With projected catcher Rob Johnson slow to heal from offseason hip surgery, it’s becoming more and more likely the Seattle Mariners could open the season with prospect Adam Moore as the starter. The 24-year-old has responded positively to his opportunity in Spring Training, as he enters Friday 8-for-14 at the plate in Peoria. Moore is the most talented catcher in the Mariners organization, so it’s certainly possible this opportunity could be a springboard into a full-time position in 2010 and going forward. Today, I want to look at how Moore looks as a prospect, given what we already know about WAR’s affinity for catchers.
Let’s start with the defense, where the consensus is such that Moore has work to do with his receiving skills, but remains a modest talent behind the plate. He threw out 31% of runners last season, which is neither positive or negative, which tends to reflect scouts’ overall impressions of his defensive capabilities. We don’t even factor defensive plus-minus for catchers into our WAR calculations, but it’s something that you should consider for any catcher’s runs above replacement tally. I think in a full season of work, Moore would be a -2.5 behind the plate — no one believes he is a positive, but given that there has never even been talk of moving him from backstop, we have to assume he won’t be bad defensively.
The problem with that adjustment is when I say “a full season of work.” Catchers aren’t ever given this, and Moore will never be so good offensively that he will DH in his off days. So, even a perfect world projection of Moore’s ultimate playing time would suggest 100-130 games per season. We have also begun to account for a non-perfect world projection in the Replacement adjustment of our calculation. Ultimately, there’s three possibilities for Moore’s career: regular catcher, back-up catcher, and bust. I truly believe the latter is the least possible outcome; Clay Davenport’s minor league translations have Moore at .265/.315/.397 as a 24 year old in Triple-A. He’s ready.
If we say the perfect world projection for Moore is 125 games (we’re calling it 480 PA’s), a bust represents 0 games, and a back-up gig probably is good for about 180 plate appearances. I’m going to say the likelihood of outcomes is something like 40/20/40 — which works out to 264 PA’s. This would mean 8.8 in the replacement adjustment (versus +16 perfect world), +5.5 in the positional adjustment (versus +10) and changes our defensive dock to only 1.1 negative runs.
I’ll look at this 480 PA perfect world projection to predict offensive performance. Again, we’re going to stray from the scientific when considering offensive projection to keep things concise. I’m thinking 20% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate, a .290 BABIP, and 12 home runs. So in 480 plate appearances: 96 K, 36 BB, 4 HBP, 12 HR, 1 3B, 35 2B, 60 1B, 3 RBOE. That’s a .321 wOBA, which by the way, is exactly what the fans projected for Moore this season. I’m going to call Moore -2 offensively.
So, perfect world, we have: -2 offense, +16 replacement, +10 def. adjustment, -2 defense: 2.2 WAR. And, non-scientifically accounting for his bust potential leaves us with: -2 offense, +8.8 replacement, +5.5 def. adjustment, -1.1 defense: 1.1 WAR. Interestingly, that represents the same “floor” I projected Domonic Brown at earlier in the week, but a far cry from the 3.8 perfect world that Brown was given. It passes the smell test for me, and I think Mariners fans will be happy to get 2 wins from the catching spot: Dan Wilson and Kenji Johjima only did that six times in 15 years.