FANALYTICS: Prognosticating successes 2013, part 1

In the Baseball Forecaster, I describe our forecasting process as being more interested in logical journeys than blind destinations. The truth is, we really can't predict the future, not in the purest sense of the term. We can only piece together elements of performance, analyze their relevance and draw some rough conclusions. It is for this reason that I think the analytic commentaries we provide in the book and online are more insightful, and valuable, than our numerical projections.

Of course, you come here for the numbers. However, as I've written many times before, we really don't have a clue how to handle the numbers when it comes to forecasting accuracy. The best way to gauge how well we do is to see if the process worked. That's the only thing we have control over.

And so, this week and next, we look at some of our particular successes related to the process. The following analyses appeared in either the 2013 Baseball Forecaster or in the various columns during the pre-season here at BaseballHQ.com. These are some of my works but mostly the works of the terrific analysts we have on this site. And these are not all of our good calls, just the ones that show off the process best.

BATTERS

Brandon Belt mashed RHPs when he finally got an extended opportunity in 2nd half, though xBA remains skeptical. More power to come? .906 OPS at home, so AT&T is not killing him. xPX says power still there, just waiting for more FB. Add in some hr/f regression, and.... UP: 20 HR. (Paley)
2012: 7-56-12-.275 in 411 AB
2013: 17-67-5-.289 in 509 AB

Michael Bourn: Speedsters entering their early thirties are a questionable investment. Without his terrific wheels, Bourn is an ordinary hitter at best that lacks power, employs an inconsistent approach at the plate and is transitioning to a superior league. It isn't likely that his SB upside falls apart this season or even next, but the threat is always there with a one-dimensional player. (Becker)
2012: 9-57-42-.274 in 624 AB
2013: 6-50-23-.263 in 525 AB

Domonic Brown: Until he fractured a hamate bone that required surgery in spring training 2011, it looked like he was on track to becoming the next big thing in Philly. He's struggled since, but the tools are there—plus bb%, ct% and PX in otherwise underwhelming stints in 2011 and 2012. He's flashed solid Spd in the past as well so it's just a matter of putting it all together. Just 25 years old, the opportunity is now for him to realize his considerable potential. (Becker)
2012: 5-26-0-.235 in 187 AB
2013: 27-83-8-.272 in 496 AB

Melky Cabrera: Things that went up: Eye, Spd (big time), GB%, BA (especially vLHP), xBA (does not support BA), wacky h%, and detected banned substances. Things that went down: power (new home park hurt), games played after suspension and credibility. If his numbers depended on chemicals, DN: 2010 (Paley)
2010: 4-42-7-.255 in 458 AB
2011: 18-87-20-.305 in 658 AB
2012: 11-60-13-.346 in 459 AB
2013: 3-30-2-.279 in 344 AB

Mike Carp may well be the best bet from the next tier. He had a nice mini-breakout late in 2011, but never got started on his 2012 followup attempt after getting hurt on the season-opening trip to Japan. From what we saw in that 2nd half of 2011 (282 AB of 140 PX), this is a bat that will play and play well, if and when he makes his way to the top of this logjam of options (in Seattle). (Murphy)
2012: 5-20-.213 in 164 AB at SEA
2013: 9-43-.296 in 216 AB at BOS

Matt Carpenter's strength is in his lack of a glaring weakness. He makes enough contact and takes plenty of walks, giving him a reasonably high BA floor. He also has PX and Spd enough to produce double digits in both HRs and SBs. (Becker)
2012: 6-46-1-.294 in 296 AB
2013: 11-78-3-.318 in 626 AB

Michael Cuddyer's lowest PX for any month last year was 132. It wasn't all courtesy of the thin air as his 17% hr/f on the road was just a shade behind his 19% mark at home. While his xBA of .296 is probably a tad optimistic, Cuddyer's BA is a strong bet to improve and in spite of his poor Spd, he's managed to swipe at least 5 bags every year since 2006. Cuddyer offers great value should he remain in Colorado all season, and even though playing half the time in Coors Field isn't critical to his success, it sure doesn't hurt. (Becker)
2012: 16-58-8-.260 in 358 AB
2013: 20-84-10-.331 in 489 AB

Chris Davis: It seems that nobody trusts that he can repeat last year's performance. Heck, at 27 he could get better. He's shown signs in the past that he can hit higher than .270. The incredible power and high batting average he displayed in the minors are still a part of his skill set. Entering his peak years, he could well build on 2012's numbers, hitting upwards of 40 home runs with a batting average approaching .300. (Shandler)
2012: 33-85-2-.270 in 515 AB
2013: 53-138-4-.286 in 584 AB

Ian Desmond looks like a possible bargain, with an ADP in the late 6th round. While some regression from his 2012 breakout would be natural, his power growth looks reasonable, though the HR total was clearly inflated. Still, the power/speed combination is hard to pass up in the 5th or 6th. (Cederholm)
2011: 8-49-25-.253 in 584 AB
2012: 25-73-21-.292 in 513 AB
2013: 20-80-21-.280 in 600 AB

Josh Donaldson: Injuries propelled him into an everyday role late in the season and he responded with promising power (8 HRs in Aug/Sept). Encouraging ct% growth offers a path to continued fanalytic relevance. Keep an eye on this one... UP: 20 HR, .270 BA. (Gelfand)
2012: 9-33-4-.241 in 274 AB
2013: 24-92-5-.305 in 571 AB

Stephen Drew: Sure, the ankle injury was bad, but in typical Drew family fashion, it took him far longer than expected to fully recover. Plate patience came back intact; resurgent Sept. (5 HRs, 45% FB%) along with aggregate xPX all suggest that a return of 2010 power is in play. (Gelfand)
2010: 15-61-10-.278 in 565 AB
2011: 5-45-4-.252 in 321 AB
2012: 7-28-1-.223 in 287 AB
2013: 13-64-6-.249 in 433 AB

Jacoby Ellsbury: Now two injury-decimated seasons in three years, with a complete breakout/outlier sandwiched in the middle; this may be the toughest 2013 projection out there. We know the speed is legit, but xPX doubted the 2011 power when it happened, so discount that until we see it again. 50 SB more likely than 20 HR. (Murphy)
2011: 32-105-39-.321 in 660 AB
2012: 4-26-14-.271 in 303 AB
2013: 9-53-52-.298 in 577 AB

Edwin Encarnacion: This monster season was just a case of sewing together skills he'd owned all along: solid plate approach/contact ('10-'11) for a slugger, plenty of FBs ('08, '10), established power ('08, '10), good health ('08, '11). Mild regression will preclude a full repeat, but this was no one-year wonder. (Murphy)
2012: 42-110-13-.280 in 542 AB
2013: 36-104-7-.272 in 530 AB

Danny Espinosa: Compelling power/speed profile comes with warning signs galore: ct% erosion reaching dangerous levels, xPX doesn't fully back HR, SBs stem from a shaky cocktail of average Spd and liberal green light. 2nd half showed positive face value, though unsupported growth. Lots of ways this can go wrong. (Murphy)
2012: 17-56-20-.247 in 594 AB
2013: 3-12-1-.158 in 158 AB

Freddie Freeman is a great value as his skills improved across the board in his second full season, particularly his bb%, ct% and PX. He made better quality contact in 2012 as well, increasing both his LD% and FB%. Freeman is just 23 years old, but he already has 30 HR upside right now with more BA growth potential in the near future. (Becker)
2012: 23-94-2-.259 in 540 AB
2013: 23-109-1-.319 in 551 AB

David Freese: 2011 October hero stayed healthy enough for his first 500-AB season... at age 30. Problem is, friendly hr/f drove HR spike more than anything. Hits too many GB to be a reliable power source. And xBA says he's no .290 lock. 2nd half calf, wrist, ankle woes remind us that chronically injured players don't get healthy in their 30s. (Nickrand)
2012: 20-79-.293 in 501 AB
2013: 9-60-.262 in 462 AB

Evan Gattis: Although Brian McCann hopes to be ready by Opening Day, Gattis could surpass talented Christian Bethancourt and break camp with the Braves if McCann has any setbacks. Gattis batted .305 with 18 home runs in three stops in the minors last season, followed by hitting .303 with 16 home runs in Venezuela. Drug rehab and other issues kept him out of baseball for nearly four years. (Beckey)
2013: 21-65-0-.243 in 354 AB

Josh Hamilton's MVP-caliber April and May hid huge ct% tailspin, maddening inconsistency by month. Still hasn't posted 500 AB in back-to-back seasons. xBA trends another warning sign, especially as he opens up swing to hacker levels. This likely was his peak. DN: 400 AB, .270 BA, 20 HR. (Nickrand)
Also... Don't draft Josh Hamilton (HQ: 115, ADP: 11). Yes, you read correctly: we have him in the 8th round, despite him being in the top 5 hitters last year. In almost 60 NFBC drafts, Hamilton hasn't lasted past pick #22. Given the ballpark factors, he'd have to repeat his 2012 production, clearly an outlier, to be worth that high a pick. You've been warned. (Cederholm)
2012: 43-128-7-.285 in 562 AB
2013: 21-79-4-.250 in 576 AB

Chase Headley: Fully 27% of his fly balls went yard in the second half last year, leading to 23 anomalous HRs. Prior to that spike, he was on pace for a typical 16-HR season. That should be your baseline power projection. (Shandler)
2012: 31-117-17-.286 in 604 AB
2013: 13-50-8-.250 in 520 AB

Ian Kinsler: If you were disappointed with his performance, just imagine his counting stats without the huge AB total. Small signs of decline across the board. Even at just-past peak, recent skills suggest that the declines are reversible, but factor in that there's only downside possible in his AB totals. (Cederholm)
2012: 19-72-21-.256 in 655 AB
2013: 13-72-15-.277 in 545 AB

DJ LeMahieu: Secondbasemen with speed skills and a .300 BA don't grow on trees, so this one will get some attention in many leagues. But inflated h% drove BA, and xBA paints a less rosy picture. 2nd half Spd would be worth tucking away for SB flier late in your draft. (Nickrand)
2012: 1 SB in 229 AB
2013: 18 SB in 404 AB

Adam Lind battled back problems, and that's a sure-fire way to kill power. xPX shows it, and also that he's been better when healthy. Forget about '09, but a rebound to '11 HR levels nets a profit here. (Truesdell)
Also... Adam Lind (1B, TOR) had a lousy year in 2012, mostly due to a bad back. He's going in the 21st round, on average, which is about what his 2012 was worth. If you can get him at his ADP, there's a lot of gravy left in the boat. (Cederholm)
2011: 26-87-.251, 133 PX, $14 in 499 AB
2012: 11-45-.255, 93 PX, $6 in 321 AB
2013: 23-67-.288, 145 PX, $18 in 465 AB

Jonathan Lucroy may not hit .320 again, but otherwise Lucroy's mini-breakout is repeatable. Lucroy's improving Eye and PX growth give him a great shot to top 15 HR and he has Spd enough to swipe a handful of bags as well. There's a lot of value in a catcher that can deliver solid numbers like these and an optimistic line in the neighborhood of .285/18/7 isn't out of the question. (Becker)
2012: 12-58-4-.320 in 316 AB
2013: 18-82-9-.280 in 521 AB

Starling Marte: While his lack of bb% is likely to remain a weakness, he has at least shown better ct% in the high minors giving hope for improvement in this area... His GB% caps his power upside for now, but he runs often so if he can retain his SB% gains then he has 15/30 HR/SB upside in 2013. (Becker)
2012: 5-17-12-.257 in 167 AB
2013: 12-35-41-.280 in 510 AB

Leonys Martin is expected to fight Craig Gentry for the CF role, and that seems to be a battle strongly favoring Martin. Once he gets that role, it's entirely possible that Martin will work his way to the top of the Texas lineup and spend the summer racking up SBs and runs scored. He is yet another as-yet-unhyped fantasy option, where a minimal investment could yield 30+ SB and maybe even double-digit HR totals. (Murphy)
2012: 0-6-3-.175 in 46 AB
2013: 8-49-36-.262 in 454 AB

Justin Maxwell's power/speed combo held up well in majors, but he has SO many holes in his swing. Horrific ct% keeps BA right where it is, he doesn't hit righties, and xPX, hr/f say he won't keep all of the power gains. Now 29, this is probably about as good as it gets. UP: 500 AB nets 20/20/.240. DN: Drops into wrong side of a platoon. (Truesdell)
2012: 18-53-9-.229, 171 PX in 315 AB
2013: 7-25-6-.255, 158 PX in 231 AB

Andrew McCutcheon: Exciting breakout, but not without caveats. H% spike not fully supported by skills, meaning his BA should regress. Lingering knee pain likely cut into SBO and SB%, and needs monitoring. His peak may still be 1-2 years away, but growth often comes in fits and starts, even at this level. Expect some regression in '13. (Truesdell)
2012: 31-96-20-.327 in 593 AB
2013: 21-84-27-.317 in 583 AB

Nate McLouth: Sometimes you've gotta hit rock bottom. After a fully earned release from ATL, flashes of the old power/speed combo resurfaced with BAL. Can't hit lefties, health remains a risk, and two months is hardly a definitive sample. But he owns the skills, and in a platoon... UP .270, 20/20. (Truesdell)
2012: 7-20-12-.241 in 266 AB
2013: 12-34-30-.258 in 527 AB

Devin Mesoraco still has the power skills history that made many expect a more positive first impression, but a history of problems hitting RHP suggests his development will take some time. (Truesdell)
2012: 5-14-.212 in 165 AB
2013: 9-42-.240 (.214 vs RHP) in 321 AB

Will Middlebrooks' broken wrist prematurely ended what was shaping up to be a productive indoctrination to the bigs. Clearly, there are some holes: mainly, that poor Eye all but assures a BA drop. That said, beefy power skills held up well with BOS, and HR-hitting 3B are valuable commodities. (Truesdell)
2012: 15-54-.288, 148 PX in 267 AB
2013: 17-49-.230, 152 PX in 343 AB

Mike Napoli: Starting at 1B and less behind the dish for Boston should help his balky hip while potentially allowing him to crack the 500 AB plateau for the first time at age 31. Of course there's plenty of risk here, but Napoli's swing is tailor made for Fenway and a C-eligible bb%/PX combo like this at a reduced price is hard to pass up. So don't. (Becker)
2012: 24-56-1-.227 in 352 AB
2013: 23-92-1-.259 in 498 AB

Buster Posey: Impressive comeback by a rising star—but step back and take a deep breath. The 2nd half h% and PX are unrepeatable, and he won't always dominate LHP like that. He hits tons of GBs, and xPX suggests regression. But 1st half production is a reasonable benchmark; double it (yielding 20-80-.296) and he's still a top-flight catcher. (Adler)
2012: 24-103-.336 in 530 AB
2013: 15-72-.297 in 501 AB

Ryan Raburn is a sleeper option here, picked up from the Tigers this winter. As awful as he was last year (.171 BA with 1 HR in 202 AB), his 2009-11 track record (PX of 146-141-135) speaks better of his potential, and at age 31 he is certainly not too old to recapture something resembling that peak. In a part-time OF/DH role, Raburn could pop 15-20 HR along with a .260 BA over 350-400 AB. (Murphy)
2012: 1-12-.171 in 205 AB
2013: 16-55-.272 in 243 AB

Wilson Ramos was a raw prospect just a few years ago, but now combines strong plate discipline with solid PX and is entering his prime years. A high GB% has limited his power upside to this point, but he has the ability to produce solid HR totals while posting a reasonable BA... Ramos is one of the more intriguing sleepers at catcher in 2013. He has been healthy this spring and while he's likely to share time with Suzuki initially, his superior offensive upside gives him a strong shot at the primary role. (Becker)
2012: 3-10-0-.265 in 83 AB
2013: 16-59-0-.272 in 287 AB

Michael Saunders: Minor league career always pointed to raw power/speed skills; improved contact, BA vs. LHP finally made them MLB-playable. But sub-par ct%, marginal BA - particularly against RHPs - could put his playing time at risk. PX/xPX and SB% are encouraging, but BA/xBA track record says let someone else pay for a repeat. (Thompson)
2012: 19-57-21-.247 in 507 AB
2013: 12-46-13-.236 in 406 AB

Kyle Seager doesn't possess overwhelming skills, but his success in 2012 was no mirage. He makes contact at an above average clip and his LD indicates that it's good contact. His FB lean helps make the most of his decent PX so another 20 HR season is certainly possible. While his weak Spd doesn't support his SB total, Seager's SB% wasn't bad so at least he chooses his spots well. (Becker)
2012: 20-86-13-.259 in 594 AB
2013: 22-69-9-.260 in 615 AB

Jean Segura: Plenty of ct% paired with terrific Spd are skills that will keep his BA floor high, but maintaining (or growing) his bb% is critical to boosting his OBP so that he can reach his full SB potential. The good news is that his bb% has improved after reaching the big leagues. He has the starting job and his skills profile very well at the SS position, which means he can deliver immediate value to his owners. (Becker)
2012: 0-14-7-.258 in 151 AB
2013: 12-49-44-.294 in 588 AB

Shane Victorino has proven that even at less than 100% health, he has more than enough skill to be valuable to his owners. Good Spd is the headliner here, but the ct% and bb% combine to produce an advanced approach at the plate. And while he isn't a slugger, he does offer 15-20 HR potential. (Becker)
2012: 11-55-39-.255 in 595 AB
2013: 15-61-21-.294 in 477 AB

Jayson Werth: Before breaking his wrist in May, Werth was on his way to re-establishing himself after a tough first year in Washington. At his best, he's an OBP machine with plus pop and decent speed that's maximized by a SB% consistently over 80%. He had 550+ AB in each season since becoming an everyday player in 2009 so don't overreact to his unlucky break in 2012. (Becker)
2012: 5-31-8-.300 in 300 AB
2013: 25-82-10-.318 in 462 AB

 


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