My last (first?) projections article took a look at three players from the Baltimore Orioles. What do you say we stay in the A.L. East and take a look at a couple players from the Red Sox? First up, Will Middlebrooks, who should be back at 3B in 2013. Before breaking his wrist, Will batted .288, hitting 15 HRs and driving in 54, in less than half a season’s worth of plate appearances. Those numbers are very good, but only represent his first season in the big leagues, and as mentioned earlier, a partial one, at that. But, you need to play the hand you’re dealt, so let’s see what we can do with the limited information available. Power: as you might expect, Will’s minor league stats are all over the place, but he appears to have some pop in his bat. His Isolated Power (ISO – a player’s ability to hit for extra bases) during his 2012 major league stint, was .221. That is elite status, but, you cannot hang your hat on such a small sample size. From 2008 to 2012, in in eight minor league stops, his ISO bounced around from .107 to .833, but when he had the chance to get more than 95 games/395 PA, at one of these stops, that variance changed to a more manageable .139 to .218. If you split the difference, that is still above average power. What does that mean for fantasy owners? I think consistent 20+ home run seasons are within the reach of this young man. Batting average: I think this year’s .288 is a little high. With a 75.5% contact rate; I would look for a BA closer to .255. He will not steal many bases, but he may be a nice middle-round pick up, in a deep mixed league.
Next up from the Red Sox, SS, Mike Aviles? In his third season of significant major league PT, Mike batted .250, went deep 13 times, and stole 14 bases. Additionally, Mike scored 57 runs and drove in 60 runs, giving him nice production, for where he was drafted, in four categories. Upside? I don’t think so. I think what you saw in 2012 is what you will likely see over the next couple years. Mike will be 33 on opening day next year. Generally, at that age, power begins to slip away, and speed quickly deteriorates. Additionally, with Middlebrooks back to 3B, and Pedroia at 2B, will the Red Sox reduce Aviles’ playing time? Lots of questions. No answers. But, while waiting for answers, we can evaluate the stats, and be prepared. Power: although slightly below average, his .131 ISO for 2012 was still around what we expected. As with 2011, most of his 2012 HR production came in the first half of the season (9 out of 13, in 2012 and 5 out of 7 in 2011), which coincided with a decline in his linear weighted power index (PX) (98 vs. 61 in 2012 and 106 vs. 86, in 2011) Note: 100 is league average. Speed: the SB output followed the HR output, but the underlying stats may show some short-term opportunity for owners. Mike stole 14 bases each of the last two years, and his first half/second half splits were almost identical, during those two years. In 2012 he stole 9 in the first half and 5 in the second half. In 2011 he stole 10 in the first half and 4 in the second half. But is there some upside in the underlying stats? Definitely, maybe. Mike’s statistically scouted speed (SPD - a formula that is about a mile long - it measures speed without taking into account stolen bases) declined sharply from 2011 to 2012. Overall, in 2011 Mike’s SPD was 100 compared to 62 last year. 100 is league median, and the drop to 62 is what I like to call “falling off a cliff.” Couple this with his overall decline in stolen base opportunity percent (SBO) from 31% in 2011 to 18% in 2012, and fantasy drafters may begin to get concerned. So where’s the upside I alluded to? Granted, Mike's speed declined from 2011 to 2012, but, Boston also tied for second to last in stolen bases, in the American League, last year. If the new manager in Boston allows his players more stolen base opportunities, I think owners can expect Mike to maintain his SB production. Speed declines as a player ages, however Mike has enough experience to pick his moments, and be successful. Batting average: I think we should expect something in the .250 range. Mike’s CT% has been just shy of 86% over the last two years, which is exceptional, but he hates to walk. (4.2% BB% each of the last two years) That combination should equate to an average in the .268 area, but Mike does not seem to be able to get above .255, so I’ll go with the results, rather than the statistical potential. Hopefully, he is not your starting SS, but if you are looking for a middle-infielder in a deep mixed league, Mike may be the guy.
Finally, let’s look at starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz. Like roller coasters? Then you enjoyed Clay’s 2012 season. We’re not talking kiddie-ride roller coasters, either. Clay’s 2012 season was a monster-coaster. Pick a week, and flip a coin. You really had no idea which Clay would pitch. Week to week, his ERA was anywhere from 0.00 to 11.81; his WHIP was anywhere from 0.86 to 2.44 (he did that twice; ouch); his dominance (K/9) varied from 11.6 to 1.3. And, even though he is a ground ball pitcher (over 50% for the last four years); he had a 1.3 HR/FB. But, at the end of the year, you had yourself a serviceable, back of the rotation, pitcher. He had a winning record (11-8) on a Boston team that did not. He had 129 K’s, a 4.56 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP. Not horrible, if you have the have a stomach for these things. Remember my Orioles article this past Sunday? The strategy that you need to use with the Mark Reynolds’ of the world, applies to Mr. Buchholz et. al. If you are going to get much of your pitching after the studs are taken, you need to compensate in some fashion. And, you cannot time the starts. The uncertainty prevents that. You need to accept what you have, close your eyes, and just leave him in the lineup. What might owners expect in 2013? I think you will see around the same number of K’s, and with a xERA of 4.02 to 4.20 over the last four years, I think you may see a slightly better ERA than 2012. Certainly, a pitcher who can serve as a back of the rotation guy, in deep mixed leagues.
I hope you like this format. I like to look at players in the context of the team they play for, not just as someone who plays a particular position. I think that helps me with intangibles like playing time and order in the lineup. I tend to stay away from projecting runs or RBIs for hitters, and wins for pitchers. I have a philosophy on those, though. I’ll talk about that later. Let me know what you think. And, if you want an opinion on a particular player on the team I covered, just ask. I’ll do my best. See you soon.