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 and the AL Central. Now let’s take a look at the NL Central 2018.
NL Central 2018 Fantasy Progression and Regression
PROGRESS – Willson Contreras is the third best hitter in the Cubs lineup. That being said, he will probably bat cleanup this season. Contreras has earned it. He has shown improvement at the plate. Approaching his 26th birthday and having over 700 PA under his belt, he is poised for a big year. Over the past two years, Contreras has improved his FB rate from 27.7% to 29.3%, his hard hit rate from 32.3% to 35.5% and his BB/K from 0.39 to 0.46. While his HR/FB rate may drop slightly from a high 25.9% in 2017, it should remain around 20-22%. Even with a slight drop in HR/FB rate, Contreras’s other peripherals are trending forward. With a full season and a prime spot in the lineup, he could challenge Gary Sanchez as the top fantasy catcher in baseball.
2018 Prediction: .280/.360/.520, 24 HRs, 75 Runs, 95 RBI
REGRESS – Kyle Hendricks has enjoyed two very good seasons with the Cubs. He has also had a lot of luck. That luck is about to turn around and get even worse as he is trending in the wrong direction. Hendricks has had a LOB% over 80% the past two seasons which is due to normalize to at least 75%. Many of his other underlying stats are trending in the wrong direction. While Hendricks was never a flamethrower, his fastball dipped 2-mph last year down to 86. Other peripherals that signal regression: BABIP from .250-.281, HR/9 from 0.71 to 1.1, K/BB from 3.86 to 3.08, Hard Hit rate from 25.8 to 30.4 and HR/FB rate from 9.3 to 14.8. He has control and command and a good defense behind him but his lack of velocity and the league’s familiarity with him has finally caught up.
2018 Prediction: 155 IP, 10-10, 4.10 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 125 Ks
PROGRESS – Orlando Arcia came on the scene in 2016. He played 55 games and was not impressive as he slashed a miserable .219/.273/.358. 2017 brought a different player. In his first full season, he slashed .277/.324/.407. He also flashed the power/speed combination that the organization was hoping for as he hit 15 HRs and had 14 SBs. Another promising sign is that Arcia cut down on his K% from 21.8% to 18.2%. He has already shown improvement and is still growing at 23 years old. Arcia could be a top 10 shortstop in this league.
2018 Prediction: .285/.340/.450, 20 HRs, 22 SBs, 90 Runs, 70 RBI
REGRESS – Keon Broxton has power and speed. He was one of three players in the NL to have 20 HRs and 20 SBs (Wil Myers, Tommy Pham). Unfortunately for Broxton, he also struck out 37.8% of the time and hit .220 despite a .323 BABIP. Playing time is a huge concern this year also. The Brewers acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain who will have everyday jobs in the outfield. The Brewers also have Domingo Santana penciled in right field and Ryan Braun is still there. Broxton won’t see enough playing time and unfortunately, his approach at the plate doesn’t warrant more.
2018 Prediction: .230/.310/.425, 12 HRs, 15 SBs, 50 Runs, 45 RBI
St. Louis Cardinals
PROGRESS – Jose Martinez can flat out hit. He is also a large man at 6’6 and pushing 230 lbs. In just over 300 PA last season he slashed .309/.379/.518. He also showed good plate discipline with a 0.53 BB/K rate. His 31.3% FB rate should continue to go up and he should continue to keep hitting the ball hard at 37.2%. Playing time is the real question here. Martinez should be the fourth outfielder and the backup first baseman. Considering the injuries to a couple of the other outfielders on the team along with the first baseman, Martinez should easily get to 450 PA.
2018 Prediction: .300/.375/.540, 24 HRs, 75 Runs, 80 RBI
REGRESS – Tommy Pham burst on the scene last year. The talent was always there but injuries had kept him from realizing his full potential. He played in the most games by far last year in his career. While his BB and K rate both went in the right direction, there are a few numbers that tell a different story. His BABIP was 30 points higher than his career average. His HR/FB rate was a ridiculous 26.7%, which should normalize to about 20%. He doesn’t hit the ball in the air as he had an almost two to one ratio of GB/FB. While his speed may play, the power and average are probably not sustainable. At 30 years old and with an extensive injury history, he should not be trusted to have the same production.
2018 Prediction: .270/.340/.450, 18 HRs, 18 SBs, 75 Runs, 65 RBI
PROGRESS – Jameson Taillon finally made it back. He has been through Tommy John surgery and testicular cancer. Now he is ready to live up to his second pick overall draft status. Taillon was a bit unlucky last season with a .352 BABIP. That was the highest in the majors among qualifying starters. He induced softer contact at a respectable 29.6% which was down from 33.2% in 2016. He also gained a mph on his fastball to bring it above 95 mph. The continuing growth of Taillon should be great to watch. He was once a top prospect and should return to that status this year.
2018 Prediction: 180 IP, 14-10, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 180 Ks
REGRESS – Corey Dickerson enjoyed a good 2017 season. He finally started to hit lefties which fueled that production. That probably won’t last. He had a .405 BABIP against lefties last year which is simply unsustainable. Considering he is pulling the ball more should allow teams to shift against him more frequently. While the HRs may still be there, he does not hit the ball very hard at 33.6% and his FB rate actually dropped almost 10% last season. Playing in Pittsburgh, facing more shifts and a revert back to normal against lefties, Dickerson will be in for a down year.
2018 Prediction: .255/.305/.470, 22 HRs, 65 Runs, 75 RBI
PROGRESS – Scott Schebler was bitten by the BABIP bug last year. At .248, it was well below the league average of .300. A normalization should raise his average, although he is not a favorite for the batting crown, he could hit .250-.260. Schebler raised his FB%, HR/FB%, and his Hard Hit rate. They should all continue as none of those numbers suggest regression. The question here is playing time but with Schebler’s ability to play centerfield, he should find himself in the lineup more than not. The power is real, especially in Cincinnati’s ballpark, and the slash numbers should increase.
2018 Prediction: .260/.330/.500, 33 HRs, 80 Runs, 90 RBI
REGRESS – Adam Duvall is the one player that could lose significant time in the outfield. He hits home runs. That’s it. He hits lefties fairly well and batted .279 with 10 HRs in just 140 ABs last season. Unfortunately, there are three left-handed batters in the Reds outfield and 75% of the starters in the majors are righties. While we know what Duvall has been the past couple of years for the Reds, he actually took a step back last year. His Hard Hit rate fell to below 32%. Unless Duvall is seeing 500 PAs, which he won’t, he is not very valuable to your lineup.
2018 Prediction: .235/.290/.460, 22 HRs, 65 Runs, 70 RBI
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