Over the next few days, 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, NL East, AL Central, and NL Central. Now let’s take a look at the AL West 2018.
AL West 2018 Fantasy Progression and Regression
PROGRESS – Lance McCullers was Jekyll and Hyde last year. In the first half, he pitched to a wonderful 3.05 ERA along with K/BB total of 106/27 in 91.1 innings. The second half saw him come crashing down to earth. Along with 2 stints on the DL with back issues, he turned in an 8.23 ERA and a K/BB of 26/13 in 27.1 innings. His curveball is one of the best in baseball and his fastball sits at 95 mph. He also increased his GB rate to over 61% last season. At only 24-years old, the sky is the limit for McCullers. He only needs to stay healthy.
2018 Prediction: 150 IP, 12-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 170 Ks
REGRESS – Dallas Keuchel was a bit lucky to have a sub-3.00 ERA last season. A 79.9 LOB%, 66.8% GB rate, and a .256 BABIP all fueled his season. Those numbers should normalize to 75%, 60%, and .290 respectively. When we put that together with his 21.1% HR/FB rate (up from 13.6% in 2015) and the K/BB rate of 2.66 (down from 4.24 in 2015), then we see that Keuchel’s numbers should revert back to those of a number 3 starter.
2018 Prediction: 160 IP, 13-10, 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 125 Ks
PROGRESS – Garrett Richards needs to be healthy for the Angels to make some noise in the West. Those outside of Los Angeles tend to forget how good of a pitcher Richards is. Over the last 4 years, he has only thrown 438 innings but has pitched to a 3.06 ERA. His stuff is electric with both a two-seamer and a four-seamer that reach 96 mph. His slider is excellent and his curveball can be 18 mph slower than his fastball. He gets groundballs over 52% of the time, and Richards also allows hard contact less than 27% of the time. Just like McCullers, if he can stay healthy, he can be very good.
2018 Prediction: 170 IP, 15-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 160 Ks
REGRESS – Zack Cozart had what seemed to be a breakout last season at the age of 32. Surprisingly enough he slashed .297/.385/.548 but much of that was driven by a .312 BABIP and a 15.6% HR/FB rate. It was the first time his BABIP was over .290, and taking into account he only hits the ball hard 30.8% of the time, it should normalize. Considering he is also injury-prone, learning a new position, switching leagues, and going to a pitcher’s park, there is no reason to believe Cozart will live up to last year’s output.
2018 Prediction: .255/.325/.430, 15 HRs, 65 Runs, 60 RBI
PROGRESS – Mitch Haniger was never a big prospect. However, he is a solid player all-around and should improve. At 27, he has only played 130 games at the major league level, and his stats are pretty good. He has slashed .270/.342/.471 along with 21 HRs, 67 runs, and 64 RBI. All of his underlying numbers support his production. With normal progression and a full season, Haniger should be able to improve on what looks like the beginning of a promising career.
2018 Prediction: .280/.355/.520, 24 HRs, 80 Runs, 80 RBI
REGRESS – Robinson Cano has been very good throughout his career. People were talking about a decline after a disastrous first half of 2015 which saw Cano hit just .251 with six HRs in 369 PA. He went on to finish the season with over 20 HRs for the sixth time in seven years and then followed that up in 2016 with a monster performance. Last year was a good Cano-type season, but due to a decline in BABIP over the last four years and a decline of around 5% in both FB% and HR/FB rate, we may finally say that the 35-year-old is showing signs of age.
2018 Prediction: .270/.330/.440, 18 HRs, 70 Runs, 75 RBI
PROGRESS – Stephen Piscotty received a welcome change of scenery. Not only did he move closer to be with his ailing mother, which was a class act by the Cardinals, but he will also not have to worry about a crowded outfield. Piscotty has excellent plate discipline as evidenced by his 13% BB rate last season. His FB% and HR/FB% both dipped last year, which explains why he hit nine HRs in 401 PA. With a clear path to playing time and FB rates getting back to normal, Piscotty could have a solid season for the A’s.
2018 Prediction: .285/.370/.475, 20 HRs, 80 Runs, 80 RBI
REGRESS – Matt Olson put on a power display last season. He hit a ridiculous 24 HRs in 216 PA which is once every 9 times at the plate. No one is expecting that kind of production over the course of a whole season. Many are expecting big home run totals though. While he hits the ball in the air nearly 50% of the time and hits it hard over 40% of the time, his 41.4% HR/FB is not even close to sustainable. His K rate is over 27% and may increase now that pitchers have a book on him. He will have to make adjustments, but he could just as easily wind up being a flash in the pan.
2018 Prediction: .220/.330/.510, 25 HRs, 60 Runs, 70 RBI
PROGRESS – Rougned Odor had an absolutely miserable season last year. A slash line of .204/.252/.397 would usually get a player sent down. Not Odor. He actually played in all 162 games for the Rangers. While Odor won’t be winning any batting titles, he is a better hitter than that. His BABIP was .224, which is 50 points below his career average. He also actually increased his walk rate to nearly 5%. Considering his batted ball rates all generally stayed the same, with simple normalization and maybe a bit more plate discipline, the 24-year-old could find himself back among the top second basemen in the league.
2018 Prediction: .265/.310/.500, 30 HRs, 20 SBs, 90 Runs, 90 RBI
REGRESS – Cole Hamels started to show the wear and tear on his arm last year. His K rate was the lowest of his career and his FB rate was the highest since 2013. His Hard Hit rate was also the highest of his career at 36%. Hamels was never a blow you away type pitcher, but his fastball velocity dipped nearly a mile and a half per hour. Finally, last season was the first time in 10 years that Hamels did not pitch 190 innings. At 34 years old, unfortunately, it looks like the decline has begun and it is likely to continue.
2018 Prediction: 150 IP, 8-11, 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 110 Ks
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