2023 Projection Showdown — THE BAT X vs Steamer wOBA Forecasts, Sleepers Part 2

Yesterday, I identified and discussed five hitters with an ADP of at least 300 who THE BAT X is more bullish on for wOBA than Steamer. You might call these hitters “sleepers”. Let’s now flip over to Steamer’s implied sleepers. I made a small change to my filters here, adding a maximum of 450 PAs, to go along with my 300 PA minimum. This was to remove some names that have appeared multiple times in these showdowns, as there’s no sense in discussing them yet again.

Steamer wOBA Sleepers
Name THE BAT X wOBA Steamer wOBA wOBA Projection Diff
David Fletcher 0.260 0.295 0.035
Jacob Stallings 0.263 0.289 0.026
Oscar Colas 0.289 0.315 0.026
Corey Dickerson 0.290 0.312 0.022
Miguel Cabrera 0.270 0.292 0.022
Kyle Stowers 0.289 0.310 0.021

Now this is an interesting group!

It’s a surprise to find David Fletcher’s name way out on top of Steamer’s sleeper list. That’s more because of how bearish THE BAT X is, rather than Steamer being super bullish. Once a strong batting average and OBP guy, Fletcher has posted a mid-.270 wOBA over the last two seasons. Steamer is more optimistic about Fletcher’s walk rate rebounding, while it’s significantly more bullish on his BABIP. THE BAT X sees barely a rebound off last year’s career low, despite Fletcher underperforming his xBA by a meaningful degree. If you thought Fletcher’s ISO couldn’t get any lower, welp, THE BAT X projects are microscopic .050 mark, which would represent a new career low…by far. On the other hand, Steamer projects a higher mark than his last two seasons, but that’s still not saying much. While I lean toward Steamer’s wOBA projection as ultimately proving closer, the upside here is still so low that it hardly makes it worth speculating that Steamer is actually right.

What mediocre power Jacob Stallings had disappeared last year, but Steamer is projecting a more significant rebound in his ISO than THE BAT X. It’s interesting because his maxEV jumped to a career best, though his Barrel% fell to a career low. That said, his Barrel% was never very impressive to begin with, so the decline didn’t exactly come from great heights. I think he’s due for better results in the power department. Steamer is also more bullish on his BABIP, with THE BAT X sitting lowest among systems. THE BAT X’s forecast would actually represent a career low, while Steamer sees a higher mark, but still well below his career average. I’m going with Steamer on this one, as it represents a marginal rebound and doesn’t appear too optimistic.

Finally some excitement with Oscar Colas’ name! The White Sox third best prospect is said to be competing with Gavin Sheets for at least a strong side platoon role in right field. Having played previously in both Cuba and Japan, Colas didn’t debut in MLB’s minors until last year, where he showed excellent power, but some worrying plate discipline metrics. Steamer is most bullish among all systems on his strikeout rate, which I think will be proven too optimistic. Minor leaguers with high SwStk% mark struggle to post near league average strikeout rates in the Majors, unless they swing at everything. Colas seems somewhat free swingerish, with his low walk rate, so perhaps he fits into that camp. Steamer is also most bullish on his BABIP as the only system over .300. Given his short minor league stint with high BABIP marks, I do buy that. Finally, and most importantly for fantasy owners, is his ISO. Steamer is in line with the rest of the systems, which is significantly more bullish than THE BAT X’s far lower forecast. As a result, despite believing more in THE BAT X’s strikeout rate forecast, I’m with Steamer here, as I think THE BAT X is simply too pessimistic.

The well-traveled Corey Dickerson has joined the Nationals and at least at the start, figures to open the season in a strong side platoon role. Steamer is most bullish among systems on his BABIP, while THE BAT X is most bearish. Even counting just one season with the Rockies, Dickerson has overperformed his xBA every single season of his career. So I think Steamer proves closer, at least on his BABIP projection. ISO is where the systems differ as well, as Steamer is in line with the other system, while THE BAT X is significantly lower than all. In fact, THE BAT X’s forecast would represent a career low for him, marking a four year slide in the metric. His maxEV remains strong and over 110, but his Barrel% has slid the last two seasons. According to our park factors, Nationals Park was top five for left-handed homers last year and tied for second in doubles. That makes me believe far more in Steamer’s more bullish ISO forecast, ultimately siding with their mark as proving closer.

Wow, if projection systems can’t agree on 39-year-old, many year veteran Miguel Cabrera, than clearly we still have more learning to do about forecasting players! I think this is the first season where our depth chart expected Cabrera to be a bench bat, which is crazy to see. Once again, we find a glaring difference in BABIP forecasts, with Steamer in line with ZiPS, but THE BAT X lowest among all systems. Cabrera has been a BABIP monster throughout his career, posting a .340 mark, and has only posted a sub-.300 mark twice, one of which came during the short 2020 season. Do you understand how incredible that is?! THE BAT X is now forecasting him to do it a third time, which isn’t unreasonable considering he has overperformed his xBA for two straight seasons, after underperforming in four of the previous five. While Steamer might prove a tad optimistic, I can’t see his BABIP falling below .300. On the ISO side, THE BAT X is projecting the lowest mark among systems, as it sees him rebounding off last year’s weak .063 mark, but still doesn’t see him returning to the .100+ level, while Steamer does. I think the park changes in Detroit should help here, plus he still owns a maxEV of just over 110. I think going with Steamer’s projection of just a .292 wOBA is an easy call, as there’s still far more room for one last hurrah to prove it more accurate than he continue to slide further into THE BAT X’s projection.

Kyle Stowers earned a cup of coffee last year and we project him to open the season on the strong side of a DH platoon. Steamer is more optimistic about both his walk rate and strikeout rate, while his BABIP forecast is almost identical between the two systems. After posting double digit walk rates at four straight minor league stops in 2021 and 2022, Stowers lost his plate patience during his MLB debut and his walk rate was cut in half. Steamer is clearly placing a bit more weight on his minor league track record. Steamer is also the only system projecting a sub-30% strikeout rate. Stowers did reduce his strikeout rate during his time at Triple-A in 2022, but swung and missed often during his first taste of big league action. I think I would guess he finishes a bit closer to THE BAT X’s higher strikeout rate projection. As usual, the two systems disagree greatly about his ISO, with Steamer in line, though actually lower, than the other systems, while THE BAT X is the lowest. With a solid maxEV, strong Barrel%, and consistently high ISO marks in the minors, I just can’t get behind THE BAT X’s forecast of just a .149 ISO. Overall, I’m siding with Steamer here and its .310 wOBA projection.

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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