I hold in my hands the first of the big offseason publications: The Bill James Handbook 2010. “Carson,” you might be asking, “how are you holding the book in your hands, plural, and typing at the same time? Isn’t that difficult?” To which I reply: “Sure, it is. But it’s the sort of sacrifice I”m willing to make for the FanGraphs readership.”
I don’t presume to even guess how the reader attacks his baseball annuals. For me, the first thing I do, is I head straight to the projections. I don’t know why exactly, but it probably has to do with two reasons. First, the greatest joy in life is crushing one’s friends in fantasy baseball. I want all the information possible towards achieving this great and noble end. Second, I like finding those projections of a slightly daring nature, so’s to give me something to dream about as the next season gets closer and closer.
Of course, some of the projections aren’t real shockers. Like, James and Co. think Pujols will slash .333/.443/.642 next year with 44 HR in 579 AB. That’s about what you’d think.
Other of them are more surprising — particularly among players who’ve yet to cut their major league teeth.
Below are five such projections (with position, RC/27, and slash stats). I’m including only hitters here for now, and will either pick up the pitchers next week, or never ever.
Joshua Bell, 3B, 6.06, 288/370/455
According to his website, Bell has “enchanted audiences worldwide with his breathtaking virtuosity and tone of rare beauty” for more than two decades. Apparently, he’s turned his attention to baseball as of late. Bell was acquired by Baltimore from Los Angeles (N) in the George Sherrill trade. He posted a wOBA of .397 in Double-A last year. He’s currently slashing .320/.404/.500 in the Arizona Fall League.
Tyler Flowers, C, 6.01, 275/353/476
Flowers got the proverbial cup of coffee with the White Sox at the end of season, netting 20 unspectacular plate appearances. Before that, though, he put up a great year across two levels. In particular, his .302/.445/.548 at Double-A Birmingham was impressive. He remains the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski, who enters the final year of his contract in 2010. If James’s projections are accurate, Flowers could be a contributor even before that.
Todd Frazier, 2B/3B, 5.51, 278/336/471
Marc Hulet thinks Frazier might ultimately be the Reds’ answer at third base — although probably not till 2011, as Scott Rolen will be there (until he gets injured, that is). In the meantime, Frazier probably has value as a Chone Figgins-y utility player. He hit .290/.350/.481 as a Mudcat in the Double-A Southern League, and his brief time at Triple-A resulted in similar numbers (.302/.362/.476 in 69 PA).
Logan Morrison, 1B, 6.26, 269/401/434
Who’s more likely to get injured, Scott Rolen or Nick Johnson? The answer to that question might inform who we see first: Frazier or Florida’s Logan Morrison. The thing that jumps out — about James’s projection and also Morrison’s 2009 season — is the walk rates. Morrison batted .277/.411/.442 this past year at Double-A Jacksonville, posting 63 walks versus only 46 strikeouts in 343 plate appearances.
Michael Taylor, COF, 5.89, 285/350/462
Physically speaking, Taylor’s almost the same size as former Pitt basketball standout DeJuan Blair. As such, you probably won’t be suprised to learn that, at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Taylor has some natural power. But he’s got some other, more interesting features. According to John Sickels, he’s got basically all the baseball tools you want, plus developing plate discipline, plus the sort of intelligence you’d expect from a Stanford guy. (Unless you’re a Berkeley guy, that is, in which case you probably assume he’s a dope.)
Answer: According to James’s projections, neither. While Cabrera projects at .278/.341/.406 and Gardner at .277/.368/.375 (with an impressive 36-of-44 stolen base record), James has farmhand Austin Jackson at .294/.356/.411.
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