CAN THESE HITTERS SUSTAIN OR IMPROVE ON THEIR 2017 SUCCESS?

As usual some players took major steps forward last season. The natural question is whether they can sustain or improve upon this in 2018. I limited this list to players who have already played for a few seasons and who showed significant improvement in 2017.

1. ANTHONY RENDON

Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

Washington Nationals 3B Anthony Rendon broke out in in 2017 with 5.9 rWAR and a top 6 finish in the NL MVP vote. Can he improve upon this in 2018 or did he peak? A closer look at him might help….

His BB% rose from 10.0% in 2016 to 13.9% in 2017. His K% fell from 19.7% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2016 to 13.6% in 2017. His ISO rose from .100 in 2015 to .180 in 2016 to .232 in 2017. In other words he is clearly becoming more patient at the plate while increasing his power annually. Considering he is 27, I think it’s fair to expect at least one more step forward. How was his BABIP from 2015 to 2017? .321, .304, .314. This indicates that it doesn’t look like luck either. His HR totals naturally rose along with these improvements as well, peaking at 25 in 2017. His HR/FB% rose from 6.2% in 2015 to 10.0% in 2016 to 12.3% in 2017.

I don’t see why he can’t improve on his slash line of .301/.403/.533 this upcoming season, and believe that Steamer’s projections are undervaluing him. Would a 30 HR campaign be that unrealistic if his ISO improves further and he gets luckier with BABIP?

2. DIDI GREGORIUS

Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

New York Yankees SS Didi Gregorius showed that his 20 HR outburst in 2016 was no fluke as he followed it up with 25 HR in 2017. His ISO improved from .171 to .191 and his HR/FB % improved from 10.4% to 12.1%. Didi seems to be aiming for fly balls whenever he goes up to bat, and it’s working out well. His hard hit rate did decline from 24.5% in 2016 to 23.1% in 2017, but even with his BABIP falling as well (from .290 in 2016 to .287 in 2017), Gregorius still hit more home runs. In short, Steamer’s projections seem to be below what I consider to be reasonable expectations for the 28 year old Didi Gregorius. I expect him to have a slightly higher average and slightly more Home runs.

3. SCOOTER GENNETT

Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

Scooter Gennett looked like a platoon bat better suited to come off the bench, the Milwaukee Brewers even got rid of him as if he had no value. When Cincinnati picked him up most people didn’t expect much of him, but Gennett emerged as their 2B shortly into the season and went on a tear.

Let’s dig into his stats… His ISO jumped from .149 in 2016 to .236 in 2017. That’s a considerable jump. His HR/FB% jumped considerably as well from 10.5% in 2016 to 20.8% in 2017, and his BABIP rose as well from .315 in 2016 to .339 in 2017. Right off the bat it’s easy to see that his HR/FB% is unsustainable, and while it was only a slight increase, his BABIP will likely go down too. His hard hit % however has been rising from 22.1% in 2015 to 28.9% in 2016 and 34.4% in 2017. I believe that he does indeed have 20+ HR power but definitely not 25+, I also expect his average to be lower as well.

4. CHRIS TAYLOR

Chris Taylor is expected to be the Los Angeles Dodgers CF this year. At 27 years old he is definitely a late-bloomer: his ISO rose from .148 in 2016 to .208 in 2017. His hard hit contact % naturally also rose from 26.1% to 32.4%. His HR/FB% however went up from 6.7% in 2016 all the way to 15.8 % in 2017! His BABIP rose from .267 in 2016 to .361 in 2017 along with it. This immediately makes me think that his power outbreak in 2017 is unsustainable. I fully expect him to regress in both power and contact departments in 2018. It’s also useful to mention that while his BB% improved from 6.2% in 2016 to 8.8% in 2017, his K% rose from 23.1% to 25.0%. In other words, his average is unlikely to be in the vicinity of .288 as it was in 2017.

5. JONATHAN SCHOOP

Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

Baltimore Orioles 2B Jonathan Schoop emerged as Manny Machado’s heir to the crown of Baltimore’s face of the franchise in 2017. Schoop clearly seems to be on the rise. The 26 year old raised his BB% from 2.7% in 2014 to 2.8% in 2015 to 3.2% in 2016 and 5.2% in 2017. He lowered his K% from 25.4% in 2014 to 24.6% in 2015 to 21.2% in 2016 and 21.0% in 2017. His ISO rose from .187 in 2016 to .214 in 2017 (though also lowered from .203 in 2015 to the aforementioned .187 in 2016). His BABIP rose from .305 in 2016 to .330 in 2017 (but fell from .329 in 2015 to the again aforementioned .305 in 2016). His hard hit % jumped 10.1 points from 26.0% in 2016 to 36.1% in 2017 (though it dropped from 35.8% in 2015 to 26.0% in 2016).

I think that Schoop is legitimately improving, and due to his age I can see him improving further this upcoming season, and being seen as the best power hitting 2B in the game.

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