BATTERS: Early buy low targets, 2018

Batters that have not produced a good batting average or much power in the early-going can be easy to view as guys to avoid or shop. After all, we want to accumulate as few bad or empty stats as possible while the season is still young.

That said, many of these slow-starters can be considered good buy-low targets if their underlying skills suggest reasons for improvement.

These bats have a BA that is much lower than their expected BA (xBA):

  • BA vs. xBA, 2018 YTD*
    
    Name                League  Position     BPV  BA    xBA   Diff
    ==================  ======  ===========  ===  ====  ====  =====
    Reyes, Victor           AL           DH  -84  .097  .218  -.121
    Sogard, Eric            NL        2B/SS  -32  .100  .218  -.118
    Perez, Carlos           AL            C  -55  .143  .246  -.103
    Centeno, Juan           AL            C    2  .162  .256  -.094
    Desmond, Ian            NL        LF/1B    1  .167  .260  -.093
    Wade, Tyler             AL           2B  -39  .086  .174  -.088
    Reyes, Jose             NL     SS/3B/2B    0  .143  .229  -.086
    Lin, Tzu-Wei            AL           SS   11  .188  .269  -.081
    Travis, Devon           AL           2B  -25  .148  .229  -.081
    Prado, Martin           NL           3B  -19  .167  .244  -.077
    Smolinski, Jacob        AL           CF  -22  .118  .194  -.076
    Santana, Carlos         NL           1B   95  .195  .271  -.076
    Lobaton, Jose           NL            C  -16  .152  .224  -.072
    Dyson, Jarrod           NL           CF   58  .182  .253  -.071
    Thompson, Trayce        AL           RF  -22  .119  .188  -.069
    Harper, Bryce           NL           RF  111  .232  .301  -.069
    Wolters, Tony           NL            C  -19  .127  .195  -.068
    Guyer, Brandon          AL           RF   26  .156  .224  -.068
    Refsnyder, Rob          AL           2B    0  .162  .229  -.067
    Valaika, Pat            NL        SS/1B  -27  .113  .179  -.066
    Carpenter, Matt         NL        1B/3B   10  .164  .230  -.066
    Fowler, Dexter          NL           CF   14  .154  .217  -.063
    Swihart, Blake          AL           DH  -23  .133  .194  -.061
    Duvall, Adam            NL           LF   41  .191  .252  -.061
    Morales, Kendrys        AL           DH  -10  .146  .204  -.058
    Sanchez, Gary           AL            C   73  .211  .269  -.058
    Nido, Tomas             NL            C  -98  .135  .192  -.057
    Martin, Russell         AL            C   29  .163  .220  -.057
    Adams, Matt             NL        1B/LF  104  .268  .324  -.056
    Castro, Jason           AL            C  -48  .143  .198  -.055
    Maxwell, Bruce          AL            C    5  .211  .265  -.054
    Renfroe, Hunter         NL           RF   48  .200  .254  -.054
    Young, Chris            AL        LF/DH   -7  .143  .194  -.051
    Thames, Eric            NL        1B/LF  110  .250  .301  -.051
    Machado, Dixon          AL        2B/SS   19  .223  .274  -.051
    Profar, Jurickson       AL     LF/SS/2B   53  .224  .274  -.050
    *min 30 AB

The following guys own power skills that are much lower than they should be:

  • PX vs. xPX, 2018 YTD*
    
    Name                League  Position     BPV  PX   xPX  Diff
    ==================  ======  ===========  ===  ===  ===  ====
    Harrison, Josh          NL        2B/3B   25   50  157  -107
    Avila, Alex             NL            C -107   68  163   -95
    Knapp, Andrew           NL            C  -83   19  102   -83
    Hechavarria, Adeiny     AL           SS    7   37  117   -80
    Walker, Neil            AL        2B/1B   -5   39  117   -78
    Heyward, Jason          NL           RF   40   58  136   -78
    Swihart, Blake          AL           DH  -23   28  104   -76
    Marrero, Deven          NL           3B  -37   17   88   -71
    Gonzalez, Adrian        NL           1B   32   89  160   -71
    Zobrist, Ben            NL        2B/LF   45   53  124   -71
    Kipnis, Jason           AL           2B   -1   61  127   -66
    Gurriel, Lourdes        AL           2B  -16   56  121   -65
    Souza, Steven           NL           RF  -35   22   86   -64
    Lin, Tzu-Wei            AL           SS   11   51  114   -63
    Carpenter, Matt         NL        1B/3B   10  112  175   -63
    Sogard, Eric            NL        2B/SS  -32   44  105   -61
    Davis, Rajai            AL           CF   -9   32   92   -60
    Leon, Sandy             AL            C  -35   29   89   -60
    Olson, Matt             AL           1B    5  122  181   -59
    Centeno, Juan           AL            C    2   58  115   -57
    McCutchen, Andrew       NL           CF   35   96  152   -56
    Asujae, Carlos          NL           2B   17   56  111   -55
    Pearce, Steve           AL           LF   74  119  173   -54
    Mauer, Joe              AL        1B/DH   33   49  103   -54
    Farmer, Kyle            NL           3B  -11   40   93   -53
    Murphy, John            NL            C   22  150  202   -52
    Grichuk, Randal         AL           LF  -30   83  133   -50
    Bregman, Alex           AL        3B/SS   78   87  137   -50
    Kemp, Matt              NL           LF   34  115  165   -50
    Blandino, Alex          NL        3B/2B  -11   44   94   -50
    *min 30 AB

Let's take a closer look at several guys in each league who represent good BA/HR buy-low opportunities.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Alex Bregman (3B/SS, HOU) hasn't looked like a top-40 player so far in 2018 (.259 BA, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .773 OPS in 166 AB). But there are several reasons for optimism. His .287 xBA supports improvement in his batting average. And his strong 137 xPX hints at more power, a mark that is much higher than his actual 87 PX. Bregman's production already has started to turn around in May (.833 OPS in May). The window to buy low on Bregman is closing quickly.

Matt Olson (1B, OAK) is another high-upside bat with some underwhelming early stats (.239 BA, .749 OPS in 159 AB). While his .226 xBA doesn't give much hope for significant BA improvement, his power does have some nice upside. His 122 PX is significantly lower than his 181 xPX. In fact, his underlying power is even better than what he showed in 2017 when he hit 24 HR in 189 AB. That elite power upside has started to come out in May (4 HR, 178 PX, 212 xPX in 58 AB).

Steve Pearce (LF, TOR) is on the disabled list due to an oblique strain and likely will be out for at least a couple more weeks. His pre-injury stats weren't very noteworthy (.273 BA, 3 HR, 13 RBI, .818 OPS in 66 AB). But he's another batter whose early struggles should correct. His underlying power has been very good (173 xPX), as his rate of hard contact (138 HctX) has never been better. And his plate discipline is similar to what we've seen from him before (8% bb%, 83% ct%, 0.55 Eye).

Jurickson Profar (LF/2B/SS, TEX) owns a .224 BA after 134 AB, a mark that is keeping owners away from him. Don't be one of them. His 9% bb%, 82% ct%, and 0.58 Eye have helped to produce an expected batting average that is much higher (.274 xBA). His overall skills (70 BPV) are twice as good as what we saw from him in April (35 BPV). He remains a good MI stash.

Gary Sanchez (C, NYY) has put up an ugly .211 BA and so-so .820 OPS after 133 AB, hardly the kind of average and production his owners expected from him. That said, his .269 xBA gives his batting average some nice upside. His plate discipline is in line with his prior marks (13% bb%, 72% ct%, 0.54 Eye). His rate of hard contact has been good (112 HctX). And his power is intact (176 PX, 149 xPX). There's no reason to shop him.

Blake Swihart (DH/C, BOS) was drafted as a second catcher speculation in deep leagues given the multi-category potential he displayed a few years ago. He hasn't received much playing time at all so far in 2018 (30 AB) and has done nothing with it (.133 BA, .379 OPS). However, a crazy 17% h% deserves a lot of blame for his terrible BA, as his plate discipline has not been bad (9% bb%, 77% ct%, 0.43 Eye). His underlying power skills have been solid too (104 xPX); a 0% HR/F has been the cause of his total lack of power. Swihart is still worth monitoring in deep leagues.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Adam Duvall (LF, CIN) has been a huge BA burden to his owners thus far in 2018 (.191 BA in 141 AB). While he still has holes in his swing that cap his batting average potential, note that his plate skills are the best we've ever seen from him (10% bb%, 72% ct%, 0.39 Eye). As is his rate of hard contact (117 HctX). They are why his .255 xBA suggests his BA should head north soon. And his power skills remain elite (138 PX, 138 xPX).

Jarrod Dyson (CF, ARI) no longer is owned in many leagues after the .187 BA and .590 OPS he has posted in 91 AB. If you play in a deep league, he's still someone who could help you though. His baseline of plate discipline remains solid (9% bb%, 86% ct%, 0.69 Eye). After producing a hit rate around 30% in each of his prior eight seasons, his 20% h% in 2018 has kept him off base. Once that mark regresses, his speed is still good enough to provide SB in bunches (130 Spd).

Bryce Harper (RF, WAS) might be worrying some of his owners due to the .232 BA he has put up so far in 142 AB. There's no reason to be nervous though. His .300 xBA indicates that his average likely will surge soon, as both his plate skills (22% bb%, 80% ct%, 1.41 Eye) and rate of hard contact (140 HctX) are the best we've ever seen from him before.

Josh Harrison (2B/3B, PIT) is out due to a broken hand but should return soon. If he's available in your league, prospective owners looking at his stat line aren't likely to stash him (.263 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .679 OPS in 57 AB). While the career-high 16 HR he produced in 2017 might seem like an aberration, his early underlying power has been even better (157 xPX). And his batting eye has never been better (0.56 Eye). Both of those marks have been generated in a small sample size, but they still give hope that he should produce at a higher clip once he's healthy.

Jason Heyward (RF, CHC) is back from the disabled list, and those in shallow leagues might find that he's still available. His .227 BA and .656 OPS in 97 AB are the reasons for the hesitation. But there's legitimate reason to expect him to improve. His 11% bb%, 85% ct%, and 0.80 Eye are the best collection of plate skills we've seen from him before. His 136 xPX is much better than his actual 58 PX too.

Carlos Santana (1B, PHI) is carrying an ugly sub-.200 BA after 149 AB, but there is good reason to believe it will improve soon. His approach in the batter's box remains one of the best in the game (14% bb%, 83% ct%, 0.96 Eye). He's making hard contact at a high rate (127 HctX). A tiny 18% h% has been the real cause of his bad average. His .271 xBA is a better barometer of where it will settle. In addition, his 175 xPX suggests he should continue to be a good source of power. Buy-low targets don't get much better than Santana.

Eric Thames (1B/LF, MIL) has been very productive so far in 2018 (.976 OPS in 64 AB), but his batting average has not been very helpful (.250 BA). That said, Thames owns a very good .301 xBA, which gives hope that his actual BA will improve soon. It's a reflection of a solid batting eye (0.59 Eye) and high rate of hard contact (136 HctX). Combined with his elite power (207 PX, 191 xPX), Thames has the tools to be an impact performer once he returns from the disabled list.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.