Offseason Notes for January 19th

Yoenis Cespedes, Senores y Senoritas.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Assorted Headlines
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Tampa Bay
3. For or Against: Phillies First Basemen

Assorted Headlines
Wigginton to Start at First in Howard’s Absence
Ruben Amaro told ESPN’s Jim Bowden on Wednesday that Ty Wigginton will play first base as the team waits for Ryan Howard to return from injury. Wigginton wRC+s from the last three years (starting with 2009): 82, 92, 91. Ryan Howard’s wRC+ over that same stretch: 141, 126, 123. Average wRC+ for MLB first baseman in 2011: 112. Provided he’s an average fielder, Wigginton is likely no better than a 0.5 WAR first baseman over 600 plate appearances.

Cespedes Homers in Dominican League
Keith Law informs us that Cuban outfielding prospect Yoenis Cespedes has hit his first home run in the Dominican League. (Grazie mille to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors.)

Dragons Destroy Morgan County
On the down side, Morgan County, Georgia, has been destroyed. On the plus side: dragons!!!

Projecting: ZiPS for Tampa Bay
Dan Szymborski has published his ZiPS projections for the Tampa Bay Rays. Below are some of the notable ones, accompanied by very rough WAR projections (for the hitters, per 600 plate appearances, at least) calculated by the method outlined here. All numbers assume major league competition. OPS+ and ERA+ are park-adjusted.

Evan Longoria, 3B, 26: .274/.367/.514, 141 OPS+, 5.9 WAR
The Rays’ projection is the 21st released by Szymborski — and, of all the players projected so far, Longoria’s OPS+ is bested by only Miguel Cabrera (155) and Joey Votto (148). Of course, where the positional adjustment for first baseman is -12.5 runs for every 162 games, it’s +2.5 runs for third baseman. Nor does take into account Longoria’s EX (i.e. Excellent) defensive projection (again, not included in the very rough WAR projection above).

Ben Zobrist, 2B, 31: .261/.355/.444, 119 OPS, 4.2 WAR
Zobrist and Dustin Pedroia are roughly the same player in terms of output. Pedroia makes more contact; Zobrist walks and strikes out more often. Other than that, they both have above-average gloves at second and good baserunning numbers. Robinson Cano‘s Very Rough WAR is 4.5, but once factoring in defense, these three are equally valuable. Ian Kinsler has yet to be projected, but he’ll likely make the fourth in this group of elite AL second baseman.

David Price, LHP, 26: 200.0 IP, 184 K, 68 BB, 20 HR, 117 ERA+
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, 25: 155.0 IP, 115 K, 58 BB, 16 HR, 112 ERA+
Matt Moore, LHP, 23: 145.0 IP, 150 K, 69 BB, 14 HR, 109 ERA+
James Shields, RHP, 30: 215.1 IP, 184 K, 55 BB, 26 HR, 108 ERA+
Alex Cobb, RHP, 24: 122.0 IP, 91 K, 42 BB, 10 HR, 102 ERA+

Recently, we saw a Royals team with no starters above the league average ERA+ (for starters) of 96. The Rays have five starters above 100. Here’s a curious thing. That, above, is the pitchers sorted by ERA+. Here’s now a list of those same pitchers sorted by a rough projected FIP (using 3.14 as the AL constant, average last year was 4.05):

David Price, 3.62
Alex Cobb, 3.75
Matt Moore, 3.75
James Shields, 3.77
Jeremy Hellickson, 4.12

Hellickson, as you can see, fares less well by FIP; Cobb and Moore, better.

For or Against: Phillies First Basemen
As noted above, the Phillies will be relying primarily on Ty Wigginton to replace Ryan Howard at first base. S’that what you would do?

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Why bring in street children when you could sign a dragon? One of those guys has to be better than Wigginton.