2024 Projection Showdown — THE BAT X vs Steamer Hitter wOBA Forecasts

Let’s start looking toward 2024 and dive into the projections that are now all available on individual player pages and on the 2024 Pre-Season Projections page. It’s pretty clear that the projection systems are all pretty darn similar, or you would see far more variation between forecasts for individual players. That doesn’t mean they are identical, of course, with some regressing certain metrics more aggressively, or perhaps using Statcast metrics more than others. I don’t know all the ins and outs to compare, so instead, we’ll just focus on the players that THE BAT X and Steamer disagree on most.

I’ll start by reviewing wOBA. No, it’s not a stat in the majority of fantasy leagues, particularly traditional roto leagues. However, it does directly impact most fantasy categories, and also could affect playing time. I’ll begin with the hitters who THE BAT X is more bullish on wOBA than Steamer. I’ll also add My Take, guessing which system will ultimately prove closer to the hitter’s end of season wOBA mark.

THE BAT X wOBA Favorites
Name The BAT X Projected wOBA Steamer Projected wOBA Diff
Mike Trout 0.392 0.366 0.026
Matt Chapman 0.349 0.323 0.026
Shohei Ohtani 0.407 0.383 0.024
Dansby Swanson 0.341 0.320 0.021
Aaron Judge 0.415 0.395 0.020
Avisaíl García 0.316 0.298 0.018
Teoscar Hernández 0.347 0.332 0.015

This is quite the interesting group!

Who woulda thunk that future hall of famer and veteran Mike Trout would appear atop THE BAT X’s wOBA favorites list?! Once again, Trout failed to complete a full season due to injury, as he was limited to just 362 PAs. Incredibly, his wOBA slipped below .400 for the first time in his career in 2023! Steamer actually projected Trout to fall even further (well, barely) this season, while THE BAT X is projecting the most significant rebound of all the systems, but still a second straight sub-.400 wOBA.

The two systems are fairly close in BABIP forecasts, but THE BAT X is projecting a meaningfully higher walk rate and slightly lower strikeout rate than Steamer. That results in a 0.020 higher OBP forecasted by THE BAT X, which is massive. Every system is expecting better power output this season, but THE BAT X is most bullish, while Steamer is forecasting an ISO of 0.041 lower, which is an even larger difference than the OBP. So, THE BAT X is more bullish here thanks to a higher walk rate, lower strikeout rate, and higher ISO forecasts.

My Take — THE BAT X. Trout’s xwOBA was just below THE BAT X’s 2024 forecast, and 32 years old isn’t old enough to think a rebound is not in the cards.

It’s never easy to project a hitter who remains a free agent, so Matt Chapman’s forecasts could change depending on where he signs. Chapman has underperformed his xwOBA for five straight seasons now, but not by significant margins. As you might expect here, THE BAT X is most bullish among all systems, while Steamer is most bearish. With similar walk rate forecasts, we find the first difference stemming from the strikeout rate. THE BAT X is the only system below 28%, while Steamer’s projection is highest. Chapman is coming off his second highest career BABIP, despite a low LD% and continued extreme fly ball tendency, with lots of pop-ups. That profile makes it unlikely he comes close to another BABIP that high in my mind, and both systems here are projecting a mark below .300.

The real driver of the wOBA difference is in his power. There’s a humungous gap between ISO forecasts, with THE BAT X all the way up to .240 versus just a .191 mark from Steamer. Chapman hasn’t posted a mark as high as .240 since 2020, so that’s quite the aggressive jump in output. Of course, his Barrel% suggests significantly more power than he’s produced, which may be what THE BAT X is considering here.

My Take — Steamer. I do think it will prove to be a bit low, but Chapman finishes closer to it anyway, as THE BAT X is just too optimistic to make me think it ends up being closer.

We can’t be sure how Shohei Ohtani’s elbow injury, which is going to prevent him from pitching this season, affects his hitting, if it does at all. Back in mid-December when Ohtani signed a dream deal with the Dodgers, I ran down the park factors to determine whether the park switch might help or hurt his production. I ultimately concluded that I believed it would hurt his batting average and HR/FB rate, but result in more RBI and runs scored due to the better surrounding cast. Let’s see if the projections agree.

