10 MLB Players Due for Noticeable Regressions in 2014

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2014

10 MLB Players Due for Noticeable Regressions in 2014

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    Alex Gallardo

    When an MLB player turns in a big season these days, the immediate question is whether it is something he is capable of duplicating—and with so many advanced stats available, regression is becoming easier to project.

    For hitters, an unusually high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a good sign that a high batting average is not sustainable. With sluggers, a spike in home-run/fly-ball percentage could mean that their unusually high home-run total was the result of some good luck.

    With pitchers, BABIP and fielding independent pitching (FIP) are good gauges of what kind of fortune they had the previous season. Things like average fastball velocity can also be a tip-off of declining stuff.

    What follows is a look at 10 players who enjoyed very good seasons in 2013 but, for one reason or another, look to be in line for noticeable regression in 2014.

A.J. Burnett, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    3010-111913.301.2216567209.231

     

    2014 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    40-1232.741.57201615.241

     

    Player Overview

    Shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2012 season in what was essentially a salary-dump move by the New York Yankees, A.J. Burnett resurrected his career over the past two seasons.

    After originally indicating that he would either re-sign with the Pirates or retire, Burnett instead opted to test the free-agent waters. He wound up signing a two-year, $22.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

    His 2.74 ERA is solid, but he has struggled with his command, as his walk rate is up from 3.2 to 6.3 BB/9, and his 4.69 FIP suggests he has been the beneficiary of some good luck so far. Throw in a hernia that he has decided to pitch through, and it could be a disappointing season for the veteran, who was looking for one last hurrah.

Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    435.276/.350/.48512054 (18)566350/130

     

    2014 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    51.216/.333/.451115 (3)655/15

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 10 pick in the 2008 draft, Jason Castro dealt with injuries early in his career. The 2013 season marked his first full year in the majors at the age of 26.

    He made the most of it, earning a trip to the All-Star Game and while positing a 4.3 WAR to tie for fifth among all catchers. That led to some talk of a long-term extension in the offseason, and while that did not wind up happening, he was still viewed as a core piece of the future in Houston.

    Castro still has a chance to be a plus option behind the plate, but he has struggled to open the season. On top of that, he looked like a prime candidate for regression heading into the year thanks to a .351 BABIP and 26.5-percent strikeout rate in 2013.

Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    3018-6190.12.651.1719329117.264

     

    2014 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    41-3255.401.4834318.315

     

    Player Overview

    The fountain of youth may have finally started to run dry for Bartolo Colon, and that could leave the New York Mets on the hook for a two-year, $20 million deal for a below-average starter.

    The 40-year-old was fantastic pitching for the Oakland A's last season, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA to finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting. The team opted to let him walk in free agency, though, signing left-hander Scott Kazmir to fill his spot in the rotation.

    A 4.6-percent HR/FB rate last season certainly helped keep his ERA down, as the league average is around 9.5 percent. He has seen that number climb to 11.1 percent in the early going this year. There is no reason he can't get on track and post a sub-4.00 ERA, but don't expect him to be a Cy Young candidate this time around.

Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

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    Kathy Willens

    2013 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    584.286/.370/.63416796 (53)13810372/199

     

    2014 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    55.255/.368/.382145 (1)8108/19

     

    Player Overview

    Let me start by saying that the 2013 season that Chris Davis put together was by no means a complete fluke. The plus power has always been there, and he finally turned potential into production over the past two seasons since joining the Baltimore Orioles.

    However, expecting him to hit 50-plus home runs again is asking an awful lot, and he is likely in for a decent amount of regression both in batting average and in the power department this season.

    He led the league with a home run every 11.0 at-bats last season, thanks in part to a very high 22.6-percent HR/FB rate. His average also got a boost from a 28.0 strikeout percentage in the first half, but that climbed back up to 31.8 in the second half, which is closer to his career norm. Something like a .265 average and 35-plus home runs is very doable, but would still represent a considerable regression from last season.

Joe Nathan, RP, Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio

    2013 Stats

    GSVIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    674364.21.390.90362273.162

     

    2014 Stats

    GSVIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    726.28.101.80846.286

     

    Player Overview

    When Joe Nathan declined his $9 million option with the Texas Rangers at the start of the offseason, the Detroit Tigers jumped at the chance to sign the active saves leader to anchor their bullpen.

    Nathan turned in one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, as he converted 43 of 46 save chances and posted the second-best ERA of his career at 1.39.

