Here’s the thing: Making predictions about baseball is really hard. If you make a bunch of them, however, you have a better chance to be right a few times, and you can put that kind of stuff on the back of your baseball (writer) card. Here are a bunch of predictions for Padres position players in the 2016 season.
Disclaimer: These guys certainly all won’t make the Opening Day 25-man roster, but they all stand a good chance to at least find themselves in the majors at some point. Also, predictions are for the player’s full season, regardless of whether or not they are traded, but only count major-league performance (unless otherwise noted).
I had a love-hate relationship with the Padres starting catcher last season; early in the year I wrote about how his poor framing numbers were hurting the Padres, and later in the year I wrote about how impressive his turnaround was in that department. Norris is suddenly a good framer and, don’t forget, he threw out like 472 runners last season—dude’s a solid defensive backstop.
The Prediction: +9.7 Framing Runs (Baseball Prospectus)
Bethancourt’s a player Braves fans probably drooled about for years. Then he appeared under the spotlight in Atlanta, and the locals quickly got restless. That’s it? A defense-first catcher who can’t defend? This stinks.
Bethancourt’s throwing arm is of the sort where you wonder if it’s made of all-natural stuff like skin and bones and ligaments or if it’s some kind of alien experiment gone completely right. So he’s got that going for him.
The Prediction: 44* percent CS rate, 1.87 average pop time
*If he catches Tyson Ross in more than 20 percent of his games, I hereby reduce this number to 36 percent.
Newsflash No. 1: Hedges may never hit.
Newsflash No. 2: Nobody would look at you funny if you proclaimed Hedges the best defensive catcher on the planet.
Hedges has (don’t go there, don’t go there) Yasmani Grandal’s framing ability with Bethancourt’s arm (or, at least, a not-so-cheap alien-style knockoff) with Yadier Molina’s expert handling of a pitching staff with . . . well, you get the point. He’s a great defensive catcher with no notable weaknesses behind the dish.
There’s probably a decent chance he spends a good chunk of time in Triple-A, since Bethancourt is out of options and Hedges could use daily reps, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if he reappeared in San Diego at some point.
The Prediction: +31 Framing Runs, including minor leagues (Baseball Prospectus)
I don’t think it’d shock anyone if Myers put it all together and hit 30-something home runs this season. He’s got the raw power, and spurts of good performance, and he once hit 37 in the minors. On the downside, he’s always hurt and 30 home runs is a lot—like everything-has-to-go-right a lot. It’s tough for perpetually healthy players to hit 30 home runs, and perpetual health evades Myers—perpetual good health, anyway. Even when he’s been on the field, he’s only hit 27 homers in 235 big-league games. Did I mention Petco Park?
He could do it, but I’m not falling into this trap again.
The Prediction: 24 home runs
I’m not sure about you, but Spangenberg feels like the sort of player whose career could jut out in any number of 100 some odd directions—like just about any unproven player, I suppose. Shoot, even the proven guys surprise you.
In three years, maybe he’s Ben Zobrist or maybe he’s Geoff Blum or maybe he’s something in between, like—I don’t know—Frank Menechino. Here’s one thing I think I know about him—he won’t hit many home runs. He’s hit just 23 homers in 2,281 professional plate appearances, which works out to about six every 600 trips to the plate. Provided he hasn’t bulked up on an all-Wheaties regimen this offseason, he’s probably not going to turn into Russ Branyan overnight.
The prediction: 8 home runs (one inside-the-parker)
The Prediction: .257/.289/.360, 27 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 22 BB, 70 K, .237 TAv, 0.9 WARP
Solarte’s biggest offensive weapon is his contact-based approach, which provides a nice change-of-pace in a mostly strikeout prone offense. He K’ed in just 9.8 percent of his plate appearances last season, and his career mark now stands at 10.3 percent. He’s not just a punch-and-judy guy either, as he knocked around (buy the sunglasses) 51 extra-base hits in 2015, a substantial improvement from his rookie campaign where he totaled just 30.
Strikeout rate is relatively easy to peg, so I feel pretty confident with this one.
The Prediction: 9.6 percent strikeout rate
The Explanation Behind The Prediction: It’s almost always bad sabermetric form to project someone who is already really good at something to get better. For instance, PECOTA projects Solarte to strikeout in 12 percent of his PAs, which is closer to league average than his career number. Regression, ya know?
Here are Solarte’s strikeout rates in each year of his professional career:
So why am I predicting an ever-so-slight diversion further away from the mean? I have no idea—just wanted to provide you with some additional numbers, and acknowledge that this ain’t science.
How many players, with at least 1,000 career plate appearances, have hit more triples than home runs?
1,120, according to Baseball Reference’s Play Index. Ty Cobb leads the group, at least in triple-to-homer differential, with 295 triples and 117 home runs, and all the deadball stars check in right behind him: Sam Crawford, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Okay, better question:
How many post-deadball-era players, with at least 1,000 career plate appearances, have hit more triples than home runs?
How many players since 1990, with at least 1,000 career plate appearances, have hit more triples than home runs?
102. Ahh, that’s a little better, though admittedly the feat’s still not as rare as I expected. The usual suspects pepper this list: Juan Pierre (94-18), Luis Castillo (59-28), Jason Tyner (11-1), Dave Roberts (53-23), and Ben Revere (28-4). None of them are more interesting than Reggie Willits, however, whose career spanned from 2006 through 2011 with the Angels, lasting 1,014 plate appearances. Barring an unforeseen return in search of home run No. 1, Willits will go down in the history books with just one triple and zero home runs—the only such player to exist (with 1,000-plus PAs).
Amarista hasn’t joined this club yet—he’s at 18 home runs and 16 triples—but I think he’ll inch ever-closer this year.
The Prediction: 3 triples, 2 home runs
Wallace’s career probably hasn’t panned out like he had hoped a half decade back, when he was a top prospect in the Houston Astros system. After a long look, the Astros cut Wallace loose after a 2013 campaign that featured a ridiculous 36.5 strikeout percentage, a number few players—including Wallace, though he tried valiantly with 13 home runs in 285 PAs—are able to overcome.
Three teams later and Wallace has already entered the journeyman phase of his career, and even after a (small-sample) breakout .895 OPS last season, he doesn’t project to get many starts for a second-division club like the Padres. Instead he’ll settle into a now-familiar role as go-to pinch hitter and occasional spot starter. While that may sound like a bleak outlook for a once-promising prospect, here’s the rub: Wallace is a freakin’ major-league baseball player.
The Prediction: 3 pinch-hit home runs, 2 walk-off hits
Pirela is sort of like Amarista, except for the chance that there’s a competent bat in there somewhere. That’s not a knock against Amarista, really, it’s just that he’s proven his only redeemable on-field quality is his versatility, whereas Pirela has a shot at providing value beyond that in a utility role. PECOTA projects Pirela for a .262 TAv, which is nearly 40 points higher than Amarista’s .223 mark.
The Prediction: 4 hit-by-pitches
Kemp’s earned the reputation as a second-half player over the last few seasons, but is it warranted?
|Year||First Half OPS||Second Half OPS|
Probably not. Kemp’s first (2012) and fourth (2011) best half season OPSes have come in the first half, and through the first seven years of his career there was little indication he had any preference toward which half he’d do his better work. It’s true that since 2013 he has a pretty significant split favoring better late-season performance, but it’s hard to read much into it given the generally not-so-useful existence of the split. Further, busting any notion that he’s a “slow starter,” consider that his April OPS (.932) is the best of his career while his May OPS (.698) is the worst of his career. Sometimes numbers just work out it in funny ways, but there isn’t always meaning behind them.
The Prediction: .817 first half OPS, .801 second half OPS, -17 UZR
Through 2012, Upton struck out in 25 percent of his plate appearances. That number ballooned to 31.5 percent in 2013 and 2014, where Upton posted a cringe-worthy .198/.279/.314 line in route to making his newly signed contract one of the game’s worst.
Last year in San Diego, he slashed his strikeout rate to 27 percent, a middle ground between Good Upton and Bad Upton. Suddenly, he looks like a usable player again. If Upton can provide something in the neighborhood of league average hitting and fielding in center field, his albatross contract could revert back into a relative bargain. That might be asking a bit much, but it’s spring training so we’re still allowed to dream.
The Prediction: .248 TAv (Baseball Prospectus)
Look, I don’t have something interesting to say about every player—you might argue that I don’t have something interesting to say about any player, but just keep that to yourself.
I’m not sure what Jay’s going to do in 2016, but the fact that the Cardinals were willing to sever ties makes me lean toward the side that says he might not have much in the tank.
The Prediction: 0.6 WARP
If I’m running the Padres, I slot Blash in as the everyday left fielder and tell him to take his best shot at both the home run and strikeout record. Here’s where PECOTA sees him, at least offensively:
|Scott Van Slyke||.283|
|Jabari Blash (!!!)||.282|
That’s good company.
Go up a few slots and there’s Adrian Gonzalez, Yoenis Cespedes, and Carlos Correa, and go down a few slots and there’s Michael Brantley, Manny Machado, and Alex Gordon. A lot of these players are valuable for reasons beyond their bats—Heyward, Gordon, Machado, and (not again) Grandal are all elite defensive players while Correa’s a 21-year-old shortstop. Still, if PECOTA’s right, Blash would rate as one of the Padres best hitters. Give ‘em a shot.
The Prediction: 25 home runs, 155 strikeouts, 95.31 average exit velocity (StatCast)
Jankowski feels like the type of player who could start on a contender or sit the bench on a last-place team, which is really just another way of saying—like Jay, and everyone—that I have no idea what he’s gonna do. Thing is, every team’s situation is different, and with plenty of expensive and potentially passable outfielders, there’s not a logical position to slot Jankowski in full-time. Of course, the 162-game season provides plenty of opportunity for changes—be it trades or subpar performance or injuries—so Jankowski could find his way into an everyday role at some point.
Of course, none of this really answers the question of whether or not Jankowski’s major-league good, and—like most who attempt this game—there’s a good chance he’s not.
The Prediction: 0.0 WARP
If Dickerson played a decade and a half ago, the domain name freealexdickerson.com would not be available. The dude’s never recorded a sub-.800 OPS in any minor-league assignment, and PECOTA projects him right around league average with the stick in 2016. If things go badly—or a position opens up—there’s an argument to give Dickerson some legitimate major-league playing time and see what happens.
The Prediction: 43 games played
We’ll tackle the pitchers next time.