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The Twins position players’ 2018 Steamer projections

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It’s that time where we pretend the game is played in a spreadsheet instead of on a field.

No joke, one of the saddest times during the year is right after the World Series when FanGraphs stops posting its Steamer projections from the current season. It’s mainly because my work on MLB: The Show comes to a screeching halt, but also because I like looking at them to see if the data thinks a player’s performance during the season is for real.

Well, it was an arduous week or so without the 2017 rest of season Steamer projections, but just a couple days ago FanGraphs rolled out the 2018 set. Blah blah blah, the game is played on the field, not in a spreadsheet and any projections are worthless. You might be interested to know that I nearly uploaded a screenshot of a spreadsheet just to make fun of that argument. Though we don’t just take a computer simulation and use that to determine the outcome from the regular season, we can still look at the projections to see if our favorite Twins are predicted to perform well this season, or if some of them are supposed to crash and burn. Each player will be followed by his 2017 stats in bold and his 2018 Steamer projections in italics, plus I’ll toss in a bonus observation or two just for fun.

C Jason Castro

2017: 110 games, .242/.333/.388, 10 HR, 47 RBI, .146 ISO, 11.1 BB%, 26.5 K%, 93 wRC+

2018: 136 games, .230/.314/.386, 15 HR, 57 RBI, .156 ISO, 10.3 BB%, 28.1 K%, 85 wRC+

Observations: First, I don’t think Castro will play in 136 games due to his struggles against LHP and it’s rare for catchers to play in more than 23 of their team’s games. Also, Steamer thinks he’ll steal three bases next year. Castro had three total stolen bases from 2014-2017. Finally, the batting average looks low, but Castro has been in the .210-.240 range for four consecutive seasons.

C Mitch Garver

2017: 23 games, .196/.288/.348, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .152 ISO, 11.5 BB%, 28.8 K%, 67 wRC+

2018: 0 games, .241/.316/.393, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .153 ISO, 9.5 BB%, 24.8 K%, 87 wRC+

Observations: A fun “glitch” occurs when Steamer doesn’t think a player will reach the majors in the