After completing our Early 2017 First Base Projections this week, it was time to turn our attention towards Ray's 2017 Top 20 Second Base Rankings. Unlike the first base pool, which has a handful of star performers and plenty of steady contributors, the second base player pool contains exciting players up and down the list.
Using a combined statistic of home runs (HR) plus stolen bases (SB), there's were 5 keystone contributors who compiled 45 or more HR+SB in 2017. Just outside of our 45 or more HR+SB pool is the likes of Robinson Cano (39 HR / 0 SB) & Ian Kinsler (28 HR / 14 SB). The five second baseman in Ray's rankings who met our 45+ metric were Jose Altuve (24 HR / 30 SB), Brian Dozier (42 HR / 18 SB), Jean Segura (20 HR / 33 SB), Rougned Odor (33 HR / 14 SB) & Trea Turner (13 HR / 33 SB).
An impressive pool of players without a doubt. What's even more impressive is the amount of plate appearances it took the five to reach their statistics shown above.
With less than half of the plate appearances that Altuve, Dozier and Segura received in 2016, Turner was able to clear the 45 or more HR+SB bar. Think about that for a second.
Now that your brain has had the time needed to simply double Turner's statistics from 2016, you can grab a pen and jot down a .330 BA, 25 HR, 65 SB projection for next year and move on, right? We all know that isn't how it works and that teams will spend some time this off season looking for any weakness in Turner's game in advance of the 2017 season.
With our Early 2017 Second Base Projections set to be released shortly, let's use today's space to work through Turner's projection together.
The driver to any player projection is always playing time and for an offensive projection, that means plate appearances. RosterResource currently shows Turner as the Washington National's lead-off man for next year. Originally I had Turner receiving 700 PA's, a figure that 10 players reached in 2016. While that is certainly possible, we'll hedge just slightly and pencil him in at 685 for now.
Next we'll want to take a look at some per at-bat metrics to begin building the hit type ratio and a portion of the triple slash projections. This will include at-bats per double (AB/2B), at-bats per triple (AB/3B), plate appearances per hit by pitch (PA/HBP) and plate appearances per sacrifice fly (PA/SF). We will also want to determine Turner's projected walk rate (BB%), intentional walk rate (IBB%), strikeout rate (K%) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
Neither AB/2B or AB/3B are particularly "sticky" from year to year, but with a player such as Turner with a limited Major League track record, this shouldn't cause too much of an issue. Last season Turner hit a double once every 21.93 at-bats, while hitting a triple once every 38.38 at-bats (which is absurd by the way). We can also take a look back at Turner's minor league performance and see that his three year average for AB/2B and AB/3B were 18.91 and 64.73, respectively. For projection purposes, rates of 21.0 AB/2B and 60 AB/3B will be used in our initial run.
Next we'll look at hit by pitch and sacrifice flies. Exciting stuff, I know, but it's all a part of the process. Last season Turner was hit by a pitch once every 324 plate appearances during his time in the show. His three year minor league average was 265. Turner contributed a sacrifice fly once every 162 plate appearances last year in the majors, while his three year minor league average was 155 plate appearances. Therefore figures of 278 PA/HBP and 159 PA/SF will be used for our projection.
Lastly in this part of our process, we'll need to project Turner's 2017 BB, IBB%, K% and BABIP. Turner's limited Major League sample does not include a high walk rate - 4.3% in 2016, however, his three year minor league average of 8% gives us a reason to believe it could improve next season. A projected 6.8 BB% feels right. Turner has yet to receive an intentional pass in the big leagues and was not intentionally walked much in the minors. Assuming we're correct and Turner hits lead off next year, the odds of opposing teams wanting to put him on base with a strong middle of the order due up and his well above-average speed, seems slim. Therefore we'll project a measly 0.09 IBB%.
Strikeout rate is surprisingly stable year to year and also solidifies quickly. Turner's 2016 K% in the big leagues was 18.2%, while his three year minor league average was 20.2%. With a limited Major League sample I also like to view the Major League average for particular categories and Turner's figures are right in line with the 21.2% MLB average last season. A projected 20.0 K% for 2017 will be used in our model.