There’s a big range of wOBA projections among all the projection systems, and it’s interesting to see that Steamer isn’t the most pessimistic, and yet Ohtani’s name still appears third on this list of THE BAT X favorites. A big difference is in strikeout rate, where THE BAT X is the only system below 23%, while Steamer is the only one above 25%. Ohtani improved his strikeout rate immensel from his first four seasons to 2022, and he maintained those gains, improving slightly more, in 2023. THE BAT X is forecasting additional improvement, while Steamer thinks the trend is going to reverse.

That strikeout rate difference, along with a 0.010 point BABIP difference is resulting in a 0.021 point batting average gap. Furthermore, THE BAT X is more bullish on Ohtani’s power, with a 0.020 higher ISO projection.

My Take — Steamer. I think THE BAT X represents best case scenario and there’s too much risk with the park switch and the elbow injury to bet on the wOBA hitting that top end.

It’s weird to find Dansby Swanson’s name here coming off a fairly normal wOBA, just above his career mark and below his 2022. THE BAT X is on its own island here and while Steamer is the most pessimistic of the bunch, it’s much closer to the rest than THE BAT X is.

One of the drivers here is BABIP, where THE BAT X is far more bullish than Steamer, which is most bearish among systems. Similarly, THE BAT X is far more bullish on his ISO than Steamer, which is most pessimistic. What’s interesting to note here is that Swanson underperformed his xwOBA by 0.021 points, so THE BAT X might be more heavily weighing those Statcast metrics to move it more into the bullish camp.

My Take — THE BAT X. I’m not sure why Steamer is so bearish, while THE BAT X is right in line with his xwOBA marks since 2019. There’s also power upside if his FB% rebounds after he notched his lowest mark since 2017.

It was another elite season for Aaron Judge that was marred by injury. Actually, it may have been his best offensive season if going by xwOBA, as that hit a career high for him! THE BAT X sees a wOBA over .400 continuing, while Steamer is forecasting a drop back below that plateau, despite three straight xwOBA marks handily above.

The biggest difference appears to be in the ISO projections, as THE BAT X is well above .300, while Steamer is at just .292. Judge might be breaking Steamer’s system that finds it hard to forecast any hitter with three straight .300+ ISO marks! It’s a tough nut to crack as he has posted insane Barrel% marks in the mid-to-high 20% range over the last two seasons, which has pushed his ISO into that mid-to-high .300 range. There’s nothing suggesting it was a fluke or above his head, but may those years represent his peak? That’s quite the elite level of performance to maintain at age 32 and any small thing going wrong could cause him to regress rather meaningfully.

My Take — Steamer. This is a tough one, but really just boils down to going with the odds — a .415 wOBA is really, really hard, and if it requires maintaining an ISO well above .300 at the age of 32, I think more times than not, the hitter is going to fail to reach those levels.

Teoscar Hernández joins Ohtani on a new look Dodgers lineup and that should be a positive for his power, as Dodger Stadium has been significantly better for right-handed home runs than T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Coming off the lowest wOBA of his career, he did underperform his xwOBA, so he could rebound both from his luck neutralizing, and being in a better home park.

Most of the projected wOBA marks are pretty close to Steamer, with THE BAT X once again out on an island on its own as the most bullish system, by far. While all the systems forecast a BABIP just under .320, THE BAT X is just over .330. That’s spot on with his career mark and actually below what he’s posted the last four seasons. Then there’s the ISO and the difference here isn’t as big as for others, though once again, THE BAT X is far more bullish than any other system, but Steamer ranks second highest. THE BAT X’s ISO would be his highest since 2020, so it really expects a rebound.

My Take — THE BAT X. But just barely. I flip-flopped on this as I kinda of think he’ll finish in between the two, but given the history and the more favorable ballpark, going to side with the more bullish wOBA here.

