We are a few weeks into Spring Training, and it seems to grow clearer and clearer each day that the Mariners roster is pretty much set. While there are competitions taking place, and guys battling to make the team or earn their jobs, Jack Zduriencik seems pretty adamant about rolling with what they’ve got, as evidenced by the following tweet:
What we learned from Jack Z: Ervin Santana wont be an M. Morales not coming back. Payroll is set.
— Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) March 8, 2014
While Jack is not known for his willingness to talk, similar sentiments have been repeated ad nauseam following the M’s string of signings from Robinson Cano to Fernando Rodney. And now with reports that Ervin Santana is in talks with the Blue Jays and Orioles, and the lack of need for another DH in Kendrys Morales, it seems likely that the team will stand pat, as least in terms of free agency.
There is still a chance that a trade occurs, possibly involving Nick Franklin, but the rumors on that end seem to fluctuate with each report.
With that said, I want to put down some projections for the current roster. Being a sabermetric guy, I am going to use WAR for the baseline of the projections, but I want to acknowledge that I understand WAR is not perfect, or a be-all-end-all. It is, however, the best stat we have to measure a player or team’s total contribution and value.
This edition will be the starting lineup only, with the rotation and bullpen to come in a later post.
I did something similar to this back in December, but this one will be slightly different. Because the projections from systems such as ZiPS and Steamer are available in other places, I will solely use my personal projections. So while they are likely biased, I did use a system myself. Wahoo’s On First has a WAR calculator tool on their site, so I utilized that to convert my basic ideas about the player into WAR.
I feel, while very helpful and accurate, that projections systems can ignore context at times. Many of you probably know how statistically-minded I am, but it is possible to get too dependent on numbers. The systems may not weight Ackley’s second half surge appropriately. They don’t know that Abraham Almonte struggled with an alcohol problem early in his career that may have hampered his play.
With all that said, here are my projections:
1 CF Almonte 2.2 2 3B Seager 3.7 3 2B Cano 5.5 4 RF Hart 1 5 1B Smoak 0.8 6 SS Miller 3.2 7 DH Morrison 1 8 C Zunino 2.2 9 LF Ackley 2 Total: 21.9
Let me first say this is not the lineup I would use, but rather what I think might be ran out consistently. I would personally move Brad Miller to the leadoff spot, Ackley to the two hole, Almonte to the bottom, and then slot Kyle Seager into the five hole behind Corey Hart.
In any event, I would like the expand on the projections a bit.
I figure Almonte to have an OPS in the .715-.725 range, with average defense, and slightly above average baserunning for a center fielder. That gave me a 2.2 WAR in the Wahoo’s system. I could see him being even better than that offensively, which gives room for growth.
I see Seager being pretty similar to last year, with a about a .765 OPS and average defense, for a 3.7 WAR, slightly above his career average of 3.4.
Robinson Cano was a little tougher to predict, believe it or not. He is entering his decline phase, and coming to Seattle from Yankee Stadium, known as a launching pad. I don’t think it will hurt him too terribly bad though, so I envision an OPS around .850-.860, with above average defense at second base, for a 5.5 WAR.
Hart was also tough to crack. He too is coming from a hitters park, on top of missing all of last year with knee problems. It seems like a foregone conclusion that he will be well below average defensively and on the bases. But offensively, a lot of things can happen. I ended up settling on a .770 OPS to be conservative. That would be far below his career .824 mark, but that seems fair taking into account the concerns I mentioned before. That led to an underwhelming 1 WAR, which could easily end up higher if he hits closer to his previous self.
Smoak hasn’t done anything to make me think he will improve upon what he did last year, so the 0.8 is the exact same mark he put up last year. He obviously could improve on that by figuring it out at the plate, but I don’t see that being likely.
I am a big fan of Miller, both offensively and defensively. I think it’s safe to assume a slight progression from what he did in his rookie year, so I went with a .740 OPS and average defense, which plays very well at a position like short stop. So well, in fact, that it puts him around 3.2 WAR, and third on the team in that regard.
Next is Logan Morrison, who this system was not a fan of, for good reason. He looks to be a fairly average hitter, playing a position that really isn’t a position. Because of that, the system had him below 1.0 WAR, but I rounded up because I think there is some more upside there.
Mike Zunino was another challenge, as his upside is much higher than what he showed in his rookie year. But you can’t ignore the struggles because people talk his bat up. I decided to go with a .710 OPS and above average defense, which plays very well at catcher, for a 2.2 WAR.
Last, but hopefully not least, is Ackley. I am unjustifiably optimistic about Ackley this year, so I went with a .735 OPS and average defense in the outfield, which gave me 2 WAR. 2 WAR is roughly league average, and it’s hard to believe that is what I hope Dustin Ackley produces. What has the world become?
This lineup as a whole produces 21.9 WAR, which is much improved from what we have seen in the past. It will come down to the rotation and bullpen as to whether it is enough to get the M’s into contention, and I will be projecting those sometime soon.
See Cano live for the first time by grabbing Mariners tickets to Opening Day 2014!