Like yesterday when we saw James' forecasts for the pitchers, we won't be hitting every position player he projects. This means no Punto, no Everett, no Monroe and, due to how much playing time he's not projected to get, no Tolbert.
I think this would be a good year for Brian. It's a lot of playing time, but it's still clearly a part-time gig, with James likely expecting Buscher to be getting his time against right-handed pitchers. While Buscher is in his prime, those are a lot of extra base hits for him relatively. Honestly I'm not sure I approve of this forecast or not, because I like the playing time and I like the on-base ratings, but I haven't seen Buscher play a full season yet, so I'm a little skeptical, even of a modest .408 slugging percentage. Still, this is a line I'd take.
It looks like James expects Casilla's late-season slide to continue into 2009. Speed is still looking to be a factor, which is a given, but Casilla continues to draw a fair amount of walks. But James clearly doesn't have much confidence in Casilla's pure hitting ability, whether that's for power or for making enough contact to earn a fair share of hits. At least for '09, James projects Casilla to be a speedy, no offense middle infielder. I'm hopeful for a better season, maybe more in a .280/.350/.390 range, which still isn't spectacular but is more useful all the same.
It looks like James is pretty forgiving of Cuddyer for his rough '08 campaign, although while he forecasts a return that pretty much duplicates Cuddyer's performance from '07, that's not exactly the kind of offense the Twins are hoping to get from him. I have to believe the front office signed Michael to that three-year deal because they expect him to be a bit closer to his '06 version; 24 homers, 41 doubles, .284/.362/.504. The problem is that '06 has been the exception thus far, not the norm, and James' forecast for 2009 is very realistic. Also, it might be a little optimistic, all things considered. Cuddyer's in a tough spot this year, because if he faulters he's going to lose playing time--he won't have the luxury of playing through extended troubles at the plate. If he does what James projects, I think it would be a good comeback year for him...but I doubt that will be good enough for him, for the fans, and possibly for the front office.
Marginal improvements across the board. Lots of stolen bases, a few more walks, not as many strikeouts, a couple more extra base hits...it's nice, but for Gomez to fend of Span he's going to have to do better than this to keep center field. It's unrealistic to expect him to break out this year, but like Casilla I'm hoping for something a little bit better...maybe .275/.340/.400?
Essentially James sees Harris having the exact same season as Brian Buscher, and for an inexpensive asset like Brendan there's nothing wrong with that. Right now there's a very real chance he could be our starting shortstop next season, but if not that he'll see plenty of time as a utility guy. I see this as a very realistic forecast.
This is a career year forecast from James, and really, it should be. Kubel will be in his physical prime, is coming off of two solid and very consistent seasons, and unless something changes he won't have any competition for the designated hitter role. If Jason comes out and performs just like this in '09 I'll be happy, and in addition to turning into the offensive force we always hoped he'd become, he'd also provide a bit of pop that this club needs. I like this projection a lot.
Yawn, another great season for Joe Mauer. James doesn't take any real gambles here; he expects great plate discipline and a lot of walks from Joe, good gap power and a lot of singles. I'd like to this Joe can really boost the power this season, because his mechanics and physical strength should enable him to hit a few more homers, but that's just speculation on my part. Really, James' projection for Mauer's power is accurate, even if boring.
For Justin, James is predicting a very Morneau-esque season, the kind that we expect him to have every year. Around 30 bombs but still a load of doubles, decent walks and not a lot of strikeouts for a power hitter, and in spite of it all is just a really good all-around batter. I think this forecast straddles the line of what Morneau can give, because I think, like Mauer, that there's more power to be had there...although it might come at the expense of some walks and a few singles, which could lower the average and on-base percentage. By the same token, by taking a bit off the power Justin becomes almost a great a hitter as Joe. Of course that's just my opinion, and really, I think James' prediction for Morneau is a good one...but once again, he ruffles no feathers. But that's not what this is about.
Next season will be Redmond's fifth with the Twins, but that doesn't mean it will be his last. If he continues to provide acceptable offense and defense in addition to his leadership skills, he might stick around. At any rate, James doesn't expect him to fall off the table yet...at least not at the dish. A very standard year for Redmond if he can pull this off.
James expects some serious regression in Span's first full season with the Twins, which is understandable considering Span's statistical history. The optimist in me says he can pull of something better, especially seeing that drop in walk rate that's forecasted, but the realist in me says that this kind of regression is more likely. I still think the line that James provides would be good enough for Gardenhire to keep Span in the leadoff role, however.
There's some real improvement in the power area, which is a direct correlation to a few additional hits in his 2009 forecast, courtesy of Bill James. James clearly expects Young's raw hitting talent to carry him to some success, but at just 23 this is a pretty promising line. My primary issue is with the lack of walks, which is like arguing over a dozen pounds in the weight of an elephant, but after a sizeable improvement in this department from '07 to '08 I expected something better. Still, this is a good line, and I still think that if he can avoid a slow start he could hit the upper-teens in home runs.