Steamer wOBA Favorites
Name Steamer Projected wOBA THE BAT X Projected wOBA Diff
Wyatt Langford 0.351 0.311 0.039
Ildemaro Vargas 0.304 0.269 0.035
Jon Singleton 0.314 0.281 0.033
Tyler Heineman 0.292 0.259 0.033
David Fletcher 0.295 0.262 0.032
Carlos Pérez 0.293 0.261 0.032
Michael Stefanic 0.323 0.291 0.032
Willie Calhoun 0.325 0.295 0.030
Triston Casas 0.368 0.339 0.029
Tony Kemp 0.314 0.285 0.029
Jonathan Aranda 0.332 0.304 0.029
Rob Brantly 0.287 0.258 0.028
Matt Mervis 0.327 0.299 0.028
Darick Hall 0.323 0.295 0.028
Eric Hosmer 0.314 0.287 0.028
Lewin Díaz 0.310 0.282 0.027
Joey Ortiz 0.317 0.290 0.027
Mark Vientos 0.326 0.299 0.027
Luis Guillorme 0.309 0.282 0.027
Nathan Lukes 0.307 0.280 0.027
Yasmani Grandal 0.312 0.285 0.027
P.J. Higgins 0.297 0.270 0.027
Jordan Diaz 0.310 0.284 0.027
Tyler Gentry 0.318 0.291 0.027
Jeff McNeil 0.334 0.308 0.026
Steven Kwan 0.332 0.306 0.026
Kyle Manzardo 0.332 0.306 0.026
Luken Baker 0.323 0.298 0.026
Isaac Paredes 0.349 0.324 0.025
Danny Mendick 0.298 0.273 0.025
Kyle Stowers 0.316 0.291 0.025
Moisés Gómez 0.292 0.267 0.025
Spencer Horwitz 0.332 0.307 0.025
Rafael Ortega 0.302 0.277 0.025
Nick Madrigal 0.316 0.292 0.025
Yuli Gurriel 0.310 0.285 0.025
Brett Baty 0.321 0.296 0.025

There were significantly higher wOBA differences on this list, as the simple average (not weighted by PAs) of the wOBA projections for all players is about .070 higher by Steamer. So as a system, their wOBA marks on average are higher. So I had to dig down deep to find enough fantasy relevant names to discuss. I then filtered for guys projected for at least 400 PAs, and those will be the names I’ll talk about below.

Ooooohhh, already starting off hot with Wyatt Langford, the Rangers top prospect, ranked 15th overall. He has a chance to make the opening day roster and he wouldn’t do so if he wasn’t going to play every day. So his draft day cost could skyrocket depending on how he performs during spring training. But since he shot through the minors after getting drafted just last year, you need to take a pause and realize he has only recorded 186 minor league PAs, including just 54 at Double-A and 26 at Triple-A. Sure, he was drafted out of college, which is why he’ll even have a chance to make the roster, but still, the lack of minor league experience doesn’t make me feel confident he’ll rake immediately.

That said, boy oh boy is Steamer bullish. Actually, somehow all the projection systems except THE BAT X are forecasting a similar wOBA mark just over .350 (how did that happen?!). Langford has been a walk machine in the minors and rarely swings and misses. Steamer is therefore most bullish on his walk rate at 11.2%, while THE BAT X is in the single digits at 8.4%. He hasn’t posted a walk rate below 17% at any stop in the minors (tiny sample sizes)! Surprisingly, the strikeout rate projections are very similar among the two systems.

The two also differ in BABIP, with Steamer at .312, the most bullish among systems, and THE BAT X most bearish at just .286. Langford’s BABIPs are kinda meaningless over the small samples in the minors, but gosh darn have they been elite. Moving onto his power, the two are actually the second most pessimistic and most among all the systems, but THE BAT X is far and away most bearish. We do see that Langford posted a 111.5 MPH maxEV already in his 19 Triple-A at-bats, which is an excellent sign.

My Take — THE BAT X. It’s pretty clear that this guy has got mad skills that you rarely see in combination. However, with the lack of minor league experience, let alone upper minor league experience, I need to once again go with the odds. And those odds tell me there’s a much better chance he finishes with a wOBA below .331 than above it. Still, holy guacamole is he exciting, in both real and fantasy baseball.

Triston Casas pretty much performed up to expectations during his rookie campaign, posting a wOBA mark pretty close to his xwOBA. Steamer is buying him all the way…THE BAT X, not so much. The two systems are apart in walk rate by two percentage points, and strikeout rate by one percentage point. Steamer is also significantly more bullish on his BABIP, even though every system expects it to regress. As a flyball hitter, it was a surprise to see him post a mark well above .300 last year.

Moving to his ISO, Steamer is forecasting a slightly higher mark than last year, the most bullish of all systems, while THE BAT X is the only one below .220 at just .202. With a healthy 13.1% Barrel% and 113.2 MPH maxEV, his 2023 ISO looks legit.

