This post starts a series during which I intend to examine the prospects of the O’s based on some of the most popular and accurate projection systems out there. We’ll start with Oliver, and make our way to Steamer next, followed by ZiPS, and so on.
Discuss these projections for the O’s on the BSL Forums here.
Oliver is a system developed by Brian Cartwright for use and publication on The Hardball Times and various other sites. For background on Oliver, you can read this primer here, that Brian wrote for THT in 2010.
Let’s start with looking at the O’s hitters, using Oliver’s projections for 2014 as a baseline for discussion. Here is the data for the O’s hitters in 2014. As you can see, Oliver doesn’t make an effort to estimate playing time for hitters, so everyone’s numbers are based on 600 PA. This is actually useful for the purpose of determining roles on the team, because it allows us to see what a player like Henry Urrutia would do if given full playing time, a real possibility at this point. We’ll discuss the team in chunks, starting with position battles:
According to Oliver, only one Oriole would be worth negative WAR if given full playing time. That player is Nolan Reimold, who the O’s recently tendered a contract to in hopes that he can potentially play some left field. Otherwise Reimold is likely a bench bat, but regardless of his position it’s unlikely that he gets full time at bats anywhere. Oliver predicts a line of .239/.314/.407 and a WAR of -0.4 for Nolan Reimold.
The next contender would be Steve Pearce, whose bat would play decently well against lefties, but whose glove is questionable as a full-time left fielder. With a line of .253/.338/.425 Pearce would be arguably the best bat the O’s could send to left field currently. According to Oliver, Pearce would be worth 1 WAR as a full-time player, which is only slightly worse than the best option currently on the roster.
Henry Urrutia is, as far as Oliver is concerned, the best option the O’s have to play left field currently on the roster. Oliver projects that over 600 at bats Urrutia would be worth a whole 1.1 WAR while producing a triple slash of .275/.326/.415. Urrutia would likely be a better fielder than Pearce, who on the other hand has a higher probability of producing with the bat.
Ultimately, the answer seems to be that if the O’s want average production in left field, it doesn’t seem they have the man on their roster to do it. With options for left field like Nate McLouth and Chris Young leaving the market, the O’s need to act fast if they want to get more than just above replacement level production out of LF.
One interesting player on the list is the newly acquired Jemile Weeks, who Oliver projects to produce 0.8 WAR given 600 at bats. Weeks is projected to have negative value with his glove, but his bat (despite its deficiencies) and baserunning brings him above replacement level. Oliver projects Weeks to produce a line of .248/.322/.336 over a full season. With some quick math you’d see that that comes out to an ISO of just .088 which is pretty abysmal, even for second base. Weeks is projected to up a wOBA under .300, so again very light on his bat.
One alternative is another new Oriole: Cord Phelps. Oliver likes Phelps more than I do, projecting him to put up 2.0 WAR if given full time at bats. Phelps, Ryan Flaherty, and Jon Schoop all fall between .701 and .711 for OPS, which means that baserunning and fielding are the key points of differentiation here. Phelps is project to be positive with the glove, though not as good as either Flaherty or Schoop.
Speaking of Flaherty, the bat is still fairly light in 2014 according to Oliver. A line of .238/.298/.403 won’t blow anyone away, that’s for sure. However, given the strong fielding numbers he’s projected to put up the O’s could certainly live with offensive production like that. Oliver projects Flaherty to be worth 2.2 wins in 2014 if he gets 600 PA, which is just slightly less than O’s second basemen as a whole put up last season. Flaherty would seem to be the favorite to win the job out of camp, though there’s a chance for another dark horse candidate to steal the job.
Jon Schoop is someone who I would consider to be a serious dark horse for the starting second base spot next year. Schoop battled injuries in 2013, but still has the pedigree as a solid hitting prospect. To that point, Oliver likes Schoop to produce a batting line of .247/.302/.407 while providing a positive boost with his glove. Oliver projects that given 600 plate appearances in 2014, Schoop would produce 2.2 WAR, or roughly what the O’s can expect out of Flaherty.
I think the second base job is Flaherty’s to lose, and I think that in a perfect world Schoop stays in AAA until he forces a promotion later in the season. Between Schoop and Flaherty, the O’s would likely get decent production from second base, especially considering the cost of those two players.
Oliver projects Adam Jones and Chris Davis to be the best hitters on the O’s roster in 2014, with both guys producing 4.1 WAR with a full season of plate appearances. While Oliver has both guys hitting .277, Davis takes an immense lead in OBP and SLG while Jones makes up ground with his glove and legs.
The next tier, according to Oliver, is three guys who will produce between 3 and 4 WAR next season: Machado, Wieters, and Hardy. Machado is projected to have the third best bat on the club to go along with being the best fielder. Oliver says that’s good enough for a 3.6 WAR, but I think that’s low because Oliver is likely underestimating his defensive prowess. Next up is Matt Wieters at 3.4 WAR buoyed by a strong wOBA (.324) and solid defense. Hardy, also a defensive star is projected to put up 3.1 WAR largely because of his solid defense. The 20 HRs that Oliver projects for him certainly doesn’t hurt either.
These projections are fun to look at, but aren’t going to be extremely accurate for any given player. On the whole though, they tend to be solid, and provide an interesting look at the O’s roster construction for 2014. No doubt the O’s use Oliver or a system like it to project player performance going forward. Take it with a grain of salt, but this exercise is about taking a fun look at potential production.
Next up we’ll look at the O’s pitchers according to Oliver.