Fantasy Baseball: Ian Kinsler Is a Prime Bounce-Back Candidate in 2018
Ian Kinsler is the newest member of the new-look Los Angeles Angels, bolstering a lineup anchored by Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani. The Angels had a serious need for an upgrade at second base -- they had a 60 wRC+ at the position in 2017, tied with the Texas Rangers for the worst in baseball.
While the fit is perfect, it is important to note that Kinsler is coming off the worst season of his career. The 35-year-old slashed .236/.313/.412 with a 91 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR last season. That is significantly better than anything the Angels got out of the keystone in 2017, but it still a tick below average for second basemen league-wide (the league average for second baseman was a 94 wRC+ and a .263/.329/.409 slash line).
Kinsler's advanced age and decreasing production are normally red flags, but there is a lot of evidence to show that Kinsler could be in for a major bounce-back campaign in 2018.
Recipe for a Rebound
Kinsler's production dipped in virtually every category, but his batted-ball numbers and BABIP show that he was pretty unfortunate last year in luck.
|Year||BABIP||Hard-Hit Rate||Swinging-Strike Rate||Contact Rate|
His BABIP fell significantly below his career averaged and was in the .240's for only the third time in his 12-year career. Considering his 37.0% hard-hit rate a career-best clip -- plus a contact rate and swinging-strike rate right around his career norms -- Kinsler is due for some positive regression.
Not only did he make similar contact last season, he made similar kinds of contact. His line-drive rate (20.9% in 2017, 20.6% for his career), ground-ball rate (32.9% in 2017, 34.8% for his career) and fly-ball rate (46.5% in 2017, 44.3% for his career) were all roughly the same, as well.
Typically, the type of batted-ball numbers Kinsler posted a year ago result in a career-best year -- not the worst offensive season of his career. Kinsler was terribly unlucky in 2017, and he should regain his typical offensive numbers in 2018 if he continues hitting the ball the way he did in 2017.
His Typical Three Outcomes
Not only were his contact rates very similar to his career numbers, his walks, strikeouts, and power numbers were, too.
His 9.0% walk rate was the fifth-highest of his career and the highest it's been since 2011. His strikeout rate (14.0%) was higher than his career number (12.4%), but not by much and it was still a good clip -- well below the average strikeout rate in 2017 (21.6%). Also, Kinsler's .176 ISO was nearly identical to his career number (.174), and his 22 jacks were the second-most he's hit in a season since 2011.
Kinsler's down season last year can largely be attributed to some tough luck. His hard-hit rate was the highest it's ever been, and his contact, walk, and strikeout rates were all normal -- the only thing that fell significantly was his BABIP, and there was no meaningful reason for it to do so.
Kinsler looks like a perfect buy-low for the Angels -- their window to win is roughly as long as Mike Trout's contract, and Kinsler provides a much-needed upgrade for the Halos. Kinsler's bat is likely to bounce back despite his age, giving the Angels another strong weapon for what looks like an improved squad in Anaheim.