Should We Be Buying The Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Chisenhall has long been a player that was full of “promise and upside”‘ though the results on the field never matched. While he has been performing when given an opportunity this season, it was his performance on Monday that clearly grabbed everyone’s attention (that’s what happens when you go 5-5 with 3 HR and 9 RBI). The question now is exactly how should we value him moving forward?

Even with the outburst, his underlying metrics appear to be for real as his 7 HR have come courtesy of a 39.7% fly ball rate (39.8% for his career) and 13.0% HR/FB (11.6% for his career). Clearly he’s not a 30+ HR hitter, but 15-20 is a reasonable expectation.

A player with little speed, the discussion moves to his batting average (and that’s where the questions arise). Through Monday he was hitting .385 courtesy of a .420 BABIP and 29.4% line drive rate. Are either of those numbers really believable?

If he qualified for the batting title his BABIP would lead the league by a healthy margin (Alex Rios is at .394 and Matt Adams at .390). Just for comparison, in 2013 only one hitter posted a mark above .390 (Chris Johnson at .394) and in 2012 the league leader was Dexter Fowler right at .390. Those seasons would’ve been checked off as a likely regression as it is, so Chisenhall’s current mark? There’s simply no doubt about it.

The line drive rate is impressive, but it’s another number that would appear primed for a regression. His career rate sits at 22.7%, just to start. In 2012 the best line drive rate was Dexter Fowler at 27.2% (one of four players at 26.0% or better) and in 2013 it was James Loney at 29.8% (there were actually eight hitters at 27.0% or better).

When looking at the data for the past two years it’s not as big of a lock that the line drive rate plummets as we would’ve initially thought. Maybe he has figured it out and has turned into a line drive machine. He has been fairly consistent with it thus far:

  • April – 31.4%
  • May – 29.6%
  • June – 26.7%

Then again he’s trending in the wrong direction. While he’s always made good contact, realistically the average is going to come back down to earth. A career .272 hitter, if he can maintain an elevated line drive rate it’s not impossible that he pushes .300 from here on out. At the same time, with a luck regression and the potential for a continued decrease in line drives, hitting .280 also is an option.

For a player that doesn’t draw many walks, a drop in average is not only going to impact his RBI production (as it is, he’s buoyed by Monday’s big day), but also his ability to score runs.

So, we have moderate power to go along with an inevitable drop in average which will take his runs and RBI with it. In other words, maybe now is the time to sell high?

I’d consider Chisenhall over Casey McGehee, Matt Dominguez

Source – Fangraphs

3 comments

  1. Mike says:

    Who do you like ROS? Blackmon or Granderson? I have to drop an OF its H2H. I have Trout Morse springer polonco Blackmon and grandy. Or do you think it’s safe to drop both of them? Thanks man

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      It all depends on your entire team, but there’s injury risk so I wouldn’t drop both. I still believe in Granderson, though chances are he doesn’t produce the best average. I do prefer him over Blackmon, though both have value.

      Is there any potential to trade one of them?

  2. Mike says:

    I put Blackmon on block last month and got no bites. And as far as granderson we’ll I’m from NY so every guy in my league is either a yanks or mets fan… So there is a ZERO chance to trade him

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