Sometimes you get excited about a player that seemingly no-one is in on. You even argue publicly that he’s not a fourth outfielder, and start dreamcasting him into production for your fantasy team. Maybe you even take him in an industry mock in the final rounds to signal your intent for the coming year.
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and check yourself.
The biggest problem with projecting Josh Reddick in 2012 is that he only has 403 Major League plate appearances under his belt. And those are spread over three major league seasons. They aren’t super useful in projecting his work going forward.
Enter MLEs, or Major League Equivalency lines. Brian Cartwright at The Hardball Times has full-year combined MLEs for Reddick — part of THT’s forecast package — and he graciously supplied them for us:
That’s the sound of your one-man bandwagon crashing to a halt. The fact that Reddick OBP’ed to a .301 level in Double-A in 2010 really figures in here. As much as you might like his .280/.327/.457 line in the Major Leagues last year, you have to admit that the other Minor League numbers weren’t so impressive.
With these new numbers in hand, we can do a simple MARCEL weighted projection using his combined MLEs. That gives us an ugly .236/.290/.415 line that shouldn’t excite any fantasy players in any leagues (even with the okay power).
Part of the blame lies with Reddick’s poor walk rate. Part of it lies with his propensity to hit fly balls, but even with his fly ball approach, his batted ball mix suggests he has deserved an .321 xBABIP over his Major League career. Part of the problem is that Reddick hits a lot of fly balls but hasn’t shown a HR/FB rate over league average yet. And now Reddick is moving to Oakland.
Why is there any reason to be excited about him?
For one, he has a role waiting for him. Second, he’s shown much better power in the minor leagues, with ISOs between .200 and .277 in the high minors. Third, his walk rate has been all over the place — highs of 9.8% across two levels in 2009 and 14.1% in Triple-A in 2011 (where a .207 BABIP hurt his OBP) — and it could easily improve. Fourth, the park factor in Oakland for lefties is only 89 (it’s worse for righties), so he’s not going to suffer too terribly at the hands of his new home. Fifth, he has an every-day role waiting for him.
So the numbers-based projections suggest that Bill James’ modest-sounding projection (.249/.312/.457 with 19 home runs and five stolen bases) could be optimistic. That would fit with the common perception of James’ projections. And it’s a sobering thought, worth pushing Reddick down on your cheat sheet for.
On the other hand, fantasy players don’t usually play with on-base percentage, and Reddick doesn’t strike out too much (20.3% career, 18% last year in his biggest sample, 16% across the minors) and has shown a line-drive stroke so far in the majors — he could have a surprisingly decent batting average despite the projections. And if he pushes that ISO closer to the .200 he had in the minors, he really could hit James’ power projections.
Maybe it’s not bandwagon-worthy, but that’s a sleeper for deeper rosters, at the very least. Yay?