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Fantasy Baseball: Let's separate the lucky players from the unlucky ones

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Let’s look at a handful of BABIP — BABIP being "Batting Average on Balls in Play," a metric used to put context on hitter/pitcher outcomes that don't include homers and strikeouts — outliers over the first few months of the fantasy season.

Unlucky Hitters

Christian Walker, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks (.184 BABIP)

Walker somehow remains available in more than half of Yahoo leagues despite ranking seventh on the home run leaderboard (and among the top-10, Walker has the highest No Doubter percentage) thanks to an incredibly unlucky hit rate. Maybe Chase Field is partially to blame (the Diamondbacks are easily last in team BABIP), but Walker’s .184 BABIP is last among all MLB hitters and more than 100 points lower than his career mark.

His expected batting average is .275, while his expected slugging is in the top 3 percent of the league. Walker should be universally rostered even in the shallowest of leagues.

Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (.194 BABIP)

Muncy has struggled mightily while returning from his ongoing elbow injury, recording his lowest average exit velocity over the past five seasons. His BB% remains elite and is actually a career-high, but Muncy’s career hit rate is just .256, and he's one season removed from posting a .203 BABIP, so a gigantic leap in BA may not be in store.

Still, Muncy will undoubtedly start playing better (he homered Tuesday night) and hopefully improved health allows him to hit the ball harder over the second half.

Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers could see his fantasy value rise
Max Muncy should start getting better results for fantasy managers soon. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals (.225 BABIP)

Soto currently doesn’t rank as a top-100 fantasy player after getting drafted in the top-10, thanks in part to disappointing counting stats but mainly because of a batting average nearly 70 points lower than his career mark. Soto’s BABIP is the fourth-lowest in MLB, so it’s safe to expect a much better performance moving forward. Another issue has been left-handed pitching, as he’s hit just .182/.319/.333 versus southpaws this season (he has an .854 career OPS against them).

The Unluckiest Pitcher

Kevin Gausman, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (.366 BABIP)

Gausman is coming off a dominant start, although he had been struggling throughout June with a 1.68 WHIP. He still sports a strong 2.93 season ERA despite having the highest BABIP among all starting pitchers, including 30+ points more than the next highest. Since he became the pitcher he is today, Gausman has posted BABIPs of .296 and .274 over the last two seasons, so expect fewer hits to fall against him moving forward (Toronto’s defense is below average but not a disaster).

Of course, Gausman’s HR/FB rate is also a career and MLB-low 2.4%, so his ERA will likely even out while allowing more homers down the stretch.

The Fortunate One

Tony Gonsolin, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (.188 BABIP)

Gonsolin has been a “league winner” as a late-round flier who currently leads baseball in ERA (1.58), WHIP (0.85) and wins (nine), ranking as a top-12 overall fantasy player. Any pitcher with an ERA that low is sure to have a low hit rate, and Gonsolin is no exception. It’s a bit noteworthy, however, his BABIP is 30+ points lower than the next lowest among starters, and the Dodgers field a good, not great defense.

Gonsolin is going to start allowing more hits and will see his ERA increase, but he’ll continue to benefit from the Dodgers’ run support, and his career BABIP is a lowly .221, so the regression may not be overly severe.

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