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Buy Low/Sell High: wOBA Regression Candidates

Using Statcast data to predict hitters expected to surge or struggle in the near future

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In a follow-up to an article last month, where we highlighted such breakout hitters as Stephen Piscotty, Trey Mancini, Anthony Rendon, Jasin Kipnis, and Jesse Winker, we are reviewing the same parameters to highlight hitters headed towards positive and negative wOBA regression. Using statcast’s xwOBA metric, we’ll highlight players outperforming and underperforming their expected wOBA values. As a reminder, xwOBA is calculated based on the launch angle and exit velocity of every batted ball put into play, and players underperforming their xwOBA could be getting unlucky by making great contact and getting robbed by great defensive plays. xwOBA doesn’t factor defensive shifts, so players who commonly face defensive shifts may consistently outperform their xwOBA and not always see the expected regression.

Positive Regression Candidates

Logan Morrison - Morrison has struggled out of the gate and might be a great waiver wire target - available in 88% of Yahoo leagues right now. In 2017, he hit 38 home runs for Tampa Bay so the power is there and Morrison could be ready to go on a streak.

Daniel Murphy - Murphy is only 17 games back from his injury, but has been BABIP’ed to death (.216 BABIP vs .320 career average) so far. Don’t let that dissuade you from a second half run from Daniel Murphy. His return to an elite AVG, above-average power second basemen is coming.

Gary Sanchez - Currently labeled one of the biggest busts of the draft, Gary Sanchez is the best buy-low candidate in the fantasy game. He’s on the DL with his fantasy value at an all-time low, and now might be the time to send out a feeler offer. One small caveat, Sanchez is facing an infield shift over 40% of the time, so his wOBA gap isn’t as extreme as it appears - defensive alignments are in a perfect spot to defend against his hard hits. Still, I’m looking to acquire Sanchez for any team that’s looking to compete this year.

Edwin Encarnacion - A notoriously slow and streaky hitter, Encarnacion’s season has been a rollercoaster. Take a look at his monthly splits so far.

Encarnacion is ready to pop again in July. Might be tough to acquire Encarnacion, but don’t sell low and be sure to look his way at DFS for the next few weeks.

Yasmani Grandal - One of my favorite “wins” of draft season was scooping up Grandal everywhere while the hype was around Austin Barnes. That has proven to be quite favorable, and it looks like more is in store for Grandal. He’s held his usual profile - a sinkhole in AVG with above-average power and counting stats at the position to make for an overall average fantasy catcher.

Negative Regression Candidates

Willson Contreras - The slash line is the same as last year minus the power (.275/.360/.445 in ‘18 vs .276/.356/.499 in ‘17), and as I tweeted before - the power might be on the way:

I’m hanging on to Willson Contreras. xwOBA is driven largely off of batted ball profile (launch angle and exit velocity) and Contreras’ profile is changing. Don’t bail on him just because he’s at the bottom of this list.

Albert Almora - Kills me to have two Cubs at the bottom of this list, but Almora’s .380 BABIP is unsustainable and his xwOBA supports it. I still like Almora in deep leagues as an AVG-only guy with counting stats that won’t kill you, but his current ranking as a Top 150 player in Yahoo is not a great long-term gamble.

Jed Lowrie - Lowrie was killed in June by a spike in infield fly balls. He went from 3% in April to 2.6% in May to 10.3% in June. While this killed his xwOBA for the past 30 days, it has already started to regress back to his career norms. I wouldn’t panic much on Jed Lowrie.

Rougned Odor - Odor is having a nice little rally, but the underlying metrics think it’s not here to last. This might be your chance to ship Odor for anything of value. It might not be long before Jurickson Profar finds himself a long-term home at the keystone in Texas.

Mike Trout/Eddie Rosario/Randal Grichuk - These three are on the list, but for the most part I would pay no mind. Their xwOBA is still in .330 range, so while they may not be as hot as they have been the past few weeks, they are still very much going to be productive fantasy resources.

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