This week, fantasy baseball site RotoChamp.com released its player projections for the 2012 season. Yesterday—just as we did with Bill James’ projections last month—we plugged RotoChamp’s numbers for each of the Indians infielders into our Simple WAR Calculator to see just how valuable they’d be if they meet their projections.
Today, we take a look at the outfielders. I plugged each Cleveland 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.
I know I said this about the infielders, but it’s true here too: these are some incredibly conservative projections. They’re all plausible, and it’s probably best for projection systems to temper their expectations. But even so, some of these projections seem a little too pessimistic.
Unsurprisingly, seated atop the list is Shin-Soo Choo. After posting 11 fWAR in 2009 and 2010, another sub-4.0 WAR season would be seen as a disappointment. Given how much he struggled in 2011 (relatively speaking—he was still an above-average player when he was on the fielder) a little skepticism is necessary. But while part of the problem was a drop in his power, his decline was also due largely to injuries, bad luck (his BABIP was 36 points below his career mark), and the mental distraction that followed his DUI arrest. Hopefully those issues won’t carry over into 2012.
Next on the list is Michael Brantley, and we’re already into the realm of what RotoChamp sees as below-average players. Brantley will probably never develop into the contact-hitting beast we thought he might a couple years ago, but still I’d like to think that the 24-year-old outfielder won’t take a step back in terms of power—as these projections suggest—and I’d hope he can make more than such a marginal improvement in his plate discipline numbers. I’m not saying that this projection is implausibly low, just that it’s more conservative than I would give him.
The other projection with which I take issue is Aaron Cunningham‘s. Combining his minor-league equivalency numbers with his MLB stats from last year and adjusting for the effects of Petco Park, Cunningham hit what would have been the equivalent of .256 wit a .719 OPS Progressive Field, and at age 26 he could very well take a substantial step forward. Yet RotoChamp sees him hitting only .236 with a .698 OPS in 2012. I projected him as a roughly average MLB player, but here he comes out as more or less replacement level.
For the most part, the other outfielder projections look good to me. Shelley Duncan and Felix Pie are right about where I would peg them, and while I might be a little more bullish on Ezequiel Carrera his low score is based on the assumption of very little playing time.
In fact, RotoChamp might be a little too optimistic about Grady Sizemore. His projection recognizes the drastic decline in his plate discipline over the last couple years, but also assumes he’ll see a substantial bounceback in his pitch recognition skills. And it expects him to get 450 plate appearances. Both are possible, but neither seems particularly likely.
How do these projections compare to Bill James‘? Let’s take a look:
This, too, shows how conservative these projections are. Only Choo (whose difference is marginal) and Brantley (James sees him losing even more of his power than RotoChamp does) look better with these numbers than James’, while Duncan, Carerra, Pie, and Sizemore—his difference is especially interesting since RotoChamp sees him getting much more playing time—all fare worse.
Overall, I guess I’d say about half of these projections are what I’d expect and half are more cynical than I am. I’d definitely take the over on Choo, Brantley, and (if he gets a chance to prove himself) Cunningham. The others could go either way.