I hate spring training. It’s like the calm before the storm. Filled with “coachspeak,” and “best shape of their lives” memes, I find the whole thing quite tedious. So, what is a boy to do? Let’s browse the PECOTA spreadsheet for interesting data to attempt to analyze! (All data is taken from the March 6 version of the spreadsheet.)
Starting off with position players:
Michael Choice, OF, Rangers:
Right off the bat, we have one of the worst players in baseball from 2014 according to the various WAR metrics. From a .570 OPS you pretty much have nowhere to go but upward, and his 15% breakout and 35% improve figure makes perfect sense when looked at in that way. Of course, that also leads to a high chance of attrition, you know, if he just sucks.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Astros:
Now that there’s been talk of Marisnick going north with the Astros, I find him to be an interesting breakout candidate. PECOTA is projecting a .234/.274/.357 line, which, on the surface, doesn’t seem like much of a breakout, but we’re talking about a 13% breakout rate here. I like his chances to put up at least a .700 OPS, which wouldn’t be a true breakout, but would make him a serviceable 4th outfielder/bench type with a chance to be a good regular in the coming years. It does scare me that one of his PECOTA comps is Felix Pie, though.
Dustin Ackley, OF, Mariners:
I’m not quite buying this one. PECOTA has his breakout % at 11 and improve at 43%. I know he’s going into the “magical age 27” year, but haven’t we seen enough of this guy to say that he is who he is at this point? It’s kind of like the people who swear that one of these years, Jay Bruce is going to become an MVP candidate. He’s probably not ever going to do that. He is who he is at this point too.
Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks:
Interesting name, here, being that he’s pretty much been close to a league average hitter playing a premium defensive position and he’s 23. This guy was worth almost 2 wins in 2014 playing half the season, so he’s already pretty good, and PECOTA likes him to breakout and/or improve? Sign me up for that if you’re looking for a flyer in the late rounds of a fantasy draft.
Let’s move on to pitchers.
Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers:
Peralta is the top starting pitcher that comes up when you sort the breakout tab in the spreadsheet. This surprises me. I thought he already broke out last year.
Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds:
This is probably mostly injury related, but a projection of 9.8 K/9 and a 3.48 ERA for a 25-year-old pitcher is quite bullish.
Drew Pomeranz, SP, Athletics:
Pomeranz has a career ERA- of 97 and a career FIP- of 104, so he’s been roughly around league average albeit over only just over 200 innings. His 2015 projection is for a 3.83 ERA. One of his comps is Jake Arrieta, so there’s definitely some upside there. Pomeranz is likely to begin the season in Oakland’s rotation, but the imminent return of A.J. Griffin and Jerrod Parker from Tommy John surgeries means that someone will likely get bumped from the rotation, so Pomeranz will have to battle to keep his spot.
Chris Archer, SP, Rays:
Another pitcher with a Jake Arrieta comp is one of my favorites, Chris Archer, (because I own him in a long-running dynasty league). Archer is projected for a 3.81 ERA, but I look for him to put up something in the low 3’s. His 70th percentile projection is 3.43 and his 80th percentile projection is 3.19 and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if his ERA was somewhere in that range, but I could be biased since I’ve been following his career for several years.
Let’s now look at position players with either a high collapse or attrition rate:
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals:
This is kind of a weird one, as he’s projected for 2.1 WARP, as his collapse rate is 21% but his improve rate is higher at 27%, so although he’s tied for 7th highest collapse rate, it’s also unlikely that he actually collapses.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays:
Kiermaier came out of nowhere in 2014 to quietly have a really good season, but PECOTA isn’t quite sold yet. PECOTA doesn’t buy the slugging, forecasting a decrease to .385 from last season’s .450, and a .695 OPS. Steamer and ZiPS also project an OPS in that range. But, plus defense in center field still projects to a 2.6 WARP.
Kennys Vargas, DH/1B, Twins:
One of Vargas’ comps is 2008 Joey Votto, so that’s nice. The projection is .251/.312/.427 with 22 home runs. The power will be there no matter what, but it isn’t completely sold that he’ll get on base enough, which is likely why his attrition rate is high. If you drop down to the 30th percentile projection you’re looking at a .293 OBP, which probably isn’t high enough even if there’s power there.
Moving on to the collapse/attrition pitchers:
PECOTA doesn’t like closers, apparently, as 3 of the top 7 in the collapse column are closers. Jonathan Papelbon, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel (really?) are high in that column. I’m concentration mostly on starting pitchers in this exercise, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Twins:
PECOTA hates Nolasco, and I guess I can’t blame it, because he was bad last year, but his FIP and xFIP were more acceptable. You can basically draw a line at over/under 10% HR/FB rate and know whether or not he was decent, or bad based on that. Last year his HR/FB rate was 11.6%, but if he could drop that down to 2013’s 8.7% or 2012’s 9.1% there’s no reason why he can’t at least be league average.
Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers:
Sigh. (FWIW, Darvish had a 31% collapse rate, but also a 47% improve rate, if anything this exercise has shown me just how unpredictable even great pitchers can be.)
Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers:
PECOTA still believes. Although his collapse rate is 30%, his improve rate is 36%, and it’s projecting a 3.30 ERA, which is at least a half run better than any of the other projection systems. (Well, ZiPS is a 0.48 run difference, but I’m rounding up there.) I admit, I’m still holding out hope that the old Verlander is there somewhere. I know it’s a longshot, but he is probably my favorite guy to watch pitch when he’s going good, so for selfish reasons I still want to watch the old Verlander someday.
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