Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Hitters I Can’t Pick Up! In this column, I take a look at some of the most added hitters of the week and give some reasons why they might not deserve a spot on your roster. I’ll also compare them to a hitter I’d rather own, whether they are another highly added hitter or one you might be thinking of dropping. For every hitter I look at, I’ll provide their current BABIP and HR/FB to show you if they are set for positive, negative, or no regression in the future.
Without further ado, here are the hitters for this week:
Regression Profile: 0.416 BABIP, 9.5% HR/FB
Adam Frazier has exploded onto the scene in the past week, hitting two home runs in the as the Pirates’ new leadoff man. He’s young and I like the potential upside he brings, but he doesn’t really stand out in anything. Anyone picking him up based on his recent power surge will inevitably be disappointed, as two home runs is his career high between his minor league career and his brief major league stint last year. He’s got some speed, but doesn’t project to stand out in the category and be a major asset. His 0.361 average and 0.458 OBP look great, but that’s going to come down with his 0.416 BABIP. And when Starling Marte returns from his suspension, he will assuredly push Frazier down or out of the lineup unless he really turns it on. Frazier could be the short-term shot in the arm the Pirates or your team needs, but he’s not the long-term, high upside outfield prospect you’re looking for.
Regression Profile: 0.282 BABIP, 12.0% HR/FB
Maybin isn’t a sexy name and he’s not doing anything particularly sexy so far, but he’s been solid as the Angels’ leadoff hitter with plenty of speed. He’s walking at a surprising 16.0% rate, which is far more than what you’d expect from him (career rate is 8.3%), but there’s been enough data this year to suggest that this is a sustainable rate for him. His BABIP is hovering below the .300 mark, but that’s actually a bit low for a speedy guy like him, so he could even see a small increase to his average/OBP. He’s going to be a nice, if unexciting, low-end option for you at outfield if you need the steals.
Regression Profile: 0.287 BABIP, 22.2% HR/FB
In today’s landscape for first basemen, you have to be pretty good in order to stand out from the crowd. So while I think Smoak’s performance so far is sustainable and thus he’s probably headed for a career year, it’s just not exciting enough for me to justify picking him up unless I’m looking to fill my corner outfield/utility spot or if I’m in a deep league. His season to date is probably the ceiling of what you can expect from Smoak, and as time goes on I’d expect him to get passed up by more exciting 1B names like Anthony Rizzo, Chris Davis, and Wil Myers. And of course, this is all dependent on if he can stay healthy and active in the lineup, as he hasn’t eclipsed 400 plate appearances in a season since 2013. If you pick up Smoak expecting a surefire top 12 first baseman the rest of the year, you’ll find out sooner or later that it’s all just a Smoak and mirrors act.
…okay, sorry, that pun was way too obvious. Let’s just try to move on.
Regression Profile: 0.304 BABIP, 32.4% HR/FB
It’s the battle of the Justins! So what makes me like Bour more than Smoak? Well…honestly, not a whole lot. The similarities go beyond just their names, as their profiles on Fangraphs are pretty much identical in terms of walk rate, strikeout rate, age, place in the lineup, and hard hit rate. So yes, most of the argument I made against Smoak above can also be made for Bour, and I really wouldn’t be adding him expecting more than a decent corner infield option. Between the two, however, I’ll give the slightest edge to Bour based on his career ISO, slugging, and wRC+ numbers being higher than Smoak, while also being a bit younger, giving him a chance to grow. But really, don’t go expecting exciting production from either Justin, as they’re most likely going to be a Bour the rest of the season.
…I may have a problem with bad puns. Please, send help.
Regression Profile: 0.308 BABIP, 11.1% HR/FB
So far in Kepler’s career, the refrain has been the same: dude gets on a white hot homer streak, owners pick him up, and he never really makes good on that same production the rest of the year. The good news is that he’s still a young player at 24 years old, so he’s a trendy pick to breakout, which could very well happen. But that’s never a given, and as of now it’s more likely that you’ll be chasing his homers, wondering when is the right time to put him in your lineup. When it comes to me, I treat hitting as set-and-forget, so I don’t have to worry about trying to predict hot streaks, and Kepler has not earned that trust yet. He does, however, have a dope last name that he shares with the laws of planetary motion, which is cool for a power hitter, but doesn’t have any fantasy value.
Regression Profile: 0.296 BABIP, 10.7% HR/FB
While Reddick is healthy and active, he’s proven to be a productive and consistent all-around hitter that makes him a good fit as your fourth or fifth outfielder. This year, he has the extra benefit of playing in hitter-friendly Minute Maid park, surrounded by a good Houston lineup that will give him extra value. For leagues with a short bench that requires active players in the lineup, he’s a solid choice, as long as he stays healthy.