High BABIP and a Few Candidates for Regression

May 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler (68) singles during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We are a little over a quarter of the way through the 2015 regular season, so it is starting to become more and more valuable to look at in-season statistics to gauge a player’s value and estimate their future performance.  Of course, not every stat has stabilized yet nor can you just assume that Nelson Cruz will maintain his 63 homer pace.

However, some statistics can be more telling than others.  I just took a look at a couple of players who had some of the highest BABIP’s, HR/FB rates, and fly ball rates to see whose hot starts may slow down a tad in the future.  This article will look at three different players and their high BABIP’s.

There is almost no doubt that Anthony Gose will not maintain his .465 BABIP.  His lead in the category is just absurd with Dee Gordon’s .435 BABIP ranking 2nd among qualified players.  Gose is a logical choice for an above average BABIP and the potential to flirt with a .300 average if everything breaks right.

Anthony Gose is a speedy left-handed hitter who hits a lot of grounders and sprays the ball very evenly across the diamond.  He could easily have a BABIP that is .330 the rest of the season, but even a good BABIP like that will negatively affect his current level of production.  His .338 average is unsustainable, but average should never be a liability with him.  Gose will continue to swipe bags and score some runs, but he may be a fringe player, especially if Rajai Davis steals playing time.

Jorge Soler has been okay so far, but he has definitely looked like a 23 year old rookie out there, which makes sense.  99.9% of Major Leaguers do not come up and crush the competition right off of the bat.  Soler should be just fine in the long-term, but some of the lofty 2015 projections for him look a little too optimistic in retrospect.  I thought he would hit around 22 homers, so I may have been too eager as well.

Regardless, Soler’s offensive output is buoyed by a .404 BABIP that is currently 5th best in MLB.  His 28.2% FB% is considerably lower than that of a true power threat because it is hard to hit homers without getting the ball in the air.  I was hoping that his fly ball rate would be a lot closer to 40%.

His 102 wRC+ is very solid for a rookie, but his high strikeout rate combined with his low fly ball rate does not leave Soler many chances to hit round trippers.  While I would not be remotely panicked if I owned Jorge Soler in a keeper or dynasty league, I would be selling now in redraft leagues even if it is selling a little low.

I believe that Soler will be an average fantasy outfielder in 2015.  It would not surprise me if he finishes very close to Nick Markakis in this season’s final rankings.  I think Soler will hit about 5 more homers, but Markakis should have an average about 25 points better.  Again, this does not mean that Jorge Soler is a bust by any stretch of the imagination, but it means that his production is easily replaceable.

Brett Lawrie has been one of my least favorite fantasy options for years now, and I feel like I have made the right decision so far to stay away.  Furthermore, I am still perplexed how Brett Lawrie could be the key piece in a trade that commanded Josh Donaldson.  I think that Billy Beane has been awesome for baseball, but I just will never understand that deal even if Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin, and Kendall Graveman all work out.  You should never trade a cost-controlled Josh Donaldson!

Lawrie has the highest BABIP of any player with a sub 100 wRC+.  Essentially, Brett Lawrie has been poor with his 81 wRC+ despite the fact that he owns a .364 BABIP, which is good for 22nd among qualified hitters.  His .081 ISO is equal with Ben Revere of the Philadelphia Phillies.  I am not sure if there is any actual evidence of Ben Revere being able to hit the ball past the infield, which should tell you all you need to know about a .081 ISO.

Brett Lawrie is still someone I would not own, and I think he has middling fantasy potential, but at least he is still only 25.  You never know because there are plenty of late bloomers out there.  If Lawrie does break out, then I am almost sure I will miss the boat because I am not currently interested in owning an injury-prone 3B who I believe should hit .250 with 10 homers in 2015.

Also, a high BABIP does not mean that a player will crash and burn.  Paul Goldschmidt has a very high BABIP of .381, but that does not mean he will not continue to be a stud even if his BABIP drops to .330 for the rest of the season.  Looking at just BABIP would be a rushed evaluation unless their BABIP is an extreme outlier like Anthony Gose’s .465 BABIP or Danny Santana’s .405 BABIP back in 2014.