Fantasy Baseball: What's the Cause of Keon Broxton's Struggles?

The 27-year-old outfielder appeared poised for a breakout campaign in 2017, but it hasn't exactly gone that way.

While his debut with the Milwaukee Brewers consisted of just 244 plate appearances in 2016, Keon Broxton was an intriguing player to keep an eye on heading into this year.

Sure, his 36.1% strikeout rate wasn't all that fun and his 109 wRC+ was just above average, but he showed the potential for a power-speed combination that any fantasy baseball owner drools over. Broxton not only spanked 9 homers for the Brew Crew last year, but he also paired it with an Isolated Power (ISO) of .188 and 23 stolen bases to boot.

That's partially why he had an average draft position (ADP) of 155.59 entering 2017, according to NFBC draft data. And despite a horrific start (he produced a 52 wRC+ through his first 76 plate appearances), he turned it on in May and June by posting a 120 wRC+ with 12 homers and 8 stolen bases in 199 plate appearances.

But here we are, nearing the dog days of August, and another horrific month has landed Broxton in Triple-A. He's been valuable in certain areas, but there's one big problem when we compare his 2017 performance to what he did last year in Milwaukee.

The Good

Despite his inconsistency at the plate, Broxton has shown his value via counting stats by continuing to rack up homers and stolen bases. That also meant having to stick with him through a rough April, but given his production between May and June, he was a solid addition off the waiver wire for any fantasy squad if he was available (and he probably was).

This year has been a bit of a roller coaster when looking at his month-by-month production, but there are a few areas where Broxton has seen some positive regression overall.

He's collected 14 home runs to go along with 17 steals, which is even more impressive when looking at his on-base percentage, which has drastically fallen from a healthy .354 last year to his current .294 mark. Depending on how long his stay in Triple-A ends up being, Broxton still has a shot at posting a 20-20 season, which isn't an easy thing to do. His overall power has also continued moving in the right direction, with his ISO settling in at .212 for the moment.

So, that right there shows what he can bring to the table if he's not in the midst of a deep slump like he was in July prior to his demotion (-16 wRC+ and .155 wOBA through 51 plate appearances).

That's pretty much where the good vibes end, though.

The Bad

As mentioned earlier, Broxton's 36.1% strikeout rate last season wasn't all that great. However, it's a lot more manageable when it's paired with a 14.8% walk rate.

While Broxton's strikeout rate has climbed even higher this year -- only Joey Gallo has a higher clip than the Milwaukee center fielder's 38.0% among qualified hitters -- that's probably not the outfielder's biggest issue. What should be real concerning is that his walk rate has nosedived to just 8.3%.

Now, that's just under the league average, but with a strikeout rate that's nearly 17 percentage points above the league average, this is a significant problem. Part of the intrigue with Broxton is his speed and ability to steal some bags, and it's awfully hard to rack up stolen bases without reaching first base.

It's impressive that he's swiped 17 bags despite a .294 on-base percentage, but fantasy owners can't hold their hat on that production when he's limiting his opportunities.

The Ugly

As one can imagine, the ugly portion of his statistics this season have directly impacted everything else, and it all starts with his (lack of) plate discipline compared to 2016. If we're solely looking at his chase rate (O-Swing%) and his swing rate on balls in the strike zone (Z-Swing%), though, he's right around the league average.

However, the progression from one year to the next tells us a lot -- especially when we see how the corresponding contact rates have also changed.

Year PA O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact%
2016 244 22.1% 68.0% 39.4% 75.9%
2017 326 28.3% 68.2% 52.1% 66.8%

Virtually everything in the above table has gone in the wrong direction. Upon seeing his contact rate on balls outside the strike zone increase so much, it shouldn't be shocking to learn that Broxton's hard-hit rate has fallen from 43.3% in 2016 to his current mark of 32.9%.

Another drastic change worth pointing out is how often pitchers are getting ahead early in the count. Last year, Broxton saw a first-pitch strike only 54.9% of the time, but that number has increased nearly 10 percentage points this year (64.4%). He's already prone to striking out at a high rate, and opposing hurlers getting ahead of him more than ever certainly hasn't helped the 27-year-old get himself into high-leverage situations.

Getting more aggressive at the plate isn't a bad thing, but it definitely is when it's not in the right situation to maximize potential success. Finding himself back in Triple-A for the time being, Broxton must focus on improving that portion of his plate discipline before getting recalled to the big leagues.