December 23, 2011 at 10:57 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Dan Szymborski of ESPN and Baseball Think Factory released the Braves’ ZiPS projections for 2012. The projections can be found here, and I recommend them to all. They are just projections, and should not be taken as fact, as a number of factors can greatly alter the actual performance of any individual player throughout the course of a season. ZiPS is certainly a good base for what to expect though.
The four offensive Major Leaguer projections that interested me most were Michael Bourn’s, Jason Heyward’s, Freddie Freeman’s, and Tylor Pastornicky’s. Younger players like the latter three are always difficult to project due to a small sample size against the world’s top talent, but to me that is what makes reading these projections so interesting.
Bourn: .270/.331/.354, 28 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 57 SB, 13 CS, 86 OPS+
The OPS+ looks a bit low, compared to the 97 mark he has put together over the past three seasons. The two best years in that span, and in fact the two best of his career, were helped by BABIP’s in the .360′s. Expecting that to drop does make sense, but I would also imagine his OBP is in the lower .340′s rather than the low .330′s.
wRC+ is a better metric for Bourn than OPS+ due to the fact that it includes steals. His career OPS+ is 88 while his career wRC+ is 97. I think we should project Bourn at more of a 93 OPS+ with his wRC+ hovering around 100, so I think ZiPS is underestimating Bourn at least a tad.
Heyward: .255/.360/.427, 25 2B, 4 3B, 17 HR, 12 SB, 4 CS, 113 OPS+
Heyward’s stat line is close to what I projected here, but with less power. I had Heyward at .265/.365/.455 line, which is somewhat close. This seems pretty attainable to me and should be what he would get if he had an average year, in my opinion.
The 113 OPS+ would be significantly lower than his rookie season’s 131 mark, but it would still very solid. With his defense and base running skills, this line should make Heyward a four win player.
Freeman: .279/.344/.455, 32 2B, 1 3B, 21 HR, 115 OPS+
ZiPS puts Freeman as the second most productive offensive player. The line itself is hardly different from last year’s, which is to be expected since he only really has the one season of Major League experience under his belt and it was relatively in line with what he did throughout the minors, when you alter the minor league lines to Major League equivalents.
Freeman will probably never be a top tier first baseman due to how competitive the position is. I could see his power bumping up a bit more than ZiPS projects, but this projection seems pretty accurate to me.
Pastornicky: .261/.311/.363, 21 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 28 SB, 12 CS, 82 OPS+
The line itself looks accurate. He will probably be close to average offensively compared to other shortstops, if not a bit below average. If he is able to play average defense at shortstop while being efficient on the base paths, this will be a position that is at least somewhat upgraded over last year.
He does not have any one tool like Alex Gonzalez had that makes him productive, but he should be pretty solid at most aspects. Eyes will be focused on Tyler in spring and in the early parts of the season, so coming out of the gate strong will be vital for his prospects of winning over the uncertain.
As a side note to the latter three projections, Dan also tweeted ZiPS peak projections:
“FWIW, ZiPS peak abilities – Pastornicky 273/334/427, Heyward 257/390/475, Freeman 283/362/500
I think Heyward’s average could be higher, which would also improve his slugging, but the OBP and ISO look close to right. If he is able to put up a .390 OBP with an ISO of .218 then he will probably be a seven win player, which could put him in MVP contention.
That line from Pastornicky could put him in the rookie of the year hunt, and Freeman would be as solid at first as the Braves have had in a decade with that type of performance.
Of course, those are peak projections and are not to be expected, but they are attainable with a few breaks and improved performance. One of them could reach those numbers, which would be a huge improvement over what the Braves got out of any of those positions last year, even more so at short or in right.
There was not much to note on the pitching end, though the similarities between Jair Jurrjens and Julio Teheran certainly caught my eye.
Jurrjens: 156 IP, 3.81 ERA, 11-8, 15 HR, 105 K, 51 BB, 103 ERA+
Teheran: 152 IP, 3.85 ERA, 11-9, 13 HR, 121 K, 58 BB, 102 ERA+
Teheran will likely replace Jurrjens once he is traded, and the innings total for Teheran is close to ideal to me. He should probably make five to ten minor league starts before coming back to the majors, which should leave him about 15o or so innings left depending on how many starts he actually does make in Gwinnett.
The fact that ZiPS calls them equals now only gives me more confidence in trading Jair. The Braves will not lose much of anything in terms of production, only in depth, while likely netting a solid return and shaving off a few million from the payroll as well. Hopefully a few more can get on board after seeing what ZiPS expects of the highly touted prospect and the veteran who is expected to regress.