Projecting the Starters

Yesterday I looked at how the rotation projected for next season; today, I'm going to scope out the starting eight (or thereabouts):

Johnny Estrada:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 344 97 24 1 8 21 40 4 0 0 .282 .327 .425
ZiPS 401 111 27 0 8 22 49 7 0 0 .277 .323 .404
CHONE 392 109 24 1 9 22 46 7 0 0 .278 .328 .411

A lot of agreement here. Estrada looks like Damian Miller '05, which is fine production out of the catcher position. One thing worries me: his walks have declined from 39 in 462 ABs for Atlanta in '04 to 13 (!) in 414 for Arizona last year. As long as he stays closer to Damian Miller '05 than Pudge Rodriguez '05, it'll be okay, but keep your eye on that.

Prince Fielder:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 501 146 32 2 28 59 98 8 7 3 .292 .373 .531
ZiPS 542 152 34 1 30 58 113 10 5 3 .280 .358 .513
CHONE 530 147 32 1 28 63 117 9 6 3 .277 .364 .501

All systems project growth for Prince; it's just a matter of how much. I don't think anyone's worried about him, for the next couple of years anyway.

Rickie Weeks:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 452 124 27 4 16 59 45 15 14 5 .275 .358 .457
ZiPS 485 127 23 6 16 59 48 14 20 4 .262 .343 .433
CHONE 404 111 24 5 13 48 97 17 17 5 .274 .375 .453

Again, some very nice growth, considering Rickie barely slugged over .400 last year and walked only 30 times in 359 ABs. Both rates improve significantly in each projection. What's keeping them down a bit is the regression of his HBP rate--he was hit, amazingly, 19 times in those 359 at-bats last year. All of the above projections have significantly toned down that rate; however, Rickie has consistently shown an Biggio-like ability to get nailed thus far in his career, so I wouldn't be surprised if he got hit 25+ times in a full season. Of course, getting hit 25 times may very well preclude him from playing a full season.

Tony Graffanino:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 322 89 19 2 6 32 49 3 6 3 .276 .345 .409
ZiPS 347 89 21 2 5 36 97 8 4 2 .256 .338 .372
CHONE 437 113 24 2 8 43 72 5 6 3 .258 .331 .374

Doesn't exactly scream "starting third baseman," does it? Hurry up, Ryan.

JJ Hardy:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 356 45 20 1 11 34 51 3 2 1 .263 .329 .419
ZiPS 286 71 18 1 7 33 37 1 0 0 .248 .326 .392
CHONE 224 58 13 1 7 25 32 1 1 1 .261 .337 .420

Not as bad as I'd expected. I'd take .260/.330/.410 from JJ any day of the week and twice on Retro Fridays. I'm optimistic on his power, for whatever completely unscientific reason.

Corey Hart:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 379 109 25 4 18 36 81 4 16 6 .288 .353 .517
ZiPS 463 122 29 6 17 46 99 4 19 11 .263 .333 .462
CHONE 357 97 20 3 12 33 79 1 17 7 .272 .336 .450

Holy PECOTA, Batman! ZiPS and CHONE have Corey staying the course, but PECOTA projects impressive growth. Were I betting man, I'd go with the former, but I'd be happy to be wrong.

Bill Hall:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 527 146 34 5 28 53 139 4 12 6 .278 .346 .522
ZiPS 512 137 37 4 24 52 145 1 11 6 .268 .334 .496
CHONE 533 141 33 4 26 52 142 2 12 9 .264 .331 .487

ZiPS and CHONE seem pretty low compared to what I expect Hall to do next year. I think he'll walk quite a bit more than in any of those projections; he's improved his walk rate every year and his line over the last two months of last year was .269/.383/.522 (courtesy of David Pinto's fabulous Day By Day Database).

Geoff Jenkins:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 363 97 20 2 14 38 87 6 3 1 .268 .345 .452
ZiPS 477 124 28 2 17 44 130 14 1 0 .260 .338 .434
CHONE 504 131 28 2 20 51 135 12 2 1 .260 .342 .442

Kevin Mench:

Proj AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SB CS AVG OBP SLG
PECOTA 424 118 26 2 19 39 62 5 1 1 .279 .343 .486
ZiPS 474 129 28 3 19 36 92 7 1 1 .272 .330 .464
CHONE 469 121 26 2 17 38 67 5 2 1 .258 .321 .434

The Bench Brothers actually project fairly well, because, despite sucking last year, they both have relatively proven track records. The key question for both is: was last year a blip or a new level of performance? I have a lot more confidence in Mench bouncing back than Jenkins, for a couple reasons. Mench is only 29 and 126 ABs isn't much. I find it much more plausible that Jenkins, as he's aged, has lost some of his already-marginal ability to hit lefties. His continued success against righties actually contributes to his damning because it makes it less likely that his problems were injury-related.

Overall, pretty similar story to last year: moderate production with good upside. Graffanino is really the only sure bet to be below-average at his position. If Mench and Jenkins rebound and/or are utilized intelligently, they should provide good production. Estrada will hit well for a catcher. Health is paramount if Hardy and Weeks are going to contribute. Hall and Fielder will be the rocks, with Hart hopefully playing a strong third banana. Corey Koskie and Ryan Braun are the wildcards, but we'll look more at the bench tomorrow, with the bullpen and the dearly departed to follow.

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