Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at some players in each division set to either progress or regress in 2018. As we know, in the world of fantasy baseball, it is important to look to the upcoming season and be ahead of the curve. Whether it’s to avoid paying for a player who will take a step back, or draft a player who is a bargain. Sabermetrics and advanced stats have given us many tools to evaluate players and try to predict how their seasons will play out. All analytics aren’t created equal though. There are so many nowadays that figuring out what to look at can be a daunting task. While there is still no one particular metric that is foolproof, there are some that can point us in the right direction. We recently ran through the AL East. Now let’s take a look at the 2018 NL East.
NL East 2018 Fantasy Progression and Regression
PROGRESS – Michael A. Taylor has always had talent. He is a toolsy player whose only drawback is plate discipline. Last season Taylor slashed .271/.320/.486 while hitting 19 bombs and stealing 17 bases. While his BABIP was a bit high at .363, a look into backup numbers would imply that it shouldn’t go down much. Comparing last year to his 2015, when he played in 138 games, there is no doubt he has improved. His FB% is up to 36.7% from 31.5%. Taylor’s HR/FB% is up to 20.0% from 14.6%. His hard hit% also went up to 34.0% from 31.2%. He is hitting the ball in the air and harder. While his plate discipline is a work in progress (BB/K of 0.21), he should at least slightly improve on that in his age 27 season. Taylor has power, speed, a starting job, and is in one of the best lineups in the NL. He will be an excellent player for the Nats this year.
2018 Prediction: .260/.330/.520, 27 HRs, 23 SBs, 75 Runs, 70 RBI
REGRESS – Gio Gonzalez had a very good season last year. His 2.96 ERA was the lowest since his first year with the Nationals in 2012. Gonzalez has also been very durable in his career, making 31 starts in seven of the last eight seasons. The underlying stats tell a different story. His .258 BABIP was the lowest of his career and well below the .295 that it was previously. He led the NL in walks with 79 and his fastball velocity has dropped from 92 mph in 2015 to 89.9 in 2017. He was also helped by an 81.6 LOB% which was also a career best. While Gonzalez is still a decent starter who will take the ball every fifth day and induce weak contact, his underlying stats say that he got quite lucky last year.
2018 Prediction: 175 IP, 12-10, 4.20 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 160 Ks
New York Mets
PROGRESS – Travis d’Arnaud was always supposed to be a really good player. Since he came over from the Blue Jays along with Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey deal, he has had a rash of injuries. They have limited d’Arnaud to averaging 90 games over the past 4 years. Last season though, he played in a career-high 112 games. He is finally starting to show the skills that made him a coveted catcher. His FB% improved to 41.1% to go along with a sustainable 13.3% HR/FB rate. He was somewhat unlucky last year with a BABIP of .250 compared to his previous career mark of .274. He has also dropped his K% to 15.7%. It was above 18.0% in 2015 and 2016. With d’Arnaud lifting the ball and striking out less, along with health and better luck, he should finally become the catcher the Mets were hoping he would be.
2018 Prediction: .265/.330/.490, 22 HRs, 60 Runs, 70 RBI
REGRESS – Jeurys Familia was excellent in 2015 and 2016, posting 94 saves combined. Last season the injury bug got him as he only appeared in 26 games. Assuming a full workload this year, there are a few things in Familia’s profile that say he won’t get back to pre-2017 status. The increased use of his sinker has his GB% above 60% which is good. The problem though lies in his hard-hit rate which is at 30.0%. His K/BB% also has gone from a stellar 4.53 in 2015 to an ugly 1.67 last season. Also since 2015, his fastball velocity has dropped from 97.1 to 95.9 mph and his slider velocity has gone from 89.2 to 86.3 mph. While he may be inducing more balls on the ground, his increased walks and decreased velocity do not portend good things for Familia. Incidentally, if he falters, A.J. Ramos is waiting in the wings and has closer experience.
