Looking at Sophomore Slumps: Hitter Edition

The only players more hyped on draft day than top prospects expecting to break into the Big League are rookies coming off their hot debuts. Specifically, I’m looking at sophomores Yasiel Puig and Wil Myers, guys about to play their first full year. A day will come, when these hitters are elite, but it is not this day…or this year actually. People assume that because a player is young that he’s bound to improve, they also think old players are bound to regress, this way of thinking is a fallacy.

Let me start with Puig, who is generally ranked higher than Myers and ranked 28th overall by ESPN and 19th overall by Razzball. For starters, Puig sported a 36:97 BB:K rate, which isn’t exactly a good sign. Let’s also note that the Dodgers were hitting historically well after Puig got called up and he went on one hell of a hot streak, 19/7/16/4/.436 during his 1st month, which was amazing, but also likely unrepeatable. Puig had an 11:8 SB:CS ratio, which is actually terrible. I’m not saying Puig will be a bad player, I’m just saying his high ADP (average draft position) says that people expect him to improve on his numbers from last year, but history would disagree.

Wil Myers is not ranked by ESPN yet, but is ranked the 15th OF on Razzball and is sure to be ranked within the top 70 on most sites. While the price tag for Myers isn’t as inflated as Puig’s, he will also be over drafted this year. Myers also had poor plate discipline, sporting a 33:91 BB:K ratio, something he always struggled with in the minors, and a 5:2 SB:CS ratio. With all 5 stolen bases coming in one month, apparently he gave his speed to help teammate Bengie Molina run fast enough to finally make it to 1st base (Bengie Molina makes Prince Fielder look like the Flash). Myers still hits 3rd in a solid Rays lineup and should improve on last year’s numbers, but there should be cheaper options out there. More boring, but cheaper options.

Let’s look at history. I’ve listed a couple of players that have been hyped going into their sophomore seasons that underperformed by the years end.

Yoenis Cespedes. 2013 drafted in 3rd-4th round on average.

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Brett Lawrie. 2012 drafted in 4th-5th round on average.Image

Jason Heyward. 2011 drafted in 3rd – 4th round on average.

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All these players were expected to add to their stats given more  at bats, but baseball is a long season, and hitters go through adjustment periods/hot and cold streaks. Are you telling me you believe Yasiel Puig will hit .436 with a .5153 BABIP (balls batted in play) for a month again? Do you think the Dodgers will let him continue to steal bases when he gets caught half the time?! I think Puig will end with a 90/22/60/7/.275 stat line if he gets a full season of at bats. Which I believe is pretty generous. Let’s look at history one more time, Ryan Braun had as good a rookie season as one could have for a player that’s not TroutGod, but given 150 more at bats he barely improved his counting numbers and his AVG/OBP plunged by .040 points.Image

I wouldn’t expect another huge step forward from Puig or Myers, guys who have taken some pretty big steps to start off their careers. It generally takes hitters longer to take the next step in the majors while it’s generally a little easier for pitchers to stay on a plateau once they’ve reached it. I don’t think either Puig or Myers will be “busts”, but I do believe that they will both “underperform” what is expected of them. And thus, I know I’ll be avoided them on draft day… unless the Price is Right. Then I’ll come on down.

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