Without much else to do in this dead zone waiting to see where the last remaining free agents wind up and Spring Training games, looking at projections is a fun way to pass the time. Whether you do this for fantasy baseball purposes or--if you are like me and do not play fantasy--just for the fun of it, There is a lot of stuff to sort through and ponder. Projection systems are difficult to wrap your head around because some project actual playing time and others assume everyone is going to get 550 plate appearances. The latter, I suppose, is helpful in case a player breaks out in Spring Training and ends up as a starter (which rarely happens). What I thought I would do on this Sunday afternoon was cull through the various projection systems and determine who the five least valuable players would be in 2014.
Such an exercise is harder than you think. First, I have an artificial number of projected plate appearances of 450. I want to consider starters and not part-time players. Secondly, I have to figure out which of these players will actually get the playing time he is projected to obtain. For example, one of the lowest rated was Brett Wallace. But he was just DFA'd by the Astros and doesn't figure to catch on with a full-time gig anywhere else. And lastly, most of the projection systems have to agree on the lack of value a player will have in 2014.
After making my list, a discussion on the merits of each will occur. Think of it as sort of an over/under type discussion. For disclosure sake, I used PECOTA, Steamer, Oliver and Fans projections. I used MLB Depth Charts to confirm possible playing time.
Okay, the list:
- Garrett Jones - Average Projection of 0.23 WAR
- Raul Ibanez - Average Projection of 0.3 WAR
- Mitch Moreland - Average Projection of 0.55 WAR
- Adeiny Hechavarria - Average Projection of 0.65 WAR
- Ryan Ludwick - Average Projection of 0.78 WAR
Garrett Jones - Jones holds one of the most extreme L/R splits in the Majors with less than a .600 OPS against left-handed pitching and in the high .878 against right-handed pitchers. He is penciled in as the platoon partner with Jeff Baker at first base. That would be a good thing for Jones as he is capable of hitting more than twenty homers. If he can field first base at near league-average level, he could score 2.0 in WAR. If he plays full time or spends any time in the outfield, all bets are off.
Raul Ibanez - The projections are logical since Ibanez is 41 years old and should never wear a glove. But the Angels only need him as a DH and have plenty of outfielders. So unlike last year in Seattle, Ibanez should only be a DH. That said, will he get 400 plate appearances? He won't if he is platooned (and he should be). Based on offense alone, he could get 1.5 in WAR.
Mitch Moreland - Moreland has no home at first base with the Rangers' addition of Prince Fielder. MLB Depth Charts has him listed as the Rangers' DH. Plus, he has spent plenty of time in the outfield too. Moreland's career doesn't seem to be going anywhere and I think these projections are pretty money.
Adeiny Hechavarria - Not only is his name a bear to spell, but he was awful for the Marlins last season. And still, he is pegged as their starting shortstop again this year. I don't think he will ever hit and a sub-.300 on-base percentage could be his norm. He gets bonus WAR points for his "important position" on the field, but doesn't score all that well as a fielder. If he reaches 1.0 in WAR in 2014, it will be a surprise.
Ryan Ludwick - I kept hearing last year that the Reds will be okay once Ludwick comes back from injury. And it made me scratch my head. Yeah, he had a pretty good 2012, but that is the anomaly for him over the past five seasons. The Reds have him penciled in as the starting left-fielder. I think it is a pie-in-the-sky scenario for them. He is not great in the field, and 2012 aside, his bat has been missing since his days with the Cardinals. I think his projection is fair. His positional ranking hurts him, his fielding hurts him and I don't see him repeating 2012 for offensive production.
There you have it. The projections have spoken. But of course, nobody knows how any player's season will go until he actually plays the games.