Believer or Deceiver: Was Scooter Gennett’s 2017 Breakout For Real?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There were a lot of surprising performances in 2017, though among the biggest may be the Reds’ Scooter Gennett.  The second base job was supposed to go to Jose Peraza, but once Gennett got his opportunity he seized the role and ran with it:

461 At Bats
.295 Batting Average (136 Hits)
27 Home Runs
97 RBI
80 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.342 On Base Percentage
.531 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Considering he hit .263 with 14 HR over 498 AB in ’16 as a member of the Brewers it’s fair to wonder just how real any of the numbers actually are:

 

Power
Gennett didn’t change to a fly ball-centric approach (37.6% in ’17 compared to a 34.3% career mark).  Instead it was an explosion in his HR/FB that fueled the spike:

  • 2015 – 6.7%
  • 2016 – 10.5%
  • 2017 – 20.8%

You can argue that it was his home ballpark that helped bring the growth, and considering his 28.1% HR/FB at home that would appear to be the case.  Of course Milwaukee was a favorable home ballpark in ’16 and his 15.1% mark on the road seems far more believable.  Further supporting that is his 16.9% mark in the second half, which represents growth but the astronomical spike.

The second half number yielded a home run every 21 AB, and if we extrapolate that over a 550 AB season we get a 27 HR year.  That matches last year’s mark, despite nearly 100 more AB, and it’s far more likely that the regression is even greater than that.

 

Average
Obviously fewer home runs have an impact on his batting average, as it means more balls put in play.  He is likely to see a drop in his BABIP (.339) and he’s seen his strikeout rate rise in recent seasons (22.9% in ’17).  The key is that he began to see fewer fastballs last season (60.98%) and there’s a good chance that it continues to fall (which will also play into his power, as 20 of his home runs came against fastball variations):

  • Hard – 7.91% Whiff%
  • Breaking Balls – 13.80%
  • Offspeed – 15.26%

None of those numbers are terrible, but if he’s seeing more non-fastballs it’s going to be hard for him to improve on his strikeout rate.  Coupled with the luck and drop in power, that’s going to mean an average more in the .260-.270 range as opposed to a near .300 hitter.

 

Conclusion
So we are talking about a drop in average and power, which in turn will lead to a regression in his runs scored and RBI.  Throw in little power and a position that has become much more productive at the plate and exactly what is there to get excited about?  Don’t make the mistake of paying for last season’s production, because it’s a long-shot that he comes even reasonably close to it  (think .260/20/75).

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
--
Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

5 comments

  1. NK says:

    I have Scotter as a Middle Infielder. The option is there to use Matt Duffy or Scott Kingery instead. Which name do you see having the best fantasy value?

  2. Charles Stevens says:

    Woof.

    Will you revisit him please? I’m just curious if you’re still coming to the same conclusion.

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