SPECULATOR: Recency bias rebounds, 2020 hitters

We focus on last year wayyy too much.

Sure, it's important to look at 2019 when evaluating 2020 outlooks—it's the most recent data point we have—but doing so in a vacuum can lead to a ton of blind spots. In times like these, we can't repeat these BaseballHQ axioms enough (though we try):

Regression is our game's most powerful force.

Once you display a skill, you own it.

Putting stock in a player's most recent performance to guide your decisions—often referred to as recency bias—is a natural tendency. Resist the urge. Our marketplace tends to be littered with recency bias, as last year's breakouts are often fully priced, last year's duds are often discounted, and previous track records are often forgotten.

So this week, we're striking last year from the record (literally!) by granting mulligans for certain 2019 performances. Perhaps they played through a hidden injury, tried a new approach, or simply just had a bad year. To help build our list, we'll compare ADPs from 2019 to 2020 as follows:

  • Hitters with a Top 400 ADP as of February 23, 2020.
  • Hitters with more than a $5 drop in "pick value" ($$$) from 2019 to 2020.

Players we're most willing to forgive are in bold; feel free to ask about others in the comments.

                      2019        2020
Hitter             ADP ($$$)   ADP ($$$) 
=================  =========   =========
Matt Carpenter     73 ($16)    374 ($ 0)
Jesus Aguilar      82 ($15)    385 ($ 0)
Joey Votto         67 ($17)    271 ($ 3)
Khris Davis        45 ($20)    179 ($ 7)
Travis Shaw        94 ($13)    354 ($ 0)
Andrew Benintendi  30 ($24)    110 ($12)
Jose Peraza        96 ($13)    346 ($ 1)
Paul Goldschmidt   19 ($29)     68 ($16)
Daniel Murphy      69 ($16)    245 ($ 4)
Miguel Andujar     77 ($15)    258 ($ 3)
Manny Machado      19 ($29)     61 ($18)
Robinson Cano     121 ($11)    376 ($ 0)
Jean Segura        63 ($17)    191 ($ 6)
Rhys Hoskins       40 ($22)    116 ($11)
Jurickson Profar  125 ($10)    359 ($ 0)
Lorenzo Cain       66 ($17)    185 ($ 7)
Wil Myers         103 ($12)    283 ($ 2)
Mitch Haniger      91 ($14)    249 ($ 4)
Dee Gordon        109 ($12)    296 ($ 2)
Javier Baez        16 ($31)     40 ($22)
Giancarlo Stanton  22 ($28)     55 ($19)
A.J. Pollock      112 ($12)    251 ($ 4)
Justin Upton      106 ($12)    228 ($ 5)
Brandon Nimmo     175 ($ 7)    368 ($ 0)
David Dahl         70 ($16)    147 ($ 9)
Jonathan Schoop   182 ($ 7)    372 ($ 0)
Jesse Winker      195 ($ 6)    396 ($ 0)
Carlos Correa      50 ($19)     98 ($13)
Buster Posey      142 ($ 9)    268 ($ 3)
David Peralta     138 ($10)    258 ($ 3)
Rougned Odor      122 ($11)    227 ($ 5)
Yasiel Puig        70 ($16)    126 ($10)
Anthony Rizzo      37 ($22)     66 ($17)
Whit Merrifield    30 ($24)     53 ($19)

***

American League

Miguel Andujar (3B, NYY)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===
2018  573  83%  .297/.295   110  44/20/36  27  133/99    16%   77
2019   47  77%  .128/.114   86   49/ 8/43   0    0/65     0%  -59

On the heels of a .297 BA, 27 HR rookie breakout, Andujar's 2019 season was over before it really ever started thanks to a shoulder injury (torn labrum) in April. Giovanny Urshela's subsequent breakout means Andujar is now out of a job at third base, but he's spending time at 1B and OF this spring as NYY finds ways to get his bat in the lineup. Andujar has an excellent BA floor and is one year removed from 35 HR "not surprising us" in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster... before we knew about the ball. A Top 80 pick last season, Andujar has major rebound potential should NYY run into even a fraction of the injury luck they had last year—and it could now come with multi-position eligibility.

Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS; pictured above)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  SB/RSpd/SBO  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===========  ===
2017  573  80%  .271/.257   112  40/21/38  20   85/100   11%  20/ 104/14%   46
2018  579  82%  .290/.274    84  41/24/35  16  104/ 81    9%  21/ 116/14%   68
2019  541  74%  .266/.243    98  38/21/41  13   99/107    8%  10/ 103/ 9%   33

In an era of launch angle tweaks and constant adjustments, perhaps no player's game changed more than Benintendi's from 2018 to 2019—and it wasn't for the better. In an effort to hit for more power, Benintendi put on weight, hit a ton of fly balls—an 8% HR/F says that almost all of them were cans of corn—and sold out for it with the highest ct% drop of any hitter (min. 450 AB) from 2018-19. Fast forward to 2020, and spring training disclaimers aside, Benintendi enters camp down 15 pounds with a vow to adopt his pre-2019 approach, which might be all we need for 2018's five-category production to return. The #2 prospect on our 2017 HQ100, Benintendi was a Top 30 pick this time last season and is still just 25 years old. He comes loaded with profit potential at his current cost.

Khris Davis (DH, OAK)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===
2016  555  70%  .247/.266   111  43/17/40  42  171/145   27%   60
2017  566  66%  .247/.257   112  38/19/42  43  177/174   27%   51
2018  576  70%  .247/.261   116  35/16/49  48  185/171   24%   68
2019  481  70%  .220/.222   111  42/20/37  23   89/126   18%   -5

Three straight years of 40 HR combined with a juiced ball might've had us dreaming of 50+ from Davis in 2019. Instead, he cobbled up just 23 in 481 at-bats. Davis has plummeted from a Top 50 pick last year to one barely going inside the Top 200. It's an ideal buying opportunity given that Davis tried to play through a nagging hip injury sustained on May 5. Davis's pre-injury skills (70% ct%, 151 xPX, 24% HR/F through April) were right in line with 2016-18's peak, and at 32 years old, there's no reason to think a healthy Davis can't snap right back to that level of production. With a UT-only discount baked in for good measure, all the ingredients are in place for this bargain to be served on a silver platter.

Jonathan Schoop (2B, DET)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===
2016  615  78%  .267/.266    84  45/20/35  25  116/ 74   15%   40
2017  622  77%  .293/.270   113  42/21/37  32  120/113   18%   37
2018  473  76%  .233/.249    78  45/18/37  21  110/ 79   16%   22
2019  433  73%  .256/.256    98  43/20/37  23  119/103   20%   22

There's nothing really speculative about this; just an obvious market flaw to pounce on late in drafts. Our own Matt Cederholm recently uncovered a 13-round difference between Schoop's BHQ projection and ADP. The market has completely dumped Schoop, who has fallen nearly 200 picks from last year despite earning more value in 2019 than he did in 2018. Sure, the move from MIN to DET doesn't help from a park/lineup standpoint, but Schoop will play every day and should hit in the middle of the lineup. Schoop's ceiling is limited—we wouldn't speculate on anything better than 2017's breakout—but our .263 BA, 30 HR projection makes Schoop a sure bet for profit outside the Top 300.

Travis Shaw (1B, TOR)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  SB/RSpd/SBO  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===========  ===
2016  480  72%  .242/.240    98  36/19/45  16  123/122   10%   5/  67/ 6%   29
2017  538  74%  .273/.274   112  43/20/38  31  141/128   21%  10/  82/ 7%   55
2018  498  78%  .241/.263   115  37/18/45  32  133/132   18%   5/  46/ 5%   66
2019  230  61%  .157/.182    75  29/22/49   7   72/101   10%   0/   0/ 0%  -45

A Top 100 pick this time last year, Shaw nuked fantasy rosters with a .163 BA through May 14, when he hit the IL with a wrist injury. Shaw also admitted to a swing-change-went-wrong experiment that he says helped torpedo his 2019 season. Shaw put up two straight years of 30+ HR and 5+ SB from 2017-18 with excellent supporting skills, and gets a shot at redemption in 2020 as TOR's starting 1B. With a draft cost outside the Top 350, there's no risk in finding out whether Shaw's 2019 dud was just an aberration. If it wasn't, you'll be handsomely rewarded.

 

National League

Lorenzo Cain (OF, MIL)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  SB/RSpd/SBO  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===========  ===
2016  397  79%  .287/.257    96  47/23/30   9   76/ 79    9%  14/  92/16%   23
2017  584  83%  .300/.269   104  44/23/33  15   76/ 84    9%  26/ 164/15%   57
2018  539  83%  .308/.273   116  55/22/23  10   66/ 72   10%  30/ 142/19%   51
2019  562  81%  .260/.275   103  50/26/24  11   63/ 65   10%  18/  81/17%   21

