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Projection Review: The non-first base infielders

Scooter Gennett progressed, Jean Segura didn't, and Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks did what they do.

Jeffrey Phelps

In the past couple of weeks I have been slowly working my way through the preseason projections review series. So far I've gone back through the rotation and outfield (Part 1Part 2, and Part 3). Back in February and March I called an over or under on each player's ZiPS line. The original post is right here.

Aramis Ramirez

Ramirez PA Average On-base Slugging Wins
ZiPS 459 .275 .338 .473 2.3
Actual 531 .285 .330 .427 2.1

I took the over on Ramirez's line with this justification:

Yes, there's downside risk due to the age and the injury track record, but his OBP has been over .360 the past three years and I think that the "old age" risk for Ramirez is more about him missing games than him playing poorly.

Turns out that wasn't quite right, which is another way of saying I was wrong. It was still a reasonably productive season for Ramirez, but I was wrong that all of the downside risk was about missed time due to injury, and not less effectiveness. He did in fact show some signs of decline this year while staying healthy for much of the season, which is the exact opposite of what went down back in 2013.

I think Aramis has a couple of solid years left in him, but I'd be skeptical about projecting him for any better than the line he put up this year from here on out-- slightly better than league average. He's playing old man baseball now. That can work for the Brewers going forward if they can work out a reasonable 2-year deal, and (importantly) if they can manage to bring back Mark Reynolds or someone similar for insurance purposes.

Jean Segura

Davis PA Average On-base Slugging Wins
ZiPS 580 .284 .322 .422 3.0
Actual 557 .246 .289 .326 0.3

Yikes.

Segura made us all very excited with his first half of 2013 and somewhat concerned with his second half. There was a time when people thought that it was ambitious to project that Segura would ever even make double-digit home runs in a season, much less in the first 3 months of his age-23 season. Then we saw a glimpse of what that might look like when he only hit one more after the All-Star break...

ZiPS basically projects Segura to have about the same exact year he did last year. That certainly makes sense given the unevenness of his performance over the course of the season, but given the chance to bet same or better on a player who turned 24 years old yesterday, I'm going to bet on the improvement.

Segura didn't improve. For long stretches of the year he was basically a replacement-level player. In his career so far, it's looking like the first half of 2013 is the outlier.

After that doom and gloom, there remains plenty of room for optimism. We can be confident by now that Jean is an above-average defensive shortstop, so the offensive bar he has to clear isn't too high. His peripheral batting stats like strikeout/walk rates and ball-in-play types were very similar overall to last year. 2014 wasn't pretty, and I no longer have perennial All-Star hopes for him, but I think there's good reason to believe he actually does improve next year. For real this time.

Rickie Weeks

Davis PA Average On-base Slugging Wins
ZiPS 522 .236 .328 .406 1.3
Actual 286 .274 .357 .452 1.2

I had solid hopes for Rickie in a reduced role:

From 2007 to 2011, Weeks was a solidly above-average second-baseman, and nearly had a 6-win season for the 2010 team. That almost seems hard to believe after watching him struggle badly for 2 seasons now without any ridiculously noticeable change in underlying peripheral numbers...

I could easily see him beating that hitting line, but the Brewers aren't about to let him get anywhere near the neighborhood of 600 plate appearances and all indications is that it's somewhat Scooter Gennett's job at this point. It goes without saying that leveraging him against lefties would be smart.

Weeks came out and had his best year since 2011. It's very doubtful he'll be back, and you have to think a wise team could scoop him up on a cheap deal and give him a shot to win a larger role, as long as they had a decent back up lefty to cover for him. At this point, though, his defense isn't going to get any better and was never all that good in the first place. It will be interesting to see how and where he lands, as defense is probably the difference between a player like Rickie being washed out of the bigs in a couple of years or playing until he's 40.

Scooter Gennett

Davis PA Average On-base Slugging Wins
ZiPS 626 .276 .309 .387 1.4
Actual 531 .289 .320 .434 1.8

Scooter!

I want to be a believer, I really do, but he basically had a career best batting line at any level last year, in the majors. I think he equals that ZiPS batting line but isn't above-average on defense and gets closer to 400 PA, which puts his value at slightly lower than the projection.

The interesting thing to me is how similarly Weeks and Gennett project over a full season-- almost exactly between average and replacement level. I'm not breaking any new ground here, but it appears to be an ideal spot to leverage a platoon and try to wring 2 WAR (average production) at second base overall.

And I was wrong. I'm not exactly comfortable projecting Scooter any further upward in the future, but he was an above-average hitter last year and a solidly average defender. He definitely needs a platoon partner, but for the Brewers to find a cheap option like him seemingly out of nowhere gives them flexibility going forward that no one could have predicted when we looked ahead to the expiration of Weeks's contract.