Steamer Projections show promise for Mariners 1B Evan White
We continue our breakdown of Steamer Projections for each of the Seattle Mariners position groups. Today, we look at what the expectation for Evan White could be.
Perhaps the most well known of projections, Fangraphs “Steamer” projections are widely used in the baseball writers community as a baseline for where to begin to attempt to make educated guesses on a player’s upcoming success. In this series, we will look at how Steamer projects your Seattle Mariners at every position.
But before we begin, it is important to remember that while Steamer is a lot more than random guessing. It is a complicated process and deserves a lot more credit than just being called a “wild guess”.
However, it is also important to remember that at the end of the day, these projections are just that; projections. But with all that in mind, let’s kick off our series by looking at Steamer’s opinion of how the Mariners rookie first baseman will fair in 2020.
Evan White’s Steamer Projection: 130 games, 526 PAs, .253/.310/.424, 19 home runs, 95 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
There is quite a bit to unpack in this projection. First and foremost, the slash line seems totally reasonable. I could see every number within 20 points or so is a realistic possibility. The home run power is a bit tougher to peg though.
There are a lot of variables we need to consider there. For example, what type of baseball will they be using? If it is last year’s juiced baseballs, I think we can advise you to bet the over on 19 home runs. If they return to the 2018 ball, you very easily could bet the under.
A lot of this has to do with how you grade White’s power to be. There is a lot of disagreement surrounding White’s in-game power grade. Some are convinced it will be fringe-average, hovering somewhere in the 50-grade range.
Others are convinced the swing change he made in the summer of 2018 has unlocked an extra tier of power and could rise as high as 60-grade. They point to his 19 home runs in under 100 games, most of them at a notorious pitchers park where right-handed power bats go to die.
The home run power will ultimately decide if White is a perennial All-Star or just a solid starter. Very few doubt his hit tool, as evident by a solid slash line for a player who has only appeared in 4 games above AA.
But what might be more interesting in these projections is the lack of value Steamer has placed on White’s glove and base-running, two skills that don’t slump and are major checkmarks in White’s favor.
White is the best defensive first baseman on the planet (some scouts give him a true 80-grade) and his a 60-grade runner with the athleticism to play centerfield on a regular basis. Yet Steamer projects just a 0.4 BsR and a -10.8 Def score.
For comparison, Daniel Vogelbach received a -11.2 Def score. So clearly Steamer is flat out wrong in that metric. To be fair, he has no major league sample size and even Matt Olson scored a -3.0. The value of first base defense is still harder to quantify than most other positions and as such, White’s defensive value may never be properly quantified.
As for the base-running score, that mark would slide just behind Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger in 2019. It’s not like Steamer’s projection is wrong here, but it doesn’t seem like the grade matches the scouting report.
The lack of value attributed to his defense and base-running, along with overall pedestrian numbers by an MLB first baseman’s standards, contribute to White’s low projected 0.5 fWAR. But I would strongly bet the over on this mark for White.
Still, projecting a rookie with less than a handful of games above AA is tough to do. And even if Steamer is close to accurate here, I think Mariners fans should consider it a solid rookie season.
Personally, I think White hits closer to .260/.320/.450, hits 20 HRs, wins a Gold Glove, and shows off the raw tools necessary for him to earn his new contract.