On Tuesday the fine folks over at Baseball Prospectus released the 2022 PECOTA Projections for individual players. Unlike the other projection systems we see released, the PECOTA Projections offer us something other than the 50th percentile projections, which are the ones that are most likely to happen. PECOTA offers the full range of projections from the least likely (both good and bad) and work their way towards the middle, providing a large variety of outcomes to take a look at.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the things from the hitters that stand out. Looking at the 50th percentile projections a few interesting players pop up. Joey Votto is projected to be the best hitter on the team in terms of OPS, though Jesse Winker is right there with him. Perhaps the two most surprising guys, though, are Shogo Akiyama and Aristides Aquino. While they are getting to the end point of their OPS very differently, both are projected to have an OPS higher than 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India.
With that said, Jonathan India is still projected to be the best player on the team. Nothing at all really jumps off of the stat sheet for him – he’s simply good at everything and that all adds up. Not having a weakness anywhere matters.
Perhaps the biggest debate among players on the team last season, and heading into this season seems to be who should play shortstop between Kyle Farmer and Jose Barrero. PECOTA projects them to be the same hitter, basically. Barrero has an OPS that would be 1 point higher. But, if given the same playing time, Barrero would be significantly better. Farmer is projected for 468 plate appearances, while Barrero is projected for just 186. Farmer, with all of the additional playing time had just a 0.1 WARP edge.
Of course – teams aren’t making decisions based on what an outside projection system is saying. The teams have far more information to work with. But hey, we aren’t the team and we’re just looking at the data. The data says that the team should go with Jose Barrero. What’s a bit more interesting, though, is that the 99th percentile projection for the two players isn’t all that different. There’s still the issue of playing time, which makes their non-rate stats tougher to compare with Farmer having more than twice as many plate appearances, but in what is considered “the best case scenario even if it’s incredibly unlikely to happen”, Barrero’s OPS tops Farmer’s by just 24 points.
Let’s talk about some of the other fun things that showed up among the position players in those 99th percentile projections: Joey Votto leading the team with 43 home runs. Eugenio Suárez hitting 34 home runs despite just 93 games played. Aristides Aquino hitting 32 home runs in just 76 games. This one is less fun, but it’s incredibly interesting: Jonathan India is projected to lead the team with 9 stolen bases (among players actually expected to get real playing time this year – a few minor league guys who won’t get enough action are between 10-15 steals).
Let’s jump back to Jose Barrero for a second for some more interesting and fun things. There are comparable players given in the projections. One of the player comparables for Barrero is Eugenio Suárez. Tyler Stephenson has two interesting comparables listed: Tucker Barnhart and Devin Mesoraco. Mike Moustakas has a trio of interesting comparables, too – Robin Ventura, Brooks Robinson, and Buddy Bell. Both Nick Senzel and Jonathan India have Ryan Braun listed in their comparable player group.
None of that is as fun as when a glitch in the PECOTA system had Shogo Akiyama’s 99th percentile batting average being .480 in 2020. This is more just to point out how unlikely the 99th percentile projections are, but also just how fun they can be at times. And with the owners still locking the players out we need as much fun as we can get because it feels like we’re still quite far from Major League Baseball getting the show started.
Does anybody know of what possible value would the 1%/99% projections be? File this under “entertainment value only” or the psychic network disclaimers. Furthermore, does anybody really pay any attention to the PECOTA projections. Maybe if all of it was wrapped up in a team predictions it might be useful but certainly wasn’t last year. In the AL, the 81% Yankees (to finish 1st) lost to the 11% Rays; similarly, the 61% Twins finished last and only the easy pick for the Astros was on the mark. In the NL; the 77% Mets lost to the 5% Braves, the Milwaukee pick was correct but little else and the 0% Giants won the West division. I think it goes without saying that a projection system such as this never has a 0% probability. Even David Bell would probably agree with this.
In 2021, Joey Votto hit 36 home runs in 129 games. That projects to 45 in a full 162 game season, and 43 in a 154 game season. So these projections are suggesting that there’s only a 1% chance that Votto stays healthy and hits as well as he did last year? I don’t buy that logic. And that, along with things like Farmer has almost the same upside as Barrero, or Mike Moustakas is in the same class of players as Robin Ventura and Brooks Robinson makes me wonder why they even bother with this stuff? There’s no real world implications, and no consequences for being embarrassingly wrong. And of course if you speculate about hundreds of players than you’re bound to guess right on a few, but it’s the old stopped watch twice a day deal. This falls in the “Predictions are hard, especially about the future” category. Piffle. Entertaining perhaps, but pure piffle.