My Take — Steamer. I actually think both systems are a little too aggressive at their extremes, and Casas faces some regression versus last year, but still finishes closer to Steamer’s wOBA forecast, as THE BAT X’s is too bearish for my taste.

To be honest, I actually forgot that Jeff McNeil was still a regular. After his power outburst in 2019, he hasn’t shown anything close to that since and has therefore been a fantasy afterthought in most leagues. He’s now coming off the second lowest wOBA of his career, which incredibly actually overperformed his xwOBA. Steamer is forecasting a significant rebound, while THE BAT X is taking that xwOBA seriously and expecting further decline.

The walk and strikeout projections are fairly similar, so we first find a big difference in BABIP, with Steamer more bullish than the crowd and THE BAT X. McNeil’s BABIP has been up and down throughout his career, and when it’s been up, he has overperformed his xwOBA, while when it’s been down, he has underperformed. So the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. There’s also a big difference in ISO, following the same path as BABIP — Steamer bullish, THE BAT X bearish. Steamer’s ISO projection would actually represent his highest since 2020, despite just posting the lowest Barrel% of his career, a microscopic 1.3%.

My Take — THE BAT X. I think it’s a bit too pessimistic, but I can’t get behind Steamer’s projection given the skills slide here.

Steven Kwan posted a higher xwOBA last year, but his wOBA slipped pretty meaningfully. I could see why Steamer would project a wOBA rebound for the 26-year-old, though it’s odd to see THE BAT X’s mark even lower than what he posted in 2023. The walk and strikeout rate projections differ, but strangely Steamer is higher on both, so that might have a perfectly offsetting impact on both batting average and OBP.

We find a difference in the BABIP forecasts, but not a significant one as all the forecasts are in a narrower range than the majority of the other names on this list. The biggest driver of this wOBA difference is in the ISO. Steamer is at .110, while THE BAT X is at just .076, which is laughably low. I guess looking at his maxEV and Barrel%, one wonders how he has managed any home runs, let alone posted a 3% HR/FB rate!

My Take — Steamer. I think I get THE BAT X’s power pessimism here, but I just don’t see it happening. That said, I think Kwan’s wOBA finishes between the two, but a bit closer to Steamer.

I’m not a fan of Isaac Paredes, and you could see my comments on him as part of my first base fantasy rankings. As noted there, he significantly overperformed his xwOBA, so I don’t think he comes close a repeat, which could cost him a big chunk of playing time on the shuffle-happy Rays.

While the strikeout rate projections are identical, Steamer is most bullish on his walk rate, while THE BAT X is the only system below 10%. The BABIP forecasts are close enough to rule that out as a driver. So let’s move to the ISO, which surprise, surprise, is the most significant factor driving the wOBA gap. Steamer is in line with the rest of the systems, but THE BAT X, which specifically uses Statcast data, is well below everyone else as the only system below .200. Paredes’s overperformance last year mostly came from his power, so it’s pretty clear what’s driving THE BAT X’s pessimism.

My Take — THE BAT X. It matches my thoughts when reviewing the numbers here.

While our Roster Resource page shows Brett Baty as the Mets’ starting third baseman, none of the projection systems are actually forecasting him to start all season long. If he hits like THE BAT X is projecting, he definitely won’t, but he does have a chance if Steamer proves right.

Baty was last ranked as the team’s second best prospect and 19th overall, but disappointed over a partial season last year, posting just a .266 wOBA (though .300 xwOBA). While Steamer is slightly more optimistic about his walk and strikeout rates, the big difference lies in the power projections. Steamer is far more bullish than THE BAT X on Baty’s ISO, even though all systems expect much better results than last year.

What’s odd is the mismatch between his maxEV and Barrel%. He posted an excellent 113.7 MPH maxEV, but his Barrel% of 7.6% was unimpressive. The hope is the latter increases to match up what we typically see pairing with that maxEV. He also needs to hit more fly balls to actually take advantage of that power, as he doesn’t have the speed to be worth hitting a high rate of grounders.

My Take — Steamer. I like to give rookies a mulligan and still rely heavily on minor league performance. The maxEV suggests the power potential is there, so it won’t take much to up his FB% and Barrel% and see his power output surge.

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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