Five Versions of Cleveland’s New Prospect, Zach Walters

Earlier today, the Cleveland Americans received infield prospect Zach Walters from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera. Less early today, my amusingly coiffed colleague Eno Sarris considered Walters’ possible future as a major-leaguer.

In Sarris’s piece, he cites work by Chris St. John which suggests that players who’ve recorded similar walk and strikeout rates as Walters at Triple-A — that those players have failed to make any sort of positive impact at the major-league level about 88% of the time. That’s a reasonable framework by which to evaluate Walters, and a not particularly optimistic conclusion. As Sarris concedes, however, St. John’s work is position agnostic. Moreover, one notes that it ignores the possible influence of power numbers. Indeed, it appears to be the case that Walters’ positional value and his home-run rate are likely to be his primary sources of value.

With a view towards attempting to better understand how Walters might perform at the major-league level, I’ve produced five different lines below, each of which represents a different version of Zach Walters prorated over a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

1 550 7.9% 19.8% 13 .301 0.0 100 0 0 2.0
2 550 4.7% 25.3% 20 .294 0.0 93 -4 -4 1.1
3 550 9.6% 38.0% 28 .286 -3.1 110 6 7 3.5
4 550 7.7% 23.8% 32 .348 -1.0 156 35 4 5.8
5 550 6.0% 30.0% 21 .300 0.0 94 -3 3 1.9

Line (1) is an average non-pitching major-league batter in the year 2014. This is what a Marcel-type projection system might produce for Walters. Line (2) is Walters’ current Steamer projection just prorated to 550 plate appearances. Steamer doesn’t care for Walters’ defense. Consider: for a shortstop to produce an overall defensive mark of -4 runs, he’d need to record a single-season UZR of something like -11 or -12 runs. Line (3) is Walters’ current major-league line — through just 52 plate appearances — prorated to a full season. Walters has managed to hit three home runs on the 31 occasions he hasn’t either walked or struck out — about three times the normal major-league rate. Line (4) is a verbatim rendering of Walters’ Triple-A line this year — with baserunning estimated from speed score and defense based entirely on positional adjustment. Line (5) is the least important of all the above insofar as it represents a sort of “scouting” projection by the author. Walters will strike out at a rate greater than average, is the suggestion, and will walk at a rate below average. But both his power and defensive skills are considerable enough in concert — is my own half-educated opinion — so as to produce an average major-leaguer.

Those who remain curious about Walters might derive some pleasure from his appearance on FanGraphs Audio last August.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Methinks Cory Snyder.