by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
You can argue that both Jason Kipnis and Anthony Rendon are coming off disappointing 2015 campaigns, though for drastically different reasons. For Rendon it was injuries costing him any chance of producing a productive season. For Kipnis there was a solid average (.303), but it was relatively empty as he paired it with 9 HR and 12 SB. Which player is better positioned to post a strong 2016? Let’s take a look:
Kipnis – While the home runs weren’t there he did have 43 doubles and 7 triples, so it wasn’t like he lacked extra bases power. The question comes if he’s going to see some of those start going over the fences once again. With 15 HR in 1,196 PA over the past two seasons it’s tough to bank on, though his average distance on non-groundballs did improve over the final two months (263.893 compared to an overall mark of 257.799). Of course even that fell short of his 2013 mark (267.642) and he’s never been a player to put the ball in the air very often (30.5% for his career). While he could see his power grow, he’s going to be more of a 8-12 HR threat as opposed to someone who could push 20+.
Rendon – He had 5 HR over 311 AB last season, but added 16 doubles and had an average distance on non-groundballs of 271.630 (not too far off from his 275.085 in ’14, which led to 21 HR). As long as he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he reaches 20+ HR once again.
Advantage – Rendon
Kipnis – While the average was his most impressive mark last season, is he really going to be that good once again? He has consistently posted an elevated line drive rate, but he will likely see at least a small step backwards (26.8% in ’15, 24.1% for his career) and may not be able to maintain his .356 BABIP. Sure he has a good command of the strike zone (career 7.0% SwStr%, 24.7% O-Swing%), but without the power and the likely drop in “luck” he’s more likely to hit in the .280-.290 range as opposed to be a .300+ hitter.
Rendon – He has shown consistency in his line drive rate (21.4% in ’15, 22.0% for his career) and he amazingly has shown an even better command of the strike zone (career 5.2% SwStr%, 21.2% O-Swing%). While his strikeout rate rose a bit last season (19.7%), there’s reason to believe in a rebound and the power upside helps to offset any “deficiency” in the line drive department as compared to Kipnis. In other words, the upside is similar.
Advantage – Draw
Kipnis – While he had 12 SB last season the problem was more efficiency than anything (he was caught 8 times). He had stolen 22+ bases each of the prior three seasons and at the very least should get back into the 17+ range with 20 very likely.
Rendon – While he swiped 17 bases in ’14, that had never really been part of his game and he’s hardly a speed demon. It’s very possible that he returns to stealing around 10 bases with a full season of AB, as he can pick his spots and catch opponents off guard. That said, anything you get is more of a bonus.
Advantage – Kipnis
Kipnis – Kipnis has often moved around the lineup and where he hits is obviously going to have an impact on his runs/RBI. Will he hit in the leadoff spot, putting him in position to score a good number of runs but eliminate his chance to be an RBI machine? It’s possible, though right now Rajai Davis could fill that role (at least part of the time). Will he hit third, in a lineup that isn’t extremely potent, which will give him more RBI opportunities and less chance of scoring runs? It’s a possibility, but again there is a limit to his upside production.
Rendon – With the additions of Ben Revere & Daniel Murphy, Rendon will likely move down and hit in the middle of the order. While that may limit his potential to score runs, he should still have players like Jayson Werth & Wilson Ramos hitting behind him. He also should get ample opportunities to drive in runs, with Bryce Harper and others filling the bases in front of him.
Advantage – Rendon
While both players are good bets to “rebound”, the overall package of Rendon is slightly more appealing. He has the potential to hit 20/10 with a strong average and the ability to both score and drive in runs. While Kipnis has more speed, his power, runs and RBI could all be limited and his average upside is only similar. With similar ADP (Rendon at 70.74, Kipnis at 85.21) in NFBC formats, Rendon is the player to target.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps, STATS
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Make sure to check out all of our 2016 rankings: