RotoChamp Projections: How Will Indians Infielders Do in 2012?


Last month, when sabermetric guru Bill James released his player projections for the 2012 season, we fired up the Simple WAR Calculator and plugged in his numbers to see just how well he expects the Indians to play this year.

This week, fantasy baseball site RotoChamp.com put out its player projections for the upcoming season. How do they see Cleveland’s hitters performing in 2012? Let’s take a look.

I plugged each Indians player’s RotoChamp projections about power, plate discipline, hit rate and playing time into the Simple WAR Calculator and added my own estimates of position, defense, and baserunning ability. Here are the results:

First impression: These are some pretty conservative projections. There’s definite value in projection systems forecasting a strong amount of regression to the mean, but even so I’d say RotoChamp’s outlook is overly pessimistic.

No surprise to see Carlos Santana on top here. A 25-year-old catcher with great power and crazy good plate discipline is a pretty good bet to have a good season, and while I’d say this is a fair projection there’s a pretty decent chance he’ll beat it. Note, though, that this is based on the assumption that he will play exclusively catcher; a few games at first base wouldn’t throw him off the pace too much, but if he splits his time pretty evenly between first and catcher his value will drop.

Up the middle, I don’t have a problem with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s projection—it’s a little pessimistic, maybe, but he has no history of power and he had that dramatic second-half fade. I am, however, surprised to see Jason Kipnis so low. I know it’s unreasonable to assume that he’ll slug .507 again in his first full season, but I don’t foresee his power dropping quite as dramatically as RotoChamp does. Maybe I’m too bullish on him, but I’d definitely take the over on him at 2.4 WAR.

Moving to third base, RotoChamp really doesn’t think much of Lonnie Chisenhall, who has a projected walk/strikeout ratio of just 0.19. To be fair, that’s actually better than his 0.16 ratio from 2011, but if his plate discipline doesn’t show some improvement there he won’t be an everyday player (as RotoChamp projects). Especially if Jack Hannahan truly outplays him to the tune of a higher WAR in roughly half the playing time.

These projections seem far too optimistic about Jose Lopez, but they make up for it by slamming Travis Hafner hard. RotoChamp sees Pronk putting up an OPS of just .782—fine for an average hitter, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher consider he’s OPSed over .810 in eight of the last nine years. He’s not the MVP candidate he used to be, but he hasn’t declined that much.

So, how do these projections compare with Bill James’?

James is known for being an optimist, but this further reinforces how cynical RotoChamp is. Eight of the 10 Tribe infielders for whom we have projections get better projections from James. Only Santana (RotoChamp sees him maintaining his 16 percent career walk rate, while James sees it slipping to 13 percent) and Cabrera (both projections see him losing some power, but James foresees a more dramatic decline) grade out better with these numbers.

The average projections look pretty good to me. They might be a tad conservative—I’d probably take the over on everyone but Lopez and maybe Chisenhall—but the middle ground numbers look like reasonable expectations.

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Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera Carlos Santana Jason Kipnis Lonnie Chisenhall Travis Hafner