Bounce-back Candidate: Chase Headley
Can Headley Return To His 2012 Form?
Chase Headley appeared headed for stardom after his breakout season in 2012 where he hit 31 homers and ranked in the top-10 in fWAR (7.2). Since then, however, it’s been a rough couple of seasons for the slick fielding third basemen. He’s failed to hit above .250 since 2012, and has hit just 26 home runs combined in the past two seasons.
Perhaps Headley, who is now thirty, will never become the star we all expected him to become. But I’m willing to bet that he comes closer to 2012’s numbers in 2015 than the numbers he’s put up since. There’s several reasons for that, and perhaps most importantly is getting out of Petco Park and into Yankee stadium.
It goes deeper than that, though.
In 2014, Headley ranked fourth in all of baseball with a 27.4% line-drive rate, yet his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was just .301. The next lowest BABIP amongst the top ten in line-drive rate was Alejandro De Aza at .317, but De Aza doesn’t walk or hit as many home runs as Headley so he’s putting the ball in play at a higher rate. It also didn’t help that Headley– despite hitting more line drives than almost anyone else in the game– batted just .660 on line drives, which was 127th in the league.
So we’ve established that Headley was unlucky when hitting the ball on a line, and that brings me to putting the ball in the air. In 2014 his average fly ball distance was 286.83 feet, ranking him above players like Carlos Gomez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Bautista. All of those previous players topped 20 homers in 2014, with Bautista launching 35– yet Headley managed just 13.
In summary- a move to a smaller ballpark, combined with a little more luck on hard-hit balls and a few more fly balls finding the seats should put Headley in a position to justify his new 4-year, $52MM contract.
Projection- .267/.369/.452; 24 HR; 5.8fWAR.
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