2018 Prediction: 60 IP, 18 SVs, 4.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 60 Ks
PROGRESS – Maikel Franco has been on the precipice of stardom for a couple years now. All he has produced so far are mediocre seasons. Last year was supposed to be his breakout, but it instead turned people off to Franco. This season is set up for a nice bounce back and maybe that breakout people have been waiting for. Last season was a bit unlucky for Franco with a .234 BABIP, well below his .277 mark previously. Franco’s other numbers have been trending forward. His FB% has gone from 34.8% in 2015 to 36.7% last season. His Hard Hit% has gone up over the past 3 years from 28.5% to 30.9%. Franco also has a career BB/K of 0.41 which is respectable. A BABIP back to the norm, continuing to improve on hard contact and FB%, and an improved lineup around him, should put Franco in the top 10 third basemen in the league.
2018 Prediction: .280/.345/.540, 32 HRs, 75 Runs, 95 RBI
REGRESS – Jake Arrieta comes to the Phillies this season. While no one expected him to maintain the kind of production we saw in 2015, he has been trending the wrong way. Here are his declining stats over the past 3 years: GB% 56.2-52.6-45.1, K% 27.1-23.9-23.1, Hard Hit% 22.1-25.2-29.4, FIP 2.35-3.52-4.16. While Arrieta still strikes out a little under a batter per inning, his velocity has also dropped 2.5 mph since 2015. His mechanics help him by creating deception but are also difficult to repeat and put more strain on his arm. Arrieta just isn’t going to be better than he was last year. He will be worse.
2018 Prediction: 160 IP, 11-12, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 145 Ks
PROGRESS – Ozzie Albies is part of the future for the Atlanta Braves. Last year he made his debut and got 244 PA at 20 years old. He thoroughly impressed everyone. His 0.58 BB/K rate is impressive for a veteran player nowadays. Considering his speed, he can certainly maintain, if not improve, on the .316 BABIP he posted last year. he already hits the ball hard a third of the time and hits the ball in the air over 40% of the time. As a player who will be in an improving lineup every day, Albies will reward the fantasy player that drafts him this year.
2018 Prediction: .300/.370/.500, 15 HRs, 30 SBs, 80 Runs, 70 RBI
REGRESS – Nick Markakis may be one of the most consistent players in baseball. Although he hasn’t been consistently great, he is a popular pick for fantasy teams looking for a fifth or sixth outfielder. Sooner or later he will start to decline. We have already seen his power numbers go down. In the nine years with the Orioles, he averaged almost 16 home runs a year. The past three with the Braves he has averaged eight. His career .317 BABIP also seems to be unsustainable at 34 years old as he has slowed down and also no longer steals any bases. Markakis is in the last year of his deal and may be looking for one more contract but at his age, and his average career numbers, he is no longer worth a draft pick at all.
2018 Prediction: .260/.330/.360, 6 HRs, 65 Runs, 65 RBI
PROGRESS – J.T. Realmuto is one of the top catchers in the league. After the big three of Sanchez, Posey, and Contreras, Realmuto is arguably number four. The fact that he actually steals bases is a plus. His other numbers are likely to increase also. In the past three years, his Hard Hit% went from 29.3%-33.3%. His HR/FB ratio has improved from 7.9% to 11.6%. He has also been more patient as his BB% has gone from 4.1% to 6.2%. Although Realmuto doesn’t have the firepower in the lineup anymore after Miami’s fire sale, he should be hitting in a prime spot and contributes some in all categories. He looks to put himself firmly as a top five catcher, possibly top three.
2018 Prediction: .285/.350/.480, 20 HRs, 15 SBs, 75 Runs, 75 RBI
REGRESS – Justin Bour had a pretty impressive slash line last year of .289/.366/.536. The batting average was boosted by a .322 BABIP which is completely unsustainable for a slow left-handed pull hitter. He also has been injured the past two years as he only played in 90 games in 2016 and was out for a month last year with an oblique injury along with other various maladies. Bour’s HR/FB% jumped from 19.2% to 26.0% and will probably drop back to about 20.0-22.0%. Bour is a power guy in the middle of the lineup. His fantasy value is mainly in his home runs and runs batted in. With a weak lineup around him and likely seeing fewer pitches to hit, Bour will not repeat his production from last season.
2018 Prediction: .255/.335/.475, 20 HRs, 50 Runs, 70 RBI
Embed from Getty Images