Turner's BABIP will most definitely be the topic of many fantasy baseball articles and podcasts this winter. A .388 BABIP will be called everything from unsustainable to lucky in the coming months and that's probably correct. Of course the counter argument will also be made that with his speed, Turner will be able to post significantly higher than average BABIP's in the future. This is also probably correct. Our job is to put a number to these statements that we can use for projection purposes. In order for BABIP to be considered semi-predictable for a given player, we'd need nearly double the plate appearances that Turner has provided in the big leagues. We can look at his minor league three year average (.379) and the Major League average (.300) and still be equally confused. Field conditions and the quality of talent in the minor leagues means we cannot simply say "well he's a .380 BABIP guy in both the minor leagues and major leagues it appears". We need to regress this figure towards the Major League average, while also considering Turner's speed and above-average ability to make hard contact. I'm going to be slightly aggressive here and project a .345 BABIP in 2017.
To wrap up our projection process we'll need to determine Turner's batted ball profile (GB%, LD% & FB%), as well as his HR/FB rate and also project Turner's stolen base number.
A Major League players batted ball profile becomes stable rather quickly. Therefore we can look at Turner 2016 numbers of 43.1% GB, 25.2% LD & 31.7% FB to begin with. Unfortunately I do not have minor league numbers. For the 2016 season the Major League averages were: 44.7% GB, 20.7% LD & 34.6% FB. Using the beautiful new data that Statcast provides, we see that Turner had an average 9.19 degree launch angle in 2016. The average launch angle last season was 9.97 degrees. For our projected 2017 batted ball profile we'll use 44% GB, 24% LD & 32% FB.
Besides from the BABIP discussion surrounding Turner this winter, I'd guess the second most argued part of his profile and ultimately his ranking, will surround the 13 home runs he hit. With 19 home runs total in the minor leagues (3 seasons) the power spike, at least this early in his career, was not expected. Turner's 2016 big league HR/FB rate was 16.7%, while the league average rate was 12.8%. It seems safe to say we'll need to regress Turner's HR/FB rate for our projection, the question is how much. Many scouts believe Turner will ultimately grow into 15-20 home runs and there's a chance we're just seeing it happen a year or two earlier than expected. The underlying power metrics show Turner was able to strike the ball hard quite often last year, which reinforces this idea. We'll use a slightly below league average rate of 11.0% for our projection model.
Finally we will project Turner's biggest asset - his stolen base ability. Mike Podhorzer has developed a metric that I believe is great in helping to project steals. He calls it SBA/TOB, meaning: Stolen Base Attempts per Times on Base. This metric coupled with a players success rate at stealing bags will give us our stolen base projection. Last season Turner had a SBA/TOB of 0.394, while his minor league three year average was a much lower 0.192. We know that Dusty Baker likes to run, but some regression is probably needed from last year's figure. We'll split the difference and use a .261 figure, which represents Turner's three year MLB & minor league combined average. This could prove to be too low, but as you'll see shortly with the final projected numbers, it'll still produce a valuable statistical line for Turner next year. It'll be a situation where you'll want to make a note on your draft cheat sheet that there's variability in the number. Turner has been quite successful stealing bases during his pro career, with a Major League 85% success rate in 2016 and a 84% minor league three year average success rate. We'll use a success rate of 83% for our 2017 projection model.
Of course if we were to stop now, we'd be lacking run and RBI figures for next year. While the projection below will include them, they're subject to some change as off season moves are made and rosters change shape as spring nears. Rather than go through the process I used to generate the numbers below, just know it's based on 2016 team run production and depending on how many changes the Nationals make this winter, it could look slightly different come draft season.
We've now spent many words and numbers showing how we're getting the underlying rates that will drive our projection. You've waited long enough. My early 2017 projection for Trea Turner, is as follow:
With some flexibility in the stolen base department, there's no doubt in my mind that Turner is a top fantasy option (granted with some risk of volatility) next year.
Ray had the following to say when attempting to rank Turner for 2017:
What to do with Nationals second baseman Trea Turner? I rank him as my 8th ranked second baseman, but that could prove to be too low after he hit double digit home runs and stole 33 bases in 324 plate appearances. Is he a 20 home run, 60 stolen base hitter? I doubt it, but 12-15 home runs with 45-55 stolen bases appear to be a solid projection for the speedy second baseman. He has the speed to repeat as a .300 hitter once again in 2017 as well.
I have a feeling that Turner will be selected before the 8th second baseman off the board in 2017. There's a pretty good chance I might be the person making that selection.
Make sure to share your thoughts on the process and projection above in the comments below and also follow me on Twitter for more comments on players as I move through the projection process this winter.