The season is still young, so many unexpected results are due to small sample sizes. That said, there are always breakouts and declines. So whose results are sustainable and whose are not?
1. DIDI GREGORIUS, SS NEW YORK YANKEES
Didi Gregorius is having a great start to the season, slashing .389/.522/.861. Let’s dig deeper… He has a .472 ISO (!) and a .367 BABIP. His hard contact rate is 33.3% and his HR/FB % is 20.0 %. Both are higher than his 2017 numbers of 23.1% and 12.1%. His ISO is unrealistically high, and his BABIP is higher than average as well. This means that all of these stats and his HR/FB % will go down. I think that it’s possible that his power improved, but not by this much. I think that a 25-27 home run season is a possibility, but that’s as high as he should be able to go, his average will naturally go down significantly as well.
2. DANSBY SWANSON, SS ATLANTA BRAVES
What about a former elite prospect who is coming off a down first full season? Is his rebound legitimate? .366/.381/.585 is an impressive line. His .ISO is .220, which is a big jump from last year’s .092. To his credit he did reach .192 in the minors at one point. His BABIP is an unsustainable .438, and his hard contact % declined from 29.3% in 2017 to 24.3% this season. In short, he’s probably not going to keep this production up. His walk rate fell down alarmingly from 10.7 % to 2.4%. He has however lowered his strikeout percentage from 21.8% to 19.0%. I think that it’s not difficult to see that he’s not going to keep up this production all season. I think that he will improve on last season, but his average will go down significantly, and so will his ISO.
3. MATT CHAPMAN, 3B OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Chapman is hitting .349/.429/.628 and seems to be on the road to a breakout season. His .ISO has improved quite a bit from .238 to .279, his BABIP rose from .290 to .387, his HR/FB% rose from 13.9% to 25.0% and his hard hit % rose from 36.0% to 50.0%. I think that it’s safe to say that his average and power will both go down. What’s interesting is that he’s hitting ground balls (44.1%) more than fly balls (35.3%). I think that while he may have been underrated going into the season, he’s not this good either. I can see him being better than expected, but with a batting line closer to Steamer’s projection.
4. ZACK GODLEY, SP ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Godley is looking impressive so far. 2-0, 0.64 ERA is very impressive, and the best part is that his ERA is backed up by a 1.50 FIP. He also improved his BB% from 3.08% to 0.64% but his K/9 fell from 9.58 to 7.71. A below average .222 BABIP and 0.00 HR/FB% are definitely going up. Still, you can’t expect him to have that low of an ERA all season. The good news however is that his ace like production may not be a fluke based on last season.
5. BYRON BUXTON, CF MINNESOTA TWINS
Buxton was supposed to have a breakout season instead he’s currently batting a horrible line of .171/.171/.200. His .240 BABIP implies that he’s going to bounce back, but how much? His hard contact % is up from 27.6% to 28.0%, but he’s also hitting way too many ground balls (60%) compared to fly balls (20%), which leads to a horrible 0.0% HR/FB %. Buxton should bounce back to at least last season’s form but his power may be slightly down.
6. GERRIT COLE, SP HOUSTON ASTROS
Cole is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA. His ERA is supported by a 1.43 FIP and he also has improved his K/9 from 8.69 to 14.14. This is based off of 2 starts, so that’s a very short sample size. He’s allowing more fly balls (33.7 % to 44.0%) but his HR/FB% lowered from 15.9% to 9.1%. His career mark is 10.0% so it’s actually sustainable, but due to the higher fly ball mark should still increase. It’s obviously too early to tell, but I think that if Cold keeps up the improved strikeout rate, he’s looking at a season closer to his 2015 than his 2017.
7. TIM ANDERSON, SS CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Anderson is currently leading the Majors with 6 stolen bases. His SPD improved from 6.2 to 7.2, and that’s not a fluke considering he reached 8.0 + multiple years in the Minors. His hard % rose from 28.3% to 30.4%, which seems sustainable. His K% jumped from 26.7% to 35.7%, and his BB% improved from 2.1% to 9.5%. It seems unusual for someone to improve their BB% but worsen their K% at the same time. One or both will likely get closer to his marks from last season. His ISO jumped from .145 to .263 which is unsustainable, and his BABIP rose from .328 to .350. His career BABIP mark is .347 however, so it should be sustainable. His ISO though will likely go down. He’s hitting a lot more fly balls (28.0% to 43.5%) and less ground balls (52.7% to 43.5%). His HR/FB % is an unsustainable 30.0%, but his FB% has been rising annually since he debuted in the Majors, so I do think that his power increase is legitimate. His power will drop a bit, but I think that him potentially having a breakout season is legitimate.
8. JONATHAN SCHOOP, 2B BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Schoop went from breaking out last season and having a strong Spring Training, to this: .189/.232/.302. His BABIP is .250, which is below his .302 career average. His numbers have declined across the board: HR/FB% from 17.7% to 7.1%, his hard hit % from 36.1% to 15.8%, his ISO from .211 to .113. What happened? I’m not sure as his GB% only rose slightly, and strangely so did his FB%. At this point, I’m chalking this up to his low BABIP and a cold streak, as it’s ti imagine such a rapid downfall for him.