Fantasy Baseball: Taking Advantage of Logan Forsythe’s Projections
Fantasy draft season is in full swing, and one way to set yourself up for a successful draft is by taking advantage of players whose average draft position (ADP) is significantly lower than you believe it should be. This season, one of those players is Logan Forsythe of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Forsythe was given a career high 615 plate appearances by Tampa in 2015, and he rewarded them with 4.1 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), which was a significant improvement on his previous career high of 1.3 fWAR. This was just one of many career bests for the second baseman last season, including 17 home runs, 69 runs scored, 68 runs batted in, a .350 Weighted on Base Average (wOBA), a 126 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), and a .323 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP).
This breakout season has helped earn him the 55th overall hitter ranking according to our projections and, more importantly, he's our third best second baseman going into the 2016 season. This becomes valuable information when examining ADPs, as Forsythe is currently the 140th hitter off of the board and 20th second baseman selected, according to FantasyPros.
That's a significant difference that you can use to your advantage when coming up with a pre-draft strategy for players you want to target.
Better to Be Lucky Than Good
The narrative surrounding Forsythe is that his impressive 2015 season was heavily influenced by luck, and how he performed isn't sustainable moving forward. Check out this blurb from Jeff Zimmeran of FanGraphs:
[Forsythe’s] improvement can only be attributed to batting average on balls in play luck. I don’t like going the luck route, but when the rest of the data doesn’t show any explainable change, luck it is. He didn’t hit the ball any harder. He didn’t put the ball in the air or on the ground any more. He didn’t spray the ball around the field anymore. His plate discipline was the same. His split between and right and left-handed pitchers was constant. I would not expect a season like 2015 again for him.
Admittedly, the .323 BABIP that Forsythe posted was a career high and a significant improvement on his totals of .255 in 2013 and .268 in 2014. When the only discernable difference to a breakout season is a higher BABIP, it’s not a good sign for the future performance of the hitter. However, a deeper dig into Forsythe’s BABIP is needed to be able to see the whole picture.
Making Your Own Luck
Large swings in BABIP from season to season can generally be attributed to luck, and this looks to be the case for Forsythe. Except not in the sense you would assume.
Instead, his low BABIP totals prior to 2015 seem to be the effect of being unlucky.
Two factors in which hitters can help themselves be “luckier” at the plate and create more hits are their line-drive percentage (LD%), and their percentage of balls in play that were classified as hit with hard speed (Hard%). Going back to the 2011 season, Forsythe’s first in the majors, let’s see what his BABIP was in relation to his LD% and his Hard%.
The league average for BABIP is generally around .300, so prior to 2015, Forsythe only had one season with an above-average BABIP, coming in 2012. Not only were his BABIP rates in 2011, 2013, and 2014 below average, they were among the worst in baseball when comparing these totals to qualified hitters in each of those seasons.
However, in 2011, of qualified hitters with a LD% of 20 or higher, only three had a lower BABIP than Forsythe’s. And of the 84 with a higher Hard%, only 13 had a lower BABIP.
This trend continues for the 2013 season, as there was only one hitter (Edwin Encarnacion) with a LD% of 20 or better with a lower BABIP, and none of the 76 hitters with a better Hard% had a worse BABIP.
The same story rings true in 2014, where there were just six hitters who had a 19.3 LD% or better and a worse BABIP than Forsythe, while only 12 of 128 batters with a higher Hard% had a lower BABIP.
This suggests that Forsythe has been unlucky for three of his five seasons in the big leagues. Luck may have shifted too far in his advantage in 2015, but it doesn’t automatically mean that a steep regression back to sub-.300 is coming in 2016. His numbers in the minors support that as well.
Forsythe has recorded 1,168 career at-bats in the minors as part of the San Diego Padres organization. His career BABIP during his time at various levels in the minors is .361. I’m not implying that more weight should be put into his minor league numbers than his 1,526 at-bats in the majors, but they help create a more complete player profile and show that Forsythe is capable of producing a well above-average BABIP.
We project Forsythe to slash .266/.338/.421 with 65 runs scored, 60 RBI, 14 home runs, and 9 stolen bases in 2016. This is slightly down from his 2015 season, but it’s still better than all but two other second baseman, according to our projections.
Just because Forsythe is our 55th best hitter, it doesn’t mean you should select him over other players ranked close to him -- like Albert Pujols, whose ADP is 56th -- but by not using an early pick on Jose Altuve or Dee Gordon, you can wait to select Forsythe and use his low ADP to your advantage.