As the 2019 baseball season is set to get underway, fans across the league are trying to predict how their favorite teams and players will perform. The big free agents have finally settled in, and the rosters are all set.
One of the biggest questions looming as opening day approaches is who are the hitters who won’t match their 2018 numbers during 2019?
6. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
The last person you’d expect on this list is someone coming off an MVP season. But Yelich had such a great season last year that he almost has nowhere to go but down.
In 147 games, Yelich finished the season with 36 home runs and 110 RBIs. Compare that with his impressive yet modest 2017 numbers (18 home runs and 81 RBIs), and a return to the mean isn’t out of the question.
One key stat that points to regression? Yelich isn’t much of a flyball hitter, but almost all of his second-half flyballs turned into home runs. It will be difficult for Yelich to reproduce that in 2019. He also hit nearly 70% of his home runs after July. These statistical anomalies point to Yelich having another quality, productive year with potentially lower power numbers unless he can ride a hot streak similar to his late second-half surge.
5. David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
Peralta hit 30 home runs last year, up 16 from his 2017 total of 14. Rotochamp, a site that uses mathematical algorithms based on past player statistics to predict future performance, projects Peralta hitting 24 home runs with 73 RBIs this season. While these aren’t terrible stats, they do represent a slight dip from his 2018 stats. Expect Peralta to split the difference between his 2017 and 2018 power numbers.
4. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
It was quite the breakout for Baez in 2018. He led the NL in RBIs with 111. His .554 slugging percentage
Baseball Reference’s 2019 projections have Baez hitting 25 home runs with 86 RBIs and a .322 on-base percentage. Those are strong numbers, but Baez hit 34 home runs in 2018, so they represent a slight regression. Even if he is one of the hitters who won’t match their 2018 numbers, Baez’s slick work in the field still makes him one of the best players in the game.
3. Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
The former Washington National has found a home in Colorado, using the Coors Field altitude and the remaining pop in his bat to hit 22 home runs last year.
The problem? Desmond is 33. That’s typically not an age where most hitters enter their prime but actually leave it. Rotochamp predicts Desmond will hit 17 home runs with 70 RBIs this year. Certainly not bad numbers for a player his age, but definitely among the hitters who won’t match their 2018 numbers.
2. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
Shaw had a solid year for the Brew Crew, slamming a career-high 32 home runs with 86 RBIs. Baseball Reference projects Shaw for 25 homers with 79 RBIs and a .333 on-base percentage. Those are respectable numbers to be sure, but also a small drop off from his 2018 and 2017 stats.
1. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had such a great season last year, it wouldn’t be shocking if their entire team had trouble recreating the magic of 2018. That includes J.D. Martinez, one of the team’s top sluggers.
In his first year in Boston, Martinez was outstanding at the plate, finishing with 6.1 wins above replacement (WAR) and second in the AL in home runs at 43. A quick look at his career home run numbers supports the case for a small step back, however.
At 31, Martinez has only hit more than 40 home runs the last two years of his career. He also hit a career high in RBIs last year with 130. The prediction? Based on his age and the insanely high numbers he posted last year, Martinez will have a fine season, but he’s almost sure to be one of the hitters who won’t match their 2018 numbers this season.