Five Notable Hitting Projections from the Bill James Handbook 2010

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.)

***

Bonus: Yankee Center Fielders
Question: Who should play center field for the Yankers next year: Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner?

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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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

29 Responses to “Five Notable Hitting Projections from the Bill James Handbook 2010”

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  1. He’s known to be way to high on top prospects, such as Jackson. In addition, you are forgetting about defense, where Gardner just rakes.

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    • Carson Cistulli says:

      Duly noted on both points. Furthermore, I like the idea of someone “raking” defensively. In that case, it’s hard not to imagine Gardner just hanging out with the Yankees grounds crew, literally raking the Yankee Stadium outfield.

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  2. Rob in CT says:

    I’d love to believe that projection for AJax, but with his crazy K-rate in AAA, I really really doubt it. Plus, with Melky and GoGoGadget Gardner available, the Yankees are very unlikely to promote Jackson unless he takes a noticeable step forward in AAA.

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    • mjmetro says:

      If damon doesn’t come back, I guess we would have melky in LF and gardner in CF, though I don’t think melky is good enough to provide even average value in LF (he certainly doesn’t in center). gardner is my choice (or keep platooning them in center and find someone else for LF who can hit).

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      • Kevin S. says:

        It’s probably a complete wash. Per 150 defensive games, Melky’s almost exactly ten runs better in the corners than he is in center. Given that the positional adjustment for center is +2.5 per 162 defensive games and -7.5 for the corners, he provides virtually the same value no matter where he plays. As a reserve, I think he adds some utility by being able to play all three positions, but that’s not terribly relevant if he’s starting.

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      • Twac00 says:

        It would be nothing more than a 1-year stop gap until Carl Crawford hits FA or A-Jax steps it up in AAA next year.

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  3. BS says:

    Does he state how many at bats he expects these prospects to get? The slashes could be either interesting or not, depending on whether they do it in 100 at bats or 500. Michael Taylor, for example, I can’t imagine breaking into the Phillies OF unless someone got hurt.

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  4. Detroit Michael says:

    BS, the book gives a full statistical line but he’s not really projecting playing time for prospects but instead showing what they would projected to do if they get the playing time. This is made clear in the essay preceding the projections each year.

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  5. Greg F. says:

    I looked into the Yankee center field question with these very projections(link is in my name). I still think that Gardner would be the better option if they were to live up to these numbers because of his superior defense anyway. He also has Austin Jackson projected to have a .371 BABIP, which is just plain ridiculous.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Is it ridiculous? A speedy, line-drive producing lefty gap hitter is exactly the type of player we’d expect to post really high BABIPs.

      His BABIPs in the minors – .355, .369, .349, .390, good for a career BABIP of .366. Not so sure that a .371 is unreasonable.

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      • R M says:

        Minor league defenses are not nearly as good as major league ones.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Certainly not, but it’s not “plain ridiculous” that a player maintain a BABIP that he’s posted over four years.

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      • Fresh Hops says:

        It’s ridiculous Kevin. While some players may have a genuine skill set for a .371 BABIP, *expecting* anyone to have that skill set at the major league level without having *observed* it is ridiculous.

        Expect Jackson to have an MLB average BABIP until he’s actually played 200 major league games, then average his actual BABIP with league BABIP to have a pretty good prediction of what his future BABIP will be.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        It’s equally ridiculous to give absolutely no credence to minor-league track record. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but when combining that track record with a skill set particularly conducive to high BABIPs, it’s just as ridiculous to expect him to be league average. We do have information on him, and it’s not entirely insignificant. Why ignore it?

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      • RollingWave says:

        Jackson is a right handed batter, he’s fast but doesn’t appear to be .. say Carl Crawford fast.

        Either way, the Yankees aren’t forced to make a decision here. all 3 players are well under team control anyway. just keep playing the hot hand until something sticks.

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  6. Sean says:

    I’m wondering what kind of projection James has for Chris Davis THIS year?

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    • Kevin S. says:

      You know what would be nice? If this site had projections available on individual player pages for the previous year, including those presented by Mr. James.

      Okay, I was really being a dick there. ‘Twas in jest, please don’t take me seriously. James projected Davis to hit .302/.352/.599. You can see other Davis projections by going to his player page on this site and clicking the “Show Projections” button right under each section heading.

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  7. Logan says:

    ““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.””

    See, I lol’d pretty hard at this. Now I’m just waiting for the first obnoxious Carson-basher to bitch about the cuteness factor in the writing style. Srsly, get over yourselves you curmudgeons!

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    • joser says:

      I assumed he had it braced on his knees. I know I’ve worked at the keyboard with a book this way. Typing with my nose got tiring, however.

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      • Humpty says:

        Joser,

        I’m surprised you haven’t considered multitasking. There’s more to the head than a nose.

        Didn’t you take seriously my hit song, “The Humpty Dance,” and how I bragged that “in a sixty nine, my humpty nose will tickle your rear”? My tongue was certainly not in cheek.

        With nose and tongue for digits, I daresay your typing speed will increase twofold.

        H

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  8. joser says:

    “Who should play center field for the Yankers next year?” — whoever is the better fielder, maybe? Oh, you mean who should be going to the plate in the CF’s spot in the batting order?

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  9. ofMontreal says:

    That Joshua Bell joke is what makes Bill James better than the rest. Plus he doesn’t have an editor telling him he can’t do it. That said, I don’t think we’ll see much of Bell next year in Balt. More like 2011.

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    • Matt L says:

      The Joshua Bell joke was hilarious, everyone in my living room was concerned for my health as I gasped for air.

      However, Mr. Montreal, the joke is not James’s, the joke belongs to the always funny Cistulli.

      Goddamn that was funny

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  10. Nate says:

    Brandon Phillips has offered to move to SS if necessary in the past. Is that how Todd Fraizer will get his PT?

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  11. Bigguy says:

    If damon doesn’t come back, I guess we would have melky in LF and gardner in CF, though I don’t think melky is good enough to provide even average value in LF (he certainly doesn’t in center). gardner is my choice (or keep platooning them in center and find someone else for LF who can hit).

    This statement is just completely wrong. Cabrera is an above avg CF with a great arm. Putting him in either corner OF would make him an even stronger defensive player.

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  12. Twac00 says:

    Does James take the team a guy plays on into account?

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  13. Over at MLBFP, we agree that Logan Morrison could be an OBA machine, but we also still believe in his power potential. Check out our scouting report: http://www.mlbfantasyprospects.com/2009/11/14-mlb-fantasy-prospect-logan-morrison-1b-florida-marlins—scouting-report.html

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  14. yanks2009wschamps says:

    What do you guys think of the idea of the Yankees to sign Mike Cameron to a 1yr deal. (heard someone mention that a while ago). Give A-Jax another year in AAA, shift Melky/Gardner over. If they don’t resign Damon, do you shfit Melky to right (cause of his arm) and Swisher to left? Cameron also said he is open to moving from center…………

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