Yesterday, I compared my 2019 Pod Projections to Steamer in the stolen base category, identifying five hitters I was forecasting upside for versus the computer system. Today, I’ll discuss five of the downside guys.
One of Jake Bauers’s most appealing fantasy skills is his willingness to run. His Statcast Sprint Speed suggests his speed is a bit above the league average, even though his Spd score is below average. Of all the projection systems, Steamer is just behind ZiPS in stolen base bullishness. In fact, I’m the most pessimistic of all of them. My calculus is as follows — he’s not particularly fast, he had no real interest in running during his time with the Rays last year (in a reasonable sample of 388 plate appearances), and he wasn’t a very effective basestealer all year, between the Majors and minors (only 57% success rate). These are the types of guys I just don’t have much confidence in there minor league steals paces translating to the Majors.
Francisco Lindor’s stolen base rate surged last year, but I’m forecasting a drop right back toward his 2015-2017 levels. Steamer figures he’ll hang onto more of his gains. Unlike Bauers, Lindor is pretty fast, though not exactly a burner, ranking 116 on Statcast’s Sprint Speed leaderboard. As Lindor accepts his role as a power hitter now, I think he’s at greater risk of running less. It’s so rare to find such power/speed threats because power guys just don’t want to take risks on the basepaths for such small marginal gains in run expectation. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the strained calf he’s currently recovering from that could very well impact his willingness to run. In fact, I actually reduced his stolen base projection after the injury, and I’m guessing Steamer’s didn’t change.
With just 48 Major League plate appearances for Garrett Hampson, it’s really anyone’s guess how much he’ll run with the Rockies. I’m generally conservative with rookies, especially those who play in a bandbox like Coors Field where running into outs has more of a downside.
So Steamer is actually more conservative on Yasiel Puig’s stolen bases than all except THE BAT. My projection represents quite the step back from his last two seasons and more in line with his 2014-2016 years. It’s a similar reasoning to Lindor — a now 28-year-old whose ISO has jumped above .200 for the last two years, and I worry will soon slow down the running game. This is especially a risk for a guy like Puig who has suffered from numerous hamstring injuries, in addition to hip and oblique issues. With only two seasons over 444 plate appearances, why keep running?
Javier Baez experienced a PA/SB surge (meaning, it went down) last season, and all the projection systems, except THE BAT, are projecting him to held onto most of those gains and post his second best PA/SB in 2019. My mark is more in line with his pre-2018 levels. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is yet another example of a power guy that I’m not confident will continue running at a similar pace. Furthermore, a lot of the difference here is driven by an OBP projection difference, as I’m much more pessimistic than everyone else, since his BABIP is at risk of severe regression not reflected in the projections.
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.