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. However, all analytics are not created equal. There are so many statistics 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 and the NL East. Now let’s take a look at the AL Central 2018.
AL Central 2018 Fantasy Progression and Regression
PROGRESS – Bradley Zimmer will be the Indians starting CF. Last year Zimmer played in 101 games and showed some of the skills(8 HRs and 18 SBs) that make him a player worth watching. Zimmer slashed .241/.307/.385 last season and should only get better. His .328 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is above the league average but can still improve as he had an above .400 BABIP in his last two seasons in AAA. Zimmer had a 0.26 BB/K rate last year and that should also improve with experience. While he may never reach an elite level BB/K, a 0.33-0.40 is not out of the question. Along with an improved BABIP and excellent power and speed tools, Zimmer should become a very reliable CF.
2018 Prediction: .260/.330/.450, 16 HRs, 35 SBs, 75 Runs, 75 RBI
REGRESS – Andrew Miller has been an elite setup man for a few years now, but we saw a chink in the armor a bit last year. His 87% LOB rate was the second highest of his career and should normalize. While his K rate is still elite, his walk rate was over three per nine innings for the first time since 2013. His GB rate of 39.5 was also his lowest since he was a starting pitcher with the Marlins in 2010. His FB rate increased from 28.6% in 2016 to 36.1% in 2017 while also dealing with knee injuries last year. While he is still a very good relief pitcher, he will be 33-years old in May, and all the signs point to the beginning of a decline.
2018 Prediction: 65 IP, 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 90 Ks
PROGRESS – Jose Berrios was touted as a top-notch prospect. But in 2016 it did not look that way. He took a major step forward in 2017. His K/BB rate improved to 2.90 which is not elite yet but should improve. He also induced weak contact at a higher rate improving nearly 6%. Berrios also cut down on the home runs by nearly half, which at 9.1% HR/FB, is certainly sustainable. His LOB% was at 70.1%, and with the league average being 73%, it should improve. The bottom line here is that Berrios is trending toward fulfilling his promise as an ace in the league. He could very well be last year’s Luis Severino.
2018 Prediction: 190 IP, 17-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 210 Ks
REGRESS – Lance Lynn was signed to a 1-year deal recently. He had an excellent first full season last year coming back from Tommy John surgery. While the ERA of 3.43 and the WHIP of 1.23 look nice, they were a product of some luck. Lynn’s BABIP last year was .244 which was nearly 60 points below his career average. His K/BB was 1.96 which finished 53rd out of 58 qualifying pitchers. This rate is down from a healthy 3.64 in 2011. His HR rate also increased to 1.30 per nine IP which is up from 0.67 pre-TJ surgery. While Lynn is another year removed from surgery and should pitch fairly well, his stats last year were definitely a product of luck.
2018 Prediction: 180 IP, 11-10, 4.00 ERA, 1.35 ERA, 145 Ks
PROGRESS – Yoan Moncada has done nothing but hit in the minors. His first season in the majors was not awe-inspiring, but he showed promise. He has only 251 plate appearances in the majors but is a switch-hitting infielder who has all the tools to be a great player. He has shown he can get on base in the majors as he did at a rate of 12.6% last year. As a rookie, he already had a hard hit rate of 36% and a .338 OBP. While Moncada may continue to strikeout, he has shown he has some power (eight HRs in 231 PA). Moncada has elite level talent in will likely be hitting at the top of the lineup, which should increase his run totals overall.
2018 Prediction: .265/.370/.480, 22 HRs, 15 SBs, 90 Runs, 65 RBI
REGRESS – Avisail Garcia had a breakout season last year slashing .330/.380/.506. That won’t happen again. While he cut his strikeout rate down to below 20%, his BABIP was an unsustainable .392. His hard rate remained about the same and he still hit almost twice as many grounders as fly balls. Garcia has a bit of power(18 HRs in 561 PA), but he still hasn’t subscribed to the fly ball revolution. Garcia overall is a decent player but the fact that he does not make hard contact and he has a habit of hitting the ball on the ground, his ceiling was basically reached last year and it will come down.
2018 Prediction: .250/.310/.400, 16 HRs, 60 Runs, 60 RBI
PROGRESS – Jorge Soler has teased fantasy players for a while now. Unfortunately, his propensity to strikeout and a lack of consistent playing time have sapped him of his appeal. This year will be different. He has a starting spot in the Royals lineup and lost 20 pounds to increase his athleticism. While he may still strike out a lot, his power is unquestioned. He suffered last year due to a ridiculous .203 BABIP. Soler also suffered from a 7.4% HR/FB rate which even in KC should rise to 15-18%. He is a fly ball hitter who still walks at a decent rate of around 11%. Soler is prepared to make his mark, and at 26-years old, he could be hitting his prime.
2018 Prediction: .270/.340/.500, 25 HRs, 70 Runs, 75 RBI
REGRESS – Mike Moustakas is back with KC. That may be a good thing for him, but then again, maybe not. His HR/FB rate was at 17.8% last year, and aside from 2016 when he only played in 27 games, that is well above his previous career high of 11.2%. He still hits the ball hard at a below average rate of around 31% and has become more of a pull hitter which makes it easier to shift against him. His walk rate dropped and his K rate increased to a career high. He basically sold out for the long ball. While his 38 HRs last year were impressive, Moose is most likely not going to match that again.
2018 Prediction: .250/.305/.450, 28 HRs, 65 Runs, 80 RBI
PROGRESS – Jeimer Candelario will be the starting third baseman for the Tigers this year. With a full-time role and a good spot in the lineup, he should be in for a good season. In limited time last year (38 games), Candelario slashed .283/.359/.425. He has shown his ability in AAA. Over the last two years in the minors in 639 PA he has hit 21 HRs and had 83 Runs scored with 106 RBI. His K rate is around 21% and he walks close to 10%. This shows patience and pitch selection. If he can at least maintain his approach at the plate and improve on his 8.6% HR/FB, then Candelario could prove to be a steal in many drafts.
2018 Prediction: .275/.360/.440, 20 HRs, 65 Runs, 80 RBI
REGRESS – Miguel Cabrera had one of his worst seasons last year. While he may rebound a bit, this may indicate a decline in production. Miggy’s BB/K dipped below 0.50 for the first time since 2008. His FB rate, HR/FB rate, and pull percentage all dipped this past year. This indicates a slower bat. With more pitchers throwing in the mid-90s, this does not bode well for Cabrera. He did have some bad luck but the fact remains that injuries and a slower bat, which brought him down to earth last year, maybe here to stay.
2018 Prediction: .270/.340/.430, 20 HRs, 60 Runs, 70 RBI
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