For Pod Projectionee numero tres, I decided to take commenter Cason Jolette’s (Jason Colette’s mysterious brother?) suggestion to discuss former uber prospect, Astros sophomore outfielder George Springer. His coming out party was cut short by a quad injury, which ended his season two months prematurely. But he was quite impressive at the plate, posting a .352 wOBA, while displaying excellent patience and elite power. But coming off a minor league performance a year prior that included 45 stolen bases, he disappointed with his speed in Houston, as he swiped just five bags in seven tries. Let’s figure out what’s in store for Springer in 2015.
Plate Appearances: 600
He’s set to hit third in an offense projected by our depth charts to rank in the middle of the American League pack in runs scored. This might prove to be slightly low, but given the leg injury that cost him two months, I’d prefer to remain a bit conservative until he shows us he can exceed 600 plate appearances.
This just so happened to perfectly match with Steamer’s projection, which I didn’t look at until after my projection was complete. Springer posted an awful 18.6% SwStk% mark last year, en route to a 33% K%, but he’s been better in the minors. We have to figure some improvement, but how much is the question. He posted a respectable 24.4% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2013, so perhaps we could see a mid-20% mark in the near future. If he could maintain his power at that strikeout rate, it would potentially give him first round upside.
GB%/LD%/FB%: 44% / 18% / 38%
This is almost league average, but his line drive rate remains below that mark. Hitters do have significantly more control over their line drive rates than pitchers, so it’s unlikely that Springer is going to suddenly post a mark well above 20%. But given the rather small sample of his first taste of the Majors, I assume some improvement.
Springer posted just a .294 BABIP with the Astros, but there are two reasons for optimism. First, his xBABIP based on my formula was .309. That it was still above average despite the low line drive rate is intriguing. If I increase his line drive rate to the 18% I’m projecting, his xBABIP jumps to .319, almost identical to my projection. Second, his career minor league BABIP was a robust .379. We know that minor league BABIPs don’t perfectly translate to the Majors, but in my projecting experience, it does correlate well, though I have no research to back that up.
HR/FB Ratio: 22%
Springer was the second biggest HR/FB rate overachiver as per my xHR/FB rate formula. But! His xHR/FB rate still ranked ninth in baseball and was supported by a batted ball distance that ranked third. This all came as a 24-year-old rookie. Insane. So he’s got some serious power. But there’s just no way I could reasonably project a player with 345 career Major League plate appearances to post a mid-to-high 20% HR/FB rate, which is essentially league-leading territory. Springer’s projected HR/FB rate is the fourth highest I am projecting for any hitter.
And here are Springer’s HR/FB rates throughout his minor league career:
RBI and Runs: 83 and 79
Springer figures to hit third in the Astros order, behind a pair of hitters projected for mediocre OBP marks. Over the past three seasons, the third hole in the American League produced an average of 93 runs batted in, but that number includes every hitter that batted from that spot. Springer isn’t going to play 162 games and notch 700 plate appearances. Over 600 plate appearances, that average drops to 79 RBI. Springer is projected to hit for significantly more power than the average AL third hole hitter, but put the ball in play far less frequently. So based on an RBI per ball in play analysis, a projection of 83 runs batted in is what the math resulted in.
Given Springer’s propensity to strike out, his OBP projection is just .344, even with a strong walk rate. The rest of the Astros lineup is mediocre, though should be better than last year, when his runs scored per times on base was rather low. I’m expecting improvement on that front given what should be a better Astros supporting cast. Over 600 plate appearances, AL third hole batters have averaged 73 runs scored, but Springer’s ability to knock himself in overcomes my projection for him to score less frequently on non-home run times on base than the league average.
Here’s where things get interesting. As mentioned in the intro, Springer stole 45 bases at an impressive 85% success rate during his 2013 minor league season. He attempted .207 steals per time on base, excluding homers, in 2013, but just .073 steals per time on base while with the Astros. Springer’s Spd scores have oscillated between about average to excellent, while his triples rate suggests above average speed.
It’s difficult to determine exactly why he didn’t run very often while with the Astros and therefore his range of potential outcomes this year is quite large. He’s not a classic speedster, so it’s hard to imagine him coming anywhere close to the 40 steals plateau. But whether he only swipes 10 or attempts 30, I don’t know. My projection is playing it safe by sitting somewhere in the middle.
Below is my final projected fantasy batting line, along with the other systems for comparison.
|ZiPS – 600 PA||600||532||0.238||32||90||88||21||32.5%||0.311|
It’s no surprise that the Fans’ projected line would yield the highest fantasy value. However, it is a surprise that ZiPS projects the most home runs. The range of projected stolen bases is a bit smaller than I would have guessed, as it seems all systems are just projecting somewhere in between his minor league and Major League marks. The Steamer BABIP projection is curiously low, though in looking at their projections this year, Steamer is seemingly too low on 99% of players. Odd. I’m most optimistic on BABIP, which makes sense since I’m likely incorporating the most data of any system, and it has led to my bullishness.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.