With some of the recent results from Spring Training possibly clouding our judgment on players I thought it would be wise to step back and take another look at what the various projection systems think of our baseballers. The methodology is quite simple, I used a weighted average of the Bill James, CHONE, & Marcel projection systems to come up with an estimate of wOBA. I used Jeff Zimmerman's outrageously spectacular UZR Projections to come up with that component. For replacement adjustments, I used the (20/600)*PA that Fangraphs uses at the link to the left. One caveat, the Rays, like a lot of teams, have guys that can play all over the diamond. For these guys, I used either the position they've played the most in the past (Aybar) or where I think they will get the most playing time this season (Zobrist). Additionally, the positional adjustments are based on 162 games played at a position (rare) and the UZR is based on 150 games played. Feel free to download the excel file, Rays 2010 Projected WAR
or follow along with this Google Doc. Here is a summary with the position that each player was adjusted for:
Let's go down the list starting with Longo. If you don't know, now you know, but Evan Longoria projects to be an absolute stud this year. His 0.382 wOBA would lead the team if all of these projections come to fruition, but, he also plays a position that wouldn't be called "easy." His team-high UZR of 12 is what really takes him from a pretty good hitter to an all-around candidate for best in the game.
For Ben Zobrist, I made the assumption that he would be playing mostly 2B this year, which did give him a little boost in the positional adjustment. If he was still a 7 UZR right fielder he would lost a lot of value. Luckily, between the concept of position-neutral defense and his prior performance there, we can assume that Zobie would have an increased UZR in RF to offset the positional adjustment. That said, his bat plays wherever he lines up in the field. The projections have him as the 3rd highest wOBA on the team. This really puts things in perspective about how good Longo is. Zobie is projected to win us 5.4 games this year, which would make him a lock for the All-Star team and get his name bandied about in the MVP discussion. Longo is over an entire win better! Go back and re-read that. If anyone is wondering who the "core" is on this team, I think these two would be a good start.
Which brings us to everyone's favorite whipping boy and a key member of "the nucleus." If Longo is a big, bad Proton and Zobrist is the Neutron, then B.J. Upton is the electron. Flying around at incredible speeds, he might not be as big as his brethren, but he makes sure to cover everything under the sun. Beej is projected to have an above-average season at the plate as showcased by his .346 wOBA, but it is his glove at the most important grassy position that makes him our 3rd best player. His 3.9 wins would have him in the All-Star discussion and would go a long way towards making him lots of money next year.
Craw would have our 4th highest WAR if all of this is remotely accurate (the projections, not the calculations.) He's basically Beej at the plate, and even though he has the second highest UZR on the team, he is hurt pretty hard by playing LF. This again shows how guys that play premium positions, don't have to be quite as good with the glove. Craw is a good hitter, we know this, he's also great with the glove, but by playing a position that traditionally has a + Bat/- Glove guy he does lose some value.
Jason Bartlett is up next. If you've opened either of the downloads at the top you can really see how impactful these positional adjustments can be. They are projecting Bartlett to be an above-average hitter at the same level as Kelly Shoppach and slightly better than Sean Rodriguez and Willy Aybar, but because he projects to be basically a league-average SS with the glove he ends up with the same WAR as Carl Crawford.
Kelly Shoppach checks in at 3.0 WAR despite only being projected for 392 PA's. Note that defense does not factor into WAR for catchers which could slide him up or down the scale. As is, he benefits from the highest positional adjustment giving him another 1.25 wins. Compared to last years negative WAR behind the dish? Yes please!
Again, we can see how important these adjustments are with Carlos Pena. Everyone knows the guy can bring it with the bat and he would have our second highest wOBA if this plays out, but he loses the exact amount that Shoppach gained just based on his positional adjustment. Zimmerman does have him as around 1 run in the negative for his UZR, but that could be another place that can pick up his WAR a little bit with a good year.
There's a big gap between Carlos Pena and the next player we will look at. Sean Rodriguez checks in slightly above league average at 2.2 WAR. In this scenario I've got him playing 2B for an entire season, but we know that that is highly unlikely with his positional flexibility and on Ben Zobrist, whom thrived at that position last year. Rodriguez basically has the same bat as Jason Bartlett and could be a good option over at SS if he can show the glove. Jeff Zimmerman has him as a +1 SS, defensively, and in fact, I had to make a little bit of a guess for Sean at 2B as there is no data for past performance from that position.
It's a good thing Dioner Navarro can imitate a catcher behind the plate, because his projected wOBA of .304 is the worst on the team. The adjustments put him just below league-average player status at 1.9 WAR, but Shopp looks to be everything that Navi can be and then some. They've actually got Navi projected to get more plate appearances, though, so we'll see how it goes.
Willy Aybar checks in next and basically hits like S-Rod, except because he demonstrated that when he plays second he might as well be playing on ice, he gets whacked pretty hard on the adjustments. I've got him at 3B, but hopefully we won't have to see him for an entire season over there.
Matty Joyce and Reid Brignac are pretty much polar opposites that are very close in WAR, 1.5 to 1.3, respectively. Joyce projects to be a very nice hitter putting up the same wOBA as Craw, while being decent with the glove, but not spectacular. Briggy has our second worst wOBA, but because he can play one of the most demanding positions in the game, he gets quite a bit of help. Zimmerman actually has him as a -3 UZR over 150 games, but his sample at the Majors is so small that you can basically think of him as league-average until we see more.
Now we get down to the guys that look to be worth 1 win or less. These should ideally be F.A.T. that you hope works out, but don't really care as it's roster filler. Kapler at least is the good kind of roster filler as he projects to be a great glove in RF at +6 UZR. His bat is slightly above league-average, but they only see him getting 288 PA's this year which brings down his wRAA and replacement values. With more playing time, Kapler could be a good option. Pat Burrell gets crushed by the positional adjustment as DH's lose almost 2 entire wins just by not being able to play the field. If Burrell does end up netting .5 WAR it would be a lot better than the -.5 he put up last year, although we would then be paying him about $18M a win this year. Hank Blalock is our last player in this little game. His bat is about the same as Kapler's but he's relegated to 1B, hurting him overall. He isn't awful, but he's slightly below league average.
I left off Ruggiano, Jennings, Dan Johnson, and a host of others, because there were no projections for these players. I have no given you all that you need to do your own WAR calculations, so perhaps you would like to make some estimates for these guys and plug them into the forumlas. The excel download is very good for this as all you have to do is enter data into cells to see how various adjustments would work.