To say Josh Donaldson’s 2013 season was a surprise would be a huge under-statement. He put up a MVP caliber season at a premium position. The exact cause for his turnaround is not exactly known. It could have been his new bat or finally feeling comfortable in his transition to 3B. No matter the cause, since being promoted in the second half of 2012, he has been on a hitting tear.
Going into 2014, his talent level is a bit of a guess because of his variations in production over the past few seasons. To start with, here are the Steamer and ZiPS projections for Donaldson’s talent over the past few seasons.
Projections have not been kind to his average with no value over .250 from 2011 to 2013. His 2013 season AVG was caused from a combination of lower K% (21% to 16%) and higher BABIP (.278 to .333). These gains may not be sustainable. His 2013 xBABIP came in at .311, a bit lower than this .333 value. His xK% was higher at 20%. Using the two expected values, his AVG drop to .267, which is close to the 2014 Steamer projection.
In addition to the high AVG, he hit for decent power with 24 HR. His power seems legit. Going into the 2013 season, Steamer projected him for 13 home runs in 403 PA which works out to 21.5 HRs in 668 PA. The power can be seen in his 289-foot fly ball and HR distance which puts him between two other decent power hitters, Carlos Gomez and Adrian Beltre.
With his stolen bases, I would not expect zero, but for every one over three I would consider it a bonus.
Going back to his 2014 Steamer projection, here are his projections: 24 HR, 151 R +RBI, .273 AVG, 5 SB. I think those numbers will be pretty close to his output, with the exception of his AVG maybe going a bit lower. A lower AVG would lead to a lower R+ RBI total.
Josh Donaldson preformed almost as expected in 2013 given his PA and power. The one exception is his AVG which should drop 30 to 40 points in 2014 because of an inflated BABIP and deflated K%. I still expect a decent season from him, but don’t over pay for his 2013 production. Instead be reasonable and pay for expected production.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.