With a .300+ BA, 10+ HR, and 25+ SB in three of the last four years, what could go wrong with Cain? A lot, apparently. Cain still managed to swipe 18 bags, but his .260 BA and 11 HR were damaging over a full season of AB. Cain apparently battled through a thumb problem that he pins on much of 2019's struggles, and claims to be fully healthy (of course!) this spring. Betting on an age-34 rebound from a speedster is risky, but Cain should hit near the top of a great lineup in a great park, and his price has plummeted to the point where even a 2019 repeat would profit at his 185 ADP.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  SB/RSpd/SBO  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===========  ===
2016  579  74%  .297/.273   113  46/25/29  24  121/106   19%  32/  89/17%   53
2017  558  74%  .297/.284   132  46/19/35  36  154/160   25%  18/  96/12%   80
2018  593  71%  .290/.268   121  39/25/36  33  153/139   22%   7/  81/ 6%   69
2019  597  72%  .260/.251   119  38/22/39  34  116/140   20%   3/  76/ 2%   36

First season in a new city with mega-high expectations? It's no surprise Goldschmidt started slowly with STL last year, but he snapped right back to his elite self with a .274 BA, 20 HR, and 3 SB in the second half. The market is unfairly docking Goldschmidt for one bad half, as he's dropped from an early second-round pick this time last year to the fifth round in 15-team leagues. We agree with Brandon Kruse's recent assessment that Goldschmidt's running game is gone, but there's plenty of skill and track record left to snag four-category goodness at a discounted price.

Rhys Hoskins (1B, PHI)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===
2017  170  73%  .259/.300   136  31/24/45  18  196/178   32%  107
2018  558  73%  .246/.256    93  29/19/52  34  157/145   16%   68
2019  570  70%  .226/.236   111  29/21/50  29  131/143   14%   53

As noted in the Forecaster, Hoskins's season took a turn for the worse when he was hit by a pitch (hand) on August 15. Even without the injury, Hoskins's 2018 wasn't going to quite live up to 2017's pace, but he's still just entering his age-27 season and has the raw power skills (career 143 xPX, 50% FB%) to make good on our "UP: 45 HR" in the book. Hoskins' high launch angle and iffy contact skills lend themselves to a mediocre BA, but Hoskins could post a Pete Alonso-type line at a fraction of the cost.

Daniel Murphy (1B, COL)

Year   AB  ct%     BA/xBA  HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===
2016  531  89%  .347/.314   138  36/22/42  25  135/138   12%  113
2017  534  86%  .322/.307   124  33/28/39  23  119/120   13%   83
2018  328  88%  .299/.279    84  35/26/39  12   82/ 82   11%   54
2019  438  83%  .279/.281    88  40/24/36  13   94/ 92   10%   44

An elite BA source with a proven track record goes to our best ballpark for batting average? Murphy seemed like a sure thing to hit over .300 in 2019 and was being drafted accordingly. Instead, he broke his finger in the second game of the year and never got on track, hitting just .279 with 13 HR in 438 AB. Murphy's price has dropped almost 200 spots from last year, but he's likely to be COL's starting 1B on Opening Day and still has a pristine hit tool (87% ct%, 26% LD% from 2016-18) with a decent dose of pop. Maybe this is the beginning of the end, but at pick 250, it's worth finding out if Murphy can rekindle the magic one more time.

Jean Segura (2B, PHI)

Year   AB  ct%    BA/xBA   HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX/xPX  hr/f  SB/RSpd/SBO  BPV
====  ===  ===  =========  ====  ========  ==  =======  ====  ===========  ===
2016  637  84%  .319/.296   101  53/19/28  20  103/ 93   14%  33/ 167/25%   82
2017  524  84%  .300/.279    96  54/19/26  11   73/ 66    9%  22/ 113/20%   45
2018  586  88%  .304/.272    84  51/19/29  10   63/ 59    7%  20/ 101/18%   52
2019  576  87%  .280/.291   100  52/21/27  12   72/ 61    9%  10/ 103/ 9%   52

Is a 100+ point drop in ADP overkill for someone who hit .280 with a fourth straight double-digit HR/SB season? Probably. Segura's SB total admittedly tanked, but he dealt with a number of leg injuries in 2019 that likely led to a red light on the basepaths. His lack of power hurts a little more if the ball stays juiced, but the BA skills are pristine and if new manager Joe Girardi gives Segura freedom on the basepaths, we could easily see a return to .300+ BA and 20+ SB season with plenty of volume. Segura is still on the right side of 30, further boosting his rebound odds and making him attractive at 200 overall.

 

The Speculator is not designed to make definitive assertions about the future; rather, it is designed solely to open reader's eyes to possibilities they may not have previously entertained, and in doing so, provide a different perspective on the future. Many of the possibilities will be of the "out on a limb" variety. All are founded on SOME element of fact. But none should be considered any more than 20% percentage plays.


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