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Reviewing 2017 Pod Projections: Keon Broxton

Today let’s continue recapping one of my 2017 Pod Projections, this time heading to Milwaukee to discuss Keon Broxton. Coming off an intriguing half-season in 2016 that featured an exciting blend of power and speed, along with some clear flaws, he was a popular sleeper for 2017 and one whose projections people couldn’t really settle on. So what was I projecting and how did that compare to his actual results? Let’s find out.

Plate Appearances: 527 Projected vs 463 Actual

My projection was based on the assumption that Broxton would hit sixth, but he actually batted seventh for the majority of the season. A worse spot in the order, combined with losing his job and even getting demoted to the minors, led to him failing to reach 500 plate appearances.

BB%: 11.1% Projected vs 8.6% Actual

Broxton’s minor league walk rates were up and down and it was difficult to get a read on his true talent. He was more patient than ever in his first real taste of Major League action in 2016, but that didn’t last long. This season, he swung at significantly more pitches out of the zone and also slightly more pitches in the zone. More swinging = fewer walks.

K%: 31.4% Projected vs 37.8% Actual

Sheesh, you just assume that a young player is going to improve upon an inflated 36.1% strikeout rate in their debut, but instead Broxton struck out even more! His already high SwStk% rocketed to even greater heights and he had far more trouble making contact on pitches inside the zone. He wasn’t nearly this bad in the minors, but obviously needs to stop whiffing so often in a hurry for any chance of holding a starting job.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 46% / 23% / 31% Projected vs 45.1% / 20.3% / 34.6% Actual

He traded line drives for fly balls, which is bad for BABIP, but good for power. Seems like a common theme for hitters in 2017!

BABIP: .345 Projected vs .323 Actual

Broxton’s forecasted BABIP was one of the primary sources of disagreement between projections. I consulted his minor league BABIP marks, which were consistently high, as well as his xBABIP, which was .381, to confirm that he does indeed own masterful BABIP skills. But, his BABIP fell precipitously, and settled a bit below his 2017 xBABIP. The drop was driven by his tradeoff of liners for flies, along with a decline in Hard%. Still, an xBABIP of .337 validates strong BABIP skills, though somewhat less strong than in 2016.

HR/FB Ratio: 15.0% Projected vs 24.4% Actual

The highest HR/FB rate Broxton had ever posted in the minors was 17.7%, and that was all the way back in 2009 in the Rookie League, his first ever taste of professional baseball. So naturally we all assumed major regression off his 25.7% mark during his 2016 season. But that barely occurred. In fact, his Brls/BBE actually rose slightly from 2016, which is pretty impressive, but his HR/FB rate has remained way above his xHR/FB rate.

Runs and RBI: 59 and 49 Projected vs 66 and 49 Actual

Despite getting on base far less often than I projected and receiving fewer plate appearances, he still managed to score more often. And although I technically nailed the RBI projection, it came in fewer plate appearances, so I couldn’t possibly take full credit.

SB: 33 Projected vs 21 Actual

Well gosh, Broxton attempted almost the exact same number of steals in 2017 as he did in 2016…in nearly double the plate appearances! Sure, he got on base less often, but he also did attempt a steal drastically less frequently than he had. It’s just a reminder of how difficult it is to predict a player’s willingness to run.

Below is a comparison of all the preseason projections and the actual results, with highlights for the system with the closest forecast:

Keon Broxton 2017 Projections & Actual
System PA AB AVG HR R RBI SB BB% K% BABIP
Actual 2017 463 414 0.220 20 66 49 21 8.6% 37.8% 0.323
Pod 527 464 0.244 14 59 49 33 11.1% 31.4% 0.345
Steamer 529 465 0.222 15 59 51 29 10.2% 32.9% 0.315
Fans (22) 609 522 0.251 18 72 72 40 13.0% 30.0% 0.347
ZiPS 469 417 0.216 16 54 52 25 10.0% 37.3% 0.325

Looks like ZiPS performed best on the fantasy-relevant projections front, as it was the most conservative projection set. Overall though, we were generally all pretty wrong, which is no surprise given the limited MLB track record we had to work with and the surprise performance.

With Brett Phillips around and Lewis Brinson on his way to being around, it’s unlikely Broxton will get another extended chance at full-time at-bats. So he’ll probably remain just an NL-Only option as a nice fifth outfielder or bench bat for some homers and steals.