2023 Projection Showdown — THE BAT X vs Steamer Hitter Projected $ Value, Part 1, A Review

We’ve finished reviewing the individual stat forecasts as part of the 2023 projection showdown, pitting THE BAT X against Steamer, so now it’s time to recap the projected dollar values. What’s interesting when reviewing projected dollar values is that sometimes the shape of a player’s performance differs from what was forecasted, but the total dollar value may have been nailed. So the total contribution was as desired, but a weak process was used…kind of like a blind squirrel finding a nut. Let’s begin by reviewing THE BAT X’s hitter favorites.

THE BAT X’s Undervalued Hitters
Name THE BAT X $ Value* Steamer $ Value* Actual $ Value Closer System
Trea Turner 35.98 27.13 24.51 Steamer
Matt Chapman 13.02 4.95 -1.31 Steamer
Willson Contreras 24.87 17.25 14.25 Steamer
Kyle Schwarber 27.48 20.23 19.47 Steamer
Miguel Vargas 7.41 1.00 -17.46 Steamer
José Ramírez 35.13 28.94 22.65 Steamer
*Updates to the default FanGraphs auction calculator as follows: 2 C, 5 OF, 1 MI, 1 CI, 1 UT, 9 P

Any hitter projected for a dollar value below 0 was adjusted to 0. We don’t really care if a hitter is projected for -4 or -12 and it messes with the comparison.

Wow, it was Steamer domination! This was a surprising list of hitters as five of the six were veterans that you would expect agreement on.

Trea Turner did indeed benefit from the friendlier rules that increased stolen bases…but barely. His steals total merely went up from 27 to 30 bases. That doesn’t sound problematic, but when you remember that a hitter’s value is defined by his relative contributions, then you understand why his value took a hit. In 2022 with just 27 steals, that represented 1.09% of the total steals recorded that year. But this season’s 30 swipes only represented 0.86% of total steals. That’s a massive difference, especially when considering his stolen base total actually rose. Also taking a bite out of his value was a .266 batting average, the lowest of his career, driven by a career low BABIP (which still finished well above the league average!). A career worst strikeout rate formed a double whammy against his batting average. He still remains an elite basestealer, as he wasn’t even caught once all year, so he should continue running despite the age jumping over 30.

Yikes, even the more pessimistic Steamer didn’t project a negative dollar value earned by Matt Chapman! And to think, he started the season on fire, batting .384 with five homers in April, but then hitting just five homers total over the next two months, while hitting around .200. He never hit above .247 in any other month or more than four home runs. For the first time in his career, his HR/FB rate slid into single digits, which is just shocking. This is especially so given the elite 114.3 MPH maxEV and 17.1% Barrel%. Where are all these hard hit balls going?! The upside obviously isn’t significant here to target him as a rebound candidate in shallower leagues, but I think that he looks like a pretty obvious bounceback and might be an especially good buy in OBP formats.

The projection difference for Willson Contreras essentially came down to batting average, with THE BAT X forecasting the highest mark among all systems, while Steamer was near the bottom. Amazingly, Contreras actually did enjoy a nice batting average rebound, posting a mark above his career average just as THE BAT X projected…but still handily missed the system’s dollar value forecast! His home run total was right around the last two seasons, as was his RBI + runs scored total, and he even stole a career best six bases. So, I have no idea how this projected line fell well short of even the pessimistic Steamer forecast considering I’m using the same settings to compute the actual dollar value that I did for the projected on our auction calculator. Perhaps it gets back to the relative logic, where the same counting stats just weren’t as valuable as expected, as I assume the two systems had projected similar marks to previous years.

When I originally looked at the two Kyle Schwarber forecasts, it wasn’t totally obvious what drove the difference in projected dollar value of over $7. Despite setting yet another career high in home runs, by one, Schwarber settled for a total dollar value just short of Steamer’s more pessimistic projection. That’s even with a runs scored + RBI total that likely eclipsed both forecasts. There are two reasons why Schwarber probably missed the dollar values — he failed to swipe a single base for the first time in his career, even after he stole 10 in 2022, and he hit just .197, the first time he finished sub-Mendoza (lower than .200) in a full season. He posted just a .209 BABIP, the second lowest mark among qualified hitters, despite new shift rules that figured to help left-handed pull hitters like him, and actually did result in a meaningful rebound in leaguewide BABIP. Since this new power level has been entirely driven by a FB% around 50% the past two seasons, his ultimate home run total is going to hinge on how long he could maintain that extreme rate. His OBP format value boost might be the largest in all of baseball so keep that in mind.

Miguel Vargas was the only non-veteran name on this list and the only reason sleeper. With Gavin Lux knocked out for the season, Vargas opened the season as the team’s starting second baseman. The big difference in his projections was batting average, where THE BAT X was bullish and Steamer was bearish, relatively speaking. Thanks to an ugly .224 BABIP, he ended up batting just .195 over a half season, which ultimately led to a demotion back to Triple-A. After posting consistently strong BABIP marks in the minors, that was a surprise, but his batted ball profile most certainly explains the struggles. He did show good plate discipline and decent enough power, but mostly doubles and triples power, as his HR/FB rate sat in single digits. I’m always hesitant to get behind a guy without any standout skills as one disappointing metric could quickly make him worthless in fantasy leagues.

Projected steals was the main driver of the projected dollar value difference for José Ramírez, as THE BAT X forecasted his highest mark since 2018 and the second highest of his career, while Steamer was less bullish. Clearly THE BAT X was factoring in the rule changes that ultimately resulted in the surge in steals more so than Steamer was at that point (I’m not sure if Steamer already accounted for it, or first did in a later projection update). Sure enough, Ramírez did increase his steals total and did end up stealing the second most bases of his career, exactly as THE BAT X had predicted. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent him from being a disappointment anyway, as other three counting stats all dipped. A big problem for his power is his lowest FB% since 2017, the year he had experienced his initial power spike. It’s anyone’s guess whether his FB% jumps back up, but it’ll be an important metric that determines how much his home run total rebounds next year.

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.

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