I agree. Stats are good for projections to a point, but the human input and the skill thereof must prevail. Of course neither stats or human input can predict a player suddenly turning on a light switch and rounding a corner at the next level when they haven’t shown it prior. The potential super stars are easier to predict, but you never know if they are going to top out at the next level.
The comps may have been to Robinson and Ventura when they were in their 50s.
OK, that’s funny. 🙂
If only we still had Shed Long… signed with the Orioles today… which means his career is essentially over… Another Reds draft pick that didn’t pan out, but at least with this one we pawned him off on another team to find that out.
Long had a nice start in 2019, but like Moose and Shogo that I discussed below, he’s battled injuries for the last two years. In addition to good health, defensive improvement would help, too. I hope he’s healthy and gets a chance to bloom in Baltimore.
As an aside, one reason I really like our farm right now is it is built on up-the-middle talent and pitching. A few years back, it seemed like everyone was a potential LF or at best a 2B (Schebler, Duval, Peraza, Long, Winker, to name a few). I think we have better athletes which should be more versatile moving forward which will help.
I think there’s a reasonable chance we’ll see improvement for both Akiyama and Moustakas. Both are in their early 30s and likely past their peak performance but spent the majority of 2021 fighting injuries.
Moustakas posted above average OPS+ from 2015 – 2020, and he won’t be needed to play many games at 2B where he’s stretched a bit defensively. I think he could realistically provide 2.0 WAR as a DH and occasional 1B/3B which would be a net improvement of +3 WAR over last year.
As for Akiyama, I have to think having a tree fall on his wife during Spring Training played a big role in his subpar 2021. This would be tough on any of us, but he had to deal with it away from his family/support network and in a very different culture. I wouldn’t expect much power, but if he can match his 2020 OBA (.357) and his fielding numbers, he’ll be a nice bench piece. I Shogo rebounds to 2020 form, he’d likely bring 1.0 WAR which would be a +2 WAR net improvement.
Once Spring Training opens, the Reds should be able to assess if their physical ailments are behind them and whether one or both is postured for a comeback.
Maybe a silver lining in all this labor nonsense is the attention and development opportunity the young prospects not on the 40 man will get in a few days and all the focused assessments by the coaches on the non-roster pitcher invitees get.
Lodolo, De La Cruz, McClain should get some good experience.
How does it work with MLB coaches as minor league early camp opens, especially Derek Johnson who is the director of pitching for the whole organization and not just the pitching coach at the MLB level?
I don’t know how many teams have a “director of pitching” as such but it is a good question as to whether MLB level coaches will have any role when MiLB gets going. Who knows, maybe some of these players might be called into service at the MLB level as temporary replacements if the MLB players strike. Isn’t this possible as well?
The interesting thing about Aquino is the power potential. I used to hold out hope that he could become an everyday player, but if he could become a professional PH, it give Bell some power off the bench. The biggest problem for Aquino making the team, is we have so many mediocre OF, his strength gets buried, by the hope that Senzel is healthy and finally produce to his expectations, Naquin can repeat his 2021 season, and stay healthy, and Akiyama can adjust to MLB pitching.
If nothing else 22 should be a good season to figure out what pieces we have, and where we need to fix.
Aquino has a lot of HR per at bat. I haven’t seen anything lately, but he was powerless in WinterBall. He did break his hand last summer, and that may not be right yet.
I have no idea what kind of player he could be if they just put him out in RF and let him play for a couple of months. I think they have kind of messed up his head over the last two years.
Aikyama had shown ability playing in Japan, and I agree his problems last year were tough. But I don’t hold out much hope for him to regain some of that. I think he got some bad coaching for his hitting in the US, and he needs to get back to what he did best and stop worrying about hitting for any power.
I saw Naquin in the minors, and thought he was a pretty good player. His power last year was a BIG surprise. I don’t know if that shows up again. Big question mark.
In my humble opinion, Winker is the ONLY outfielder that the Reds can count on to really produce, and he’s injury prone, too.
@david, yep that’s just about right, even our good OF (Winker) is unreliable. Let’s follow the Reds plan, and just cross our fingers.
Word on the street is that Punxsutawney Phil is the one that makes these projections. SMH
That right there is just plain funny 🙂