Now that the opening day lineup is nearly set, we can begin projecting what the major league batting order looks like for 2016.
To set the stage, the following section is brought over from an article written earlier in the off-season to introduce our the splits projections.
Here at DRaysBay, we have a fancy way of tailoring that to handedness. The numbers are generated using a tool developed by Ian Malinowski and Jason Hanselman (The Process Report) that incorporates Bojan Kopravica's splits regression research into projections.
The basic idea, for those not familiar, is that instead of just looking at career performance for batters against righties and lefties, we need to regress their past performance against what we know about left-handed and right-handed batters generally.
So for a player with only 100 or so plate appearances but a wide split, we should actually assume that his split going forward will be only slightly higher than average. For a player with a long track record of a wide split, we can go ahead and expect that trend to continue.
After taking a long hard look at the Steamer projections, our normal go-to, these weren't enough for a clear picture. For example, Steamer is bullish on Nick Franklin, but bearish on Logan Forsythe. Who can say that is a certainty? They project a solid performance in Triple-A to carry over for Franklin, but don't imagine Forsythe to be his 2015 self, and you could take the opposite bet within reason for each of those ideas. [...]
So how do we choose a projection system. ZiPS is generally bullish on the Rays than Steamer, but taking a simple average to temper expectations does not justify the use of one system or another.
Comparing the systems, ZIPS has more of a recency bias, which helps the projections hone in on improvements at the plate. This creates projections for players like Logan Forsythe or Kevin Kiermaier more in line with their recent major league performance.
On the other hand... Steamer remembers the good years for most of these players, and the system has a strength in projecting minor league performance, so there are merits to be discussed... If you think I've chosen wrongly, take it up with me in the comment section.
With all of that in mind, here are our blend of splits projections, listed alphabetically:
|Player||Batter Hand||Proj. wOBA vs. RHP||Proj. wOBA vs. LHP||System|
Franklin and Shaffer numbers are listed above as utilize Steamer projections, as they have spent the majority of their time in Triple-A last season, as does Morrison who is better than his Mariners numbers suggest.
If you were to sort the table above, you might find that Shaffer and Mahtook have favorable stats to the presumptive 25th man Tim Beckham, but given the Rays proclivity to have the former two continue getting every day reps in Durham, I'm giving the nod to Beckham.
Utility prospect Taylor Motter, another 25th man candidate, has already been optioned, along with Shaffer.
Rays Batting Order vs RHP
|Position||Player||Batter Hand||Proj. wOBA vs. RHP|
Bench: Casali (.286 vs RHP/.304 vs LHP), Jennings (.309/.336), Guyer (.304/.329), Beckham (.273/.290)
This is an incredibly balanced line up, switching RLRLRLRSL to mess with opposing manager pitching changes, as was the aim of the organization when the Rays moved Forsythe to lead off half way through the Spring. If he can adjust to the new routine, that's 75 more plate appearances for one of the more mature hitters on this team.
If the Rays would rather deploy an extra outfielder over Pearce, then Dickerson slides into the Designated Hitter position, as may be the possibility most nights.
Rays Batting Order vs LHP
|Position||Player||Batter Hand||Proj. wOBA vs. LHP|
Bench: Conger (.295 vs RHP/.275 vs LHP), Dickerson (.342/.310), Morrison (.322/.292), Miller (.326/.285)
It doesn't get much more right handed than that.
Forsythe cements himself in lead off, and the defense-first Kiermaier stays in the order at ninth to mess with possible pitching adjustments before the top of the order comes back around.