Since the end of the regular season, I’ve been helping various publications write player previews for the upcoming season. During the process, I kept a list of hitters who I felt there may be reasons to adjust their talent projections. I’ve found that even when I normally deep dive into hitters, I come up close to the standard projection and wasted my time. I found I’m better off focusing my effort on pitchers. I can’t afford to ignore hitters, though. I’m now going to analyze these few in detail over a series of articles to see if their projection holds up or do I need to adjust it.
For some of the hitters, the reason behind the talent change (e.g. injury) is obvious. For others, I don’t remember the exact reason. Oops. I’m going to start working my way through them starting with the ones with the highest ADP.
Note: I’m only dealing with the player’s talent. Projecting playing time is an entire separate fiasco.
Justin Turner (109th in NFBC ADP)
Turner missed the first month and half of 2018 returning from a fractured wrist. Once returning, he against missed some time on-and-off from the hand injury for another month. I’m sure it affected him for a while even after he quit missing time as seen here by his OPS by month:
Once healthy, he really turned on the power. The bad stats from the injury and regression’s pull from not having a full season of plate appearances will have his projected stats a little lower than I’d like or expect. I will likely go with his 2018 projection which showed a bit more power.
Season: Steamer Projection
The talent bump is about 2%.
Note: A 2% bump isn’t groundbreaking and most changes aren’t. One problem I’ve previously encountered was moving projections too far. Even a small bump can move a player quite a bit once the talent curve starts to flatten out.
Jurickson Profar (117th in NFBC ADP)
During the past season, Profar looked like a new hitter. The ball was coming off his bat better and it can be seen in his results. A few seasons back, 25-year-old was the game’s best prospect but shoulder injuries, starting in 2014 cost him his power and developmental time. Last season, he started producing as his prospect profile suggested. Here are his projected Steamer OPS values over the years (not sure why there is no 2013 projection).
Season: Projected OPS
His 2019 projection is the highest one in seven years. There was a reason analysts were excited over him years ago. The improvements happened across the board last season:
Stat: Before 2018 stats -> 2018 stats
AVG: .229 -> .254
OBP: .309 -> .335
SLG: .329 -> .458
BB%: 9.1% -> 9.1%
K%: 19.8% -> 14.8%
GB%: 46.5% -> 43.9%
HR/FB: 7.6% -> 13.2%
And he improved during the 2018 season while posting just a .269 BABIP over the entire season.
Stat: 2018 1H stats -> 2018 2H stats
AVG: .243 -> .270
OBP: .326 -> .348
SLG: .430 -> .498
BB%: 8.3% -> 10.2%
K%: 13.1% -> 17.2%
GB%: 41.9% -> 46.9%
HR/FB: 9.7% -> 19.0%
The overall results were better but some of his core traits (e.g. strikeouts and GB%) got worse. The biggest gains were with his power (.100 ISO to .204 ISO) with a career-high 87.3 average exit velocity and 32% StatCast Hard Hit rate.
As for a projection, I figured I’d just gamble on his 2018 results and found his Steamer AVG and OBP within a few points (.254 vs .258 and .335 vs .334) because of a some BABIP regression and a decent 2017 season in AAA. The power was off (.204 ISO vs .161). I’m going to boost his power up 40 points and make sure his HR/FB is around 13% instead of 10% projection.
Amed Rosario (138th in NFBC ADP)
Sometimes I should take more notes, and this is one instance. While the first two players had an obvious factor, Rosario doesn’t. Here are what I could have originally seen in him.
He did show quite a bit of improvement in plate discipline going from a 2% BB% to 5% and a K% from 29% to 20%, but both changes are already baked into his projection (5% BB%, 19% K%).
The only other find was his propensity to start stealing once he started leading off. In 269 PA leading off, he was 16 for 21 (76%) on the bases. In other lineup spots, he was eight for 14 (57%) in the other 323 plate appearances. Maybe I’ll give him a small stolen base jump depending on where he’s hitting but that’s all.
Hunter Renfroe (184th in NFBC ADP)
With Renfroe, I was interested in his second-half power increase where his HR/FB went from 15% to 24% and his ISO from .213 to .288. But another issue must be dealt with first. His projected Steamer ISO drops from .266 in 2018 and .236 in 2017 to just .217 in 2019. I investigated a couple other projections and they were around .245. Finally, Renfroe’s xISO from last season was .236 at xStats.
I’ll use a .240 ISO as a baseline for his projected 2019 talent.
Now, onto a power increase. First, he lowered his groundball rate from 38% to 37% and putting more balls in the air. His average exit velocity (EV) dropped from 90.5 mph to 89.4 (median EV from 94.0 mph to 91.8). A mixed bag with those two.
Going forward, I’m just going to ignore the Steamer power projection believe in a power repeat of the whole 2018 season.
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.