Contrary to what the title may lead you to believe, this post is not about Gerald Laird’s abs. The 2015 Steamer baseballing projections were released yesterday, and I wanted to share a few quick thoughts on them as they pertain to the Braves. If you follow me on Twitter, you’re likely aware that I strongly abide by the rule that you should generally trust good projection systems over your own opinions of how a player should perform. I’m not going to try to back that up, as that has already been done extensively by others. The point is, projection systems are the best information we have as to how a player should perform. While you can certainly make little adjustments here and there based on certain observations, and sometimes even pick up on large changes in how a player goes about his job, those are the exceptions and not the rules. With that being said, let’s dive into a few quick and dirty thoughts and observations on how some of our Braves players project for 2015.
Craig Kimbrel is really, really good. He currently has the second lowest projected ERA and FIP, bested only by Aroldis Chapman. Aroldis easily has the best raw stuff in baseball and even added a changeup this season, so I don’t find it hard to believe he could be even better than our trusted closer next year. Kimbrel’s projected ERA of 1.91 is simply absurd. ERA under 2.00 almost always are due to guys having career-best years or relievers getting lucky in small samples. For us to be able to expect a guy to produce an ERA that low is almost unheard of.
Jason Heyward projects to be the 11th most valuable player in baseball next season. Steamer expects him to maintain his new-found low strikeout rate, but they predict he’ll find some of the power he seemed to lose this last season. I’m not completely sold on that happening, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. David Lee did a great job outlining some changes Jason made to his swing this last season, and we all are familiar with his otherworldly defense. Signing him to a long term contract should be of the utmost importance to whoever our new GM is.
Andrelton Simmons projecting to be the most valuable defensive player in baseball next season is less surprising than a Chris Johnson GIDP. What’s exciting is he also projects to be the second most valuable shortstop overall. Steamer predicts his bat will return to its 2013 level of production, albeit with more singles and less dingers. He’s still developing as a hitter, so part of me hopes our new hitting coaches can work with him in the offseason to maximize the value of his incredible hand-eye coordination. We’ll see.
BJ Upton and Chris Johnson project to be bad. Moving on.
Some people are really hoping Christian Bethancourt becomes our full time catcher next season. I am not one of those people. I think the holes in Gattis’ game (game calling and blocking) are easier to fix and are less of an issue than Bethancourt’s complete lack of a bat. Steamer projects a .250 AVG, .280 OBP, and .357 SLG from Beth, compared to .244/.295/.443 for Gattis. One could argue that’s underselling Christian’s hitting abilities, but you could just as easily make the case that Gattis’ projection is pessimistic, too.
Freddie Freeman projects to be the 13th best hitter in baseball next season. The one thing that could push him even higher is how he does on balls in play next season. Steamer projects a .325 BABIP, and that seems a bit low to me. Freeman has the highest line drive rate in baseball, and line drives obviously go for hits more than any other batted ball. I’m not sure what Steamer is using for their BABIP projections, but judging by the line drive rate I don’t consider it outlandish to think he could outperform that projection in 2015.
I had a small freakout when I saw the projection for Julio Teheran, but after digging into the numbers I think it’s reasonable. The 3.72 ERA seems laughably wrong until you consider that Steamer projects the average starter ERA next year to be around 4.11. In 2014 the average starter had an ERA of 3.80, so if we adjust Teheran’s projected ERA accordingly it becomes approximately 3.40, a much more believable number. They project his ERA to be a significant amount lower than what you’d expect given his FIP, which is what one would expect given the large number of pop ups he generates along with our outfield defense.
Alex Wood is our ace. Yes, I said it and I will say it again: Alex Wood is our ace. Steamer projects he’ll have the 19th best ERA, FIP, and strikeout rate among all starters in 2015. I find it sort of weird that it’s the exact same rank for all three of those categories. There’s always going to be questions about whether or not his arm can stay healthy, but if it can he’ll be a huge asset for us next season.
Mike Minor projects to be nothing more than an average pitcher. This makes me incredibly sad. The main thing to think about with this is whether or not his 2014 season would an aberration due to nagging shoulder problems. His 2013 season was outstanding, so that gives me hope that he could still repeat that and be a top 30 starter. If he can’t repeat it, we need to seriously consider what we’re going to do about our rotation next season.
A final note, our entire bench projects to suck again. All of them. Don’t look at the numbers. If you do, have someone nearby to comfort you afterward.
That’s all I have for now. I told you it would be quick and dirty. Anyway, feel free to check the numbers out yourself, and let me know if there’s any that stick out to you. If there’s any interest, I can always do more in depth looks into individual players. Have a good Tuesday and remember to trust the projections!