading down as he gets a more normal IFH%.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

8 Responses to “Rookie Red Flags: Kipnis, Lawrie, Giavotella”

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  1. Chad says:

    You referred to Kipnis as Brett, just to let you know.

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  2. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Any Chance Lawrie plays at second enough to retain his 2B eligibility for next year?

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    • Torgen says:

      I predict Lawrie will play 0 games at 2B in his major league career.

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    • Mike says:

      The Blue Jays use an extreme shift against lefties like Ortiz and Hamilton where the 3B moves to 2B and the 2B moves to short right field. The only way Lawrie retains 2B is if your league counts those situation. In other words no chance.

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  3. hennethannun says:

    Why is .317 a high BABIP for Giavotella? His career BABIP is right around .350. Even accounting for the two seasons he played in very favourable offensive environments, he profiles as the type of player (good contact skills, line-drive/gap power, decent baserunner) who could reliably post above-.300 BABIPs. sure, .350+ might be unsustainable, but .320 or even .330 seems very possible. (the better question for his long-term value is how much power/patience and to a lesser extent, speed/steals he can provide. Otherwise he’ll be an empty .300 hitter at best.)

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  4. Sal says:

    Two questions:

    How were you able to create the graph for Kipnis?

    Is there anyway to monitor FB% and HR/FB% splits (i.e. from this date forward)?


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  5. jim says:

    well jeff, now that kipnis is on the DL, do you feel good about what you’ve done?

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