January is projections season. There are a whole mess of projection systems out there, but the system that is generally considered to be the most accurate, as well as the most widely available, is Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS, which are being released on Fangraphs this year. While you, the dear reader, have likely taken a glance at these already – they’re a month old, after all – I’d like to share a couple thoughts on the projections for the Giants this year.
For each player, in addition to a short analysis, I’ll provide a prediction of whether they will hit OVER or UNDER their projected OPS+.
Buster Posey: 172 OPS+ in 2012, projected 139 OPS+ in 2013. This one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Posey will regress this year, if only because his 2012 season was literally bonkers and to expect him to continue to perform at that level is simply unrealistic. A 139 OPS+ with above-average defense is still a fantastic, fantastic player – certainly an All-Star, if not an MVP. Nothing to worry about here. As far as over or under, I’ll be realistic and take the UNDER. I think he’ll be somewhere in the 130-135 range.
Angel Pagan: 121 OPS+ in 2012, projected 103 OPS+ in 2013. This one is more worrisome. Pagan will be in the first year of a four-year contract, and a leadoff hitter with a .270/.320/.403 triple-slash line, as ZiPS projects, is less than ideal. That would be more digestible in the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup, but the Giants don’t really have another conventional leadoff hitter – or an unconventional one either, for that matter. Still, a 103 OPS+ to go with slightly below-average defense in center field comes out to about 3 WAR or so. I’ll take the OVER on his projection, and hope that I’m right.
Brandon Crawford: 87 OPS+ in 2012, projected 78 OPS+ in 2013. This isn’t that much of a regression, but the fact of the matter with Crawford is he has a very small margin for error. I think a 78 OPS+ is right on that line. We know he’s going to play amazing defense at an extremely important position, and to be honest there aren’t really any other options at short for the Giants so he’s going to get his 600 PA. But I think Crawford is going to struggle with the bat a lot this year. Am I allowed to take a push on his projection? No? Alright, I’ll say barely OVER.
Pablo Sandoval: 124 OPS+ in 2012, projected 125 OPS+ in 2013. I think 2013 is going to be a monster year for Sandoval. He hit very well last year despite a pair of hamate injuries, and he should be fully recovered from those injuries come Opening Day. Power is typically the tool most affected by wrist injuries, and now that he’s put those injuries in the past I expect him to really break out this year. His 155 OPS+ in 2011 will be hard to top, but I think a 140 OPS+ is about right. OVER
Brandon Belt: 124 OPS+ in 2012, projected 121 OPS+ in 2013. I actually think Belt will outperform his ZiPS projection this year, to the tune of a 130 OPS+ or so. But the question with Belt, as it was last offseason, is will he make that jump into the upper echelon of first basemen in the National League? Last year he was 8th out of 13 first basemen in the league with at least 400 PA in wRC+. A 130 wRC+ would have put him 3rd. Can he make that jump? More importantly, will this be the year he finally breaks 500 PA in a season? One can only hope. OVER
Hunter Pence: 103 OPS+ in 2012 (combined, 91 OPS+ with the Giants), projected 104 OPS+ in 2013. Hunter Pence’s OPS+ by year: 129, 105, 116, 112, 139, 103. With the exception of his monster 2011, when he had a 188 OPS+ in Houston before getting traded to the Phillies, Pence has been a pretty consistent player. His OPS+ for the Phillies last year before getting traded was 109, and I think that’s about what we can expect from him this year as well. His contract situation next offseason should be very interesting, especially if he returns to the consistently above-average player he has been in his career up until last July. OVER
Marco Scutaro: 99 OPS+ in 2012 (combined, 145 OPS+ with the Giants), projected 91 OPS+ in 2013. It would be ridiculous to credit any one player with a World Series title, but I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to say that without Marco Scutaro, the Giants do not win the 2012 World Series. He absolutely mashed the ball after coming over for Charlie Culberson on July 27th, and, as you may remember, batted .500 on his way to winning the NLCS MVP award. Regression from his 145 OPS+ is certain, how much regression is uncertain. I’ve stated before that I’d be fine with Scutaro if he hit his career averages (.276/.340/.391), and ZiPS projects him to hit .269/.316/.360, a 91 OPS+. I’ll predict him to slightly outpace his ZiPS projection, something to the tune of .275/.325/.380. OVER
Hector Sanchez: 95 OPS+ in 2012, projected 84 OPS+ in 2013. Hector Sanchez had a 95 OPS+ in 2012. Color me shocked. 347 players got at least 200 plate appearances last season. Sanchez’s 2.2% walk rate ranked 346th. There’s a lot to like about Sanchez: he’s only 23, he has projectable power, he makes decent contact. But a 2.2% walk rate leaves very little room for error. Sanchez batted .280 last year, which is pretty good. But his on-base percentage was only .296, which is awful. His BABIP was .349, and if he can’t keep that up (spoiler: he probably won’t) then he could crater in a hurry. UNDER
Gregor Blanco: 95 OPS+ in 2012, projected 84 OPS+ in 2013. I don’t have a whole lot more to say about Blanco that I haven’t already said, so I’ll just put this here. Gregor Blanco, projected 84 OPS+ with +4 defense; Gary Brown, projected 89 OPS+ with +5 defense. Oh, and OVER I suppose.
Bench players: Joaquin Arias, projected 79 OPS+ in 2013 (OVER), Andres Torres, projected 94 OPS+ in 2013 (UNDER), Francisco Peguero, projected 79 OPS+ in 2013 (OVER, barely)
Others of note (I won’t predict over or under for these, I just found them interesting or noteworthy): Gary Brown, 89 OPS+; Joe Panik, 87 OPS+; Conor Gillaspie, 91 OPS+; Brett Pill, 94 OPS+; Nick Noonan, 72 OPS+; Freddy Sanchez, 94 OPS+; Todd Linden, 84 OPS+; Ryan Theriot, 80 OPS+.