Today I kick off the release of my 2018 player projections. I will be attempting to release as many as possible, team by team along with my thoughts and analysis of the players. My goal is to release them all as CSV files with $ values for a variety of formats in the coming weeks. I’ll also be updating them behind the scenes and in the comment section of these posts as roster changes occur and spring training impacts occur.
But before I get going, let me relate some notes about my methods. First off, I have never utilized modeling or generated projections. I prefer to wade into it all, armed with a spreadsheet loaded with metrics and vlookups aplenty, and generating projections based on regressions and trends. My projections, for the most part, tend (as they should) to regress towards the mean and are rarely exciting. They should be considered a baseline for your expectations based on their career history, both in the majors and minors. Rookies, as a result, will the most potentially volatile of projections (for everyone who does projections, not just me!).
With that, here are my preliminary projections for the 2018 Baltimore Orioles hitters.
As you may note, I am not nearly as high on Chance Sisco I was back in his early days as an Orioles prospect. The team has seen fit to let Wellington Castillo walk via free agency putting Sisco in the position of having the position to lose in spring training. While there is some talk of still emerging power in his profile, Sisco’s number one skill, in my mind, has not translated well as he moved up through the minors showing rather an alarming increase in his walk rates over time. His defense still draws mixed reviews which may impact his playing time especially in the context of having a defense-oriented manager like Buck Showalter watching him. I expect he’ll receive the majority of catching at-bats for the O’s, but do so in underwhelming fashion.
Caleb Joseph is a stalwart backup who could see more playing time than I have laid out here and has occasionally contributed as a power source and is worth noting from that perspective especially when you compare home run projections for the two catchers despite the disparity in playing time.
Chris Davis’s projection mostly indicates somewhat of a regression towards the norm minus the oblique injury that caused him to miss a month last season, but also acknowledges the increase in strikeout rates and his age which reduces the chances he has to once against achieving his 2015 and prior levels of play. He has surprised before with significant swings in BABIP, but to bid for someone who hits above .the .220 levels is inviting danger.
Schoop provides one of the more stable skill sets on the team in terms of power and playing time. His gains in batting average and on-base percentage last year are supported wholly by an increase on batting average in balls in play, so a slip, though not one that should suggest you bid elsewhere, is to be expected.
Ok, my Manny Machado projection may indeed be exciting and encouraging Orioles fans and Machado owners alike, but then again it is the product mostly of regression, in his favor. As a 25-year old who displayed the same or similar skills to his 2016 campaign in 2017, the .259/.310/.471 line looks like an anomaly with a return to his 2015/2016 levels. That is not to say 2017 could not happen again, it can, but given the sum of his talents and skills, it represents something of a worst case (not injury oriented) scenario. Note that Machado only qualifies at 3B heading into 2018 but will be the starting shortstop.
Tim Beckham, as you can see from Manny Machado, will also be gaining a new qualifying position as he shifts over to third base. The power looks legitimate and he may still have enough wheels to reach double-digits in steals. Look elsewhere for BA and OBP.
Trey Mancini’s power is for real, but that .293 batting average is not supported by hi skills. He’ll contribute and will increase his plate appearances in 2018, but not at quite as a high level this time. Adam Jones is the epitome of consistency but is now on the wrong side of thirty. Similar results are likely in store for him, but the context has all changed with respect to the stats he provides and as a result, that dollar value has decreased. Last year I recall in some keeper leagues owners bidding for him close to the $30 level that he once commanded. In today’s context with so many similar players available that value can now be found in the lower-twenties which makes him a nice, low-risk, modest cost addition to your team.
Austin Hays is the wildcard in the Orioles outfield situation. No one doubts that this right-hander has excellent raw power and may have a few thirty home run seasons in him down the road. He showed a good quick bat, making a lot of hard contact in the minors, but his approach may have caught up to him in the Majors. He screams high risk/high reward due to the degree of difficulty regarding how well his minor league strikeout rates will translate to the majors over a larger sample. I would not be surprised by a very hot start to the year if he receives a steady fastball diet with a second-half fall off. At the very least, his sub 5% walk-rate is someone to expect to be streaky.
Mark Trumbo’s fall back to earth after his forty-seven homerun season was not all that shocking and he accomplished it without significant changes to underlying skills. His 2016 HR/FB of near 25% looks like an outlier compared to much of his career. Consider 2017 something of a worst case scenario with a slight bump upwards in his home runs and batting average both likely possibilities given his history.