It’s Pod Projections time again, as the 2019 forecasts are now available and its forecasted player population keeps growing! As usual, I’ll dive into my projection methodology (detailed in Projecting X 2.0) by sharing my process on several hitters and pitchers.
2019 Pod Projection Index
As you may well be aware, The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) is still ongoing. Surprisingly, 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar sports the widest gap between minimum and maximum pick among hitters with an ADP in the top 100. In the 21 TGFBI leagues, Andujar’s ADP sits at about 87, but he was selected as early as 46 and as late as 108. That’s a ginormous difference of 62 picks. I actually drafted him 96th overall, and as he lingered on the board, I wondered why. Let’s dive into the Pod Projection and try to figure out why there is such disagreement about his value.
Plate Appearances: 615
This is a mere nine more plate appearances than 2018. Since Andujar wasn’t exactly expected to hit as well as he did, let alone win the starting third base job out of spring training, he spent the early part of the season batting seventh and eight most of the time. With Didi Gregorius expected to be out for a while, that eliminates one potential hitter who could hit ahead of him. Roster Resource figures Andujar hits fifth, and whether you believe it or think Gleyber Torres or even Luke Voit open the season ahead, it’s hard to argue against him finding himself in more favorable lineup spots, increasing his PA total.
However, Andujar was absolutely atrocious defensively at third base. In fact, he easily posted the lowest UZR/150 among all qualified hitters. That could sometimes lead to a move to first base, or even DH, but the Yankees have better options offensively there. So the bottom line is that if Andujar’s defense isn’t vastly improved, there’s a chance he loses playing time. And that could be the risk being factored in by some fantasy owners and not others, causing such a divide in valuation.
For me, I see it as a small sample size that shouldn’t greatly affect our projection just yet. Plus, Adrian Beltre was apparently willing to work with Andujar over the offseason to help improve his defense, so the focus is there.
Andujar was never much of a walker in the minors, and he ended up swinging at pitches both inside and outside the strike zone far more frequently than the average hitter. Walk rates do tend to rise with age, so I’m figuring a modest improvement this year.
One of the reasons Andujar was a highly rated prospect was his ability to make contact. He posted a mid-teen strikeout rate at every minor league stop he made, which is impressive paired with ISO marks that often sat near .200. His 15.3% xK% suggests he deserved a slightly better mark than he actually posted, so given that, plus his string of low teen strikeout rates in recent minor league seasons led to a marginally better strikeout rate forecast.
GB%/LD%/FB%: 45% / 20% / 35%
Andujar’s fly ball tendency fluctuated in the minors — is he the high 30% fly ball guy he was from 2015 to 2016 or the high 20% to low 30% fly ball guy he was in 2017? Like it often happens, Anudjar settled right in between during his rookie campaign. Since the lower fly ball rate was more recent, I took a percentage point off his fly ball rate and added it to his ground ball rate to arrive at my batted ball distribution projection.
After three straight sub-.300 BABIP marks in the minors, Andujar started hitting more line drives and his BABIP spiked above .330 during his two stints in 2017. Once again, his .316 MLB BABIP was right in between the two levels he posted in the minors. His xBABIP, though, was a slightly less impressive .304, as he did nothing much better than the league average, while also popping up too often. Those skills were in line with how he performed in the minors, so my BABIP projection nearly mirrors his xBABIP.
HR/FB Ratio: 14.5%
One of the bigger surprises of Andujar’s season was his power output. He posted the highest ISO and HR/FB rate of his professional career. Was this fluky? His 16.9% xHR/FB rate screams an emphatic NO! While his barrels per true fly ball was just below the league average, his fly ball pull rate was highest among all full-timers, while his average fly ball distance sat respectable above the average.
However, just because he legitimately posted a 15.7% HR/FB rate supported by his underlying skills doesn’t mean he’s likely to do it again. I’m projecting some slight HR/FB regression given the risk of pitchers adjusting, as well as still incorporating his less impressive minor league outputs.
Runs and RBI: 74 and 89
I’m projecting a decline in runs scored, simply because his 2018 runs scored rate was higher than you would expect given his mediocre speed. My RBI projection is nearly identical to what he posted in 2018, but a couple of fewer homers and significantly fewer doubles, offset the more favorable lineup spot.
Could you believe Andujar stole as many as 12 bases (with just one caught stealing!) in 2015 at High-A?
Below is my final projected hitting line, along with the other systems for comparison:
We’re all fairly close in our playing time estimates, with the exception of Steamer, the one system dramatically lower than the rest. It makes it easier to compare counting stat forecasts when there are few playing time differences.
The range of batting averages aren’t that drastic, with the Fans naturally being the most optimistic, driven by the lowest projected strikeout rate and tied for the second highest BABIP, while ZiPS is just barely the most pessimistic, projecting the second highest strikeout rate and one of three sub-.300 BABIP marks.
The home run projections are all between 23 and 25, with, surprise, surprise, the Fans above everyone else, as the only system expecting more homers than last year. Every runs scored projection sits in the 70 range, while the Fans is just above 90! Likewise, all the RBI projections are in the 80 range, with the Fans mark closing in on 100.
Seems to me, everyone is more or less expecting the same out of Andujar, so aside from the defensive questions that could result in playing time loss, is there any other factors you think are contributing to the valuation divide? How do you project Andujar to perform offensively this season?
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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.