    A 2.26 FIP and .228 BABIP were good indications he was in line for some regression in 2014, and then he got off to a terrible start as a result of "dead arm." He is reportedly past the arm problems now, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com, but at the age of 39, one can't help but wonder how much he has left in the tank.

Ivan Nova, SP, New York Yankees

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    209-6139.13.101.2913544116.258

     

    2014 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    42-220.28.271.8432612.372

     

    Player Overview

    After getting off to a rough beginning last season in which he posted a 5.16 ERA over his first six starts, Ivan Nova landed on the disabled list with right-elbow inflammation. He wound up missing 22 games, but when he returned June 23, he was a different pitcher.

    In 17 games (16 starts) the rest of the way, he went 7-5 with a 2.70 ERA, as he was the New York Yankees' most consistent starter outside of Hiroki Kuroda for much of the year. He's failed to go six innings in three of his four starts this year, though, and now may be sidelined with an elbow injury.

    He left his last outing with elbow soreness after allowing eight runs in four innings of work. He underwent an MRI on Saturday and reportedly has a partially torn UCL, which could mean Tommy John surgery.

Yasiel Puig, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    382.319/.391/.53412242 (19)426636/97

     

    2014 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    51.235/.350/.373124 (1)578/13

     

    Player Overview

    There is no doubt Yasiel Puig provided a much-needed spark for the Los Angeles Dodgers after being called up June 3 of last season. He went on to finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and 15th in NL MVP voting, and the future looks incredibly bright for the 23-year-old.

    That being said, his numbers last season were inflated by a ridiculous month of June that saw him hit .436 over 101 at-bats. He still hit a solid .278/.366/.470 the rest of the way, but it was clear the league started to figure him out after the first month.

    This will be a telling year for the polarizing young star, and aside from the necessary adjustments he'll need to make on the field, he is now dealing with some big off-the-field distractions following the Jesse Katz story for Los Angeles Magazine detailing his defection from Cuba. All of that could mean a step back for Puig in his sophomore season.

SS Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    588.294/.329/.42317342 (12)497425/84

     

    2014 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    67.239/.271/.313164 (0)2101/10

     

    Player Overview

    Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in the Zack Greinke trade, Jean Segura entered the 2013 season with 151 big-league at-bats under his belt, and he won the everyday shortstop job out of spring training.

    The 24-year-old wound up being one of the breakout stars of the first half, hitting .325/.363/.487 to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team. His first-half stats were somewhat inflated by a .349 BABIP, though, and when that number fell to .285 in the second half, his slash line did along with it (.241/.268/.315).

    Segura is still very young, and he has a chance to develop into an elite shortstop, but it's fair to say he was playing beyond his ability in the first half last year. He makes consistent contact, but he may need to adjust his free-swinging approach (4.0 percent walk rate in 2013) to get his offensive game back on track.

Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    2411-8154.13.271.1413937117.237

     

    2014 Stats

    GSW-LIPERAWHIPHBBKBAA
    41-224.24.741.10171020.195

     

    Player Overview

    One of the best starters in all of baseball as recently as 2012, when he went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA to finish third in the AL Cy Young voting, Jered Weaver has seen his stuff decline precipitously over the past few seasons.

    According to FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity sat between 88.7 and 90.4 over the first five seasons of his career. However, it then dropped to 88.0 in 2012, 86.8 in 2013 and is currently at 86.1 so far this season.

    He's managed to make adjustments to this point, but it looks like the declining stuff may finally be catching up to him this year. His 4.74 ERA could be even worse, were it not for a .190 BABIP, and his walk rate of 3.6 BB/9 is well up from his 2.4 career mark. He is a smart-enough pitcher to still be serviceable, but his days as a bona fide ace look to be behind him.

Jayson Werth, RF, Washington Nationals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    462.318/.398/.53214749 (25)828460/101

     

    2014 Stats

    ABBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRBB/K
    65.262/.351/.446176 (3)11118/18

     

    Player Overview

    Jayson Werth has been under plenty of scrutiny since signing a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2011 season. It didn't exactly help matters that he hit .232 in his first season with the team.

    After dealing with injuries in 2012, he finally played up to his salary last year, finishing fifth in the NL in batting average, and his overall numbers would have been even better had he not missed 28 games with a strained hamstring.

    His impressive average last year got a big boost from a .358 BABIP, though he was barreling it up with more regularity, as his line-drive percentage climbed from 18.9 to 26.0. He should still provide the Nationals with some solid production, but don't expect him to make a run at the batting title or receive MVP consideration (13th last year's voting) this time around.

     

    *Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. All injury notes via MLBDepthCharts team pages.

     

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