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Career Year Analysis - Shortstops

A look at who is coming off a career year and how it impacts their draft stock.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

I am trying out a more abstract idea with today’s post. My goal is to identify players who performed significantly better or significantly worse in 2017 compared to their career averages. This would quickly identify candidates to fade in drafts (coming off career highs) and candidates to target (coming off career lows). It’s not a definitive list of players to target and avoid, but it’s a great place to start for players with multiple years of service in the Majors. I’ve included players with only a year or two of service for reference, and because there are some useful data points for those players.

Before reviewing the entire table, a few notes about each field:

  • Age is as of the 2017 season
  • Only seasons with greater than 400 plate appearances are considered. This means career averages are a little different from what you will find on baseball-reference or FanGraphs.
  • Each of the “Above Career Average” field is measured in the same units as the metric in question. So Zack Cozart being 11.8 R above career average means he scored 11.8 more runs then his career average in 2017.
  • The last column “Career Year Index” is a combination of all five categories to measure who exceeded their career averages the most across all five statistics. This statistic is normalized for plate appearances, so players who earned more runs, home runs, etc. solely because of more playing time do not score well here. Each stat besides average is taken on a per plate appearance basis.
  • Do not fall for the trap of “Player X greatly exceeded his career average, he must regress!” But do consider Player X is worth a deeper dive to see if his improvement is driven by a change in approach/skill set development or if it was fueled by luck/randomness and regression is to be expected.

Shortstop 2017 Analysis

Name Age (2017 Season) R above Career Average HR Above Career Average RBI Above Career Average AVG Above Career Average SB Above Career Average Career Year Index
Name Age (2017 Season) R above Career Average HR Above Career Average RBI Above Career Average AVG Above Career Average SB Above Career Average Career Year Index
Zack Cozart 31 11.8 9.8 13.2 0.043 -0.6 9.22
Didi Gregorius 27 11.75 9.75 26.75 0.017 -0.75 6.22
Andrelton Simmons 27 16 4.8 16.6 0.015 10.2 5.76
Elvis Andrus 28 16.89 13.89 29.78 0.021 -4.56 5.46
Starlin Castro 27 1 3.63 1 0.017 -8.13 3.35
Eduardo Escobar 28 8 8 17 -0.01 2.33 3.09
Carlos Correa 22 12 2 1.33 0.026 -7.67 2.08
Jed Lowrie 33 11 2.33 4.33 0.005 -0.33 1.06
Brandon Crawford 30 1.33 2.33 10 -0.001 -0.83 0.97
Jordy Mercer 30 0 4 6.5 0.003 -2 0.93
Jean Segura 27 5.2 0.2 -2.8 0.017 -6.8 0.77
Javier Baez 24 12.5 4.5 8 0 -1 0.76
Eugenio Suarez 25 4.5 2.5 6 0.006 -3.5 0.69
Jose Iglesias 27 3.67 2 17.67 -0.015 -1.33 0.36
Cesar Hernandez 27 15.33 3.67 -2 0.007 -2 0.22
Trea Turner 24 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Tim Beckham 27 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Paul DeJong 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Orlando Arcia 22 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Jose Peraza 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Jorge Polanco 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Dansby Swanson 23 0 0 0 0 0 -0.08
Asdrubal Cabrera 31 -0.2 0.4 -1.8 0.011 -5.6 -0.09
Corey Seager 23 -10 -2 2.5 -0.007 0.5 -0.16
Eduardo Nunez 30 -6.5 -2 -4.5 0.013 -8 -0.19
Freddy Galvis 27 6 -1 1.67 0.002 0.33 -0.4
Xander Bogaerts 24 5.75 -2.5 -7.5 -0.009 5 -0.55
Manny Machado 24 -13 3.25 8 -0.022 0.25 -0.85
Francisco Lindor 23 16.33 13 16.33 -0.023 -0.33 -1.16
Jose Reyes 34 -8.38 4.25 5.25 -0.042 -8.25 -4.19
Alcides Escobar 30 4.88 1.5 4.38 -0.009 -16.25 -4.45
Trevor Story 24 0.5 -1.5 5 -0.017 -0.5 -4.6
Brad Miller 27 -8.75 -6 -10.75 -0.03 -2 -4.98

The table is meant largely to help others fuel their own research and come to their own conclusions. Please share them in the comments, or reach out via Twitter/email. I have a few of my own thoughts below as well.

Andrelton Simmons is looking like fools gold at the end of drafts. His stolen base total from 2017 is 10 above his career total and his home run surge is driven by a doubling of his HR/FB rate. Give me Marcus Semien 30 picks later or Tim Anderson around the same spot.

Zack Cozart is an obvious regression candidate but his pricing has safely baked the regression in. He is going around pick 222 (Round 19) in NFBC leagues, which is slightly overvalued but at that point in the draft it’s hard to argue anyone being mis-priced. I’d much rather have Addison Russell, Brandon Crawford, or Starlin Castro a few rounds later.

I may be severely underrating Trevor Story. His batting average took a .033 hit despite only a .011 change in BABIP. His HR% was bound to drop, but Story still plays in Coors and has validated his floor as a 25 HR threat at shortstop. He is priced assuming he hits around .240-.250, but if he can return to his .270 batting average of 2016 he is a huge steal. I may have to target more Trevor Story around Round 8 or 9.

Elvis Andrus is another guy I’m fading in drafts. The HR rate is absurd - 14 home runs more than his career average, and we have a good sample for Andrus. His stolen bases are still helpful, and the average appears to be a safe bet around .285, but I can’t spend a Round 5 pick on such a big question mark.

If you have any questions or comments or just want to chat further about your league, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @BrianCreagh or via email bcreagh119@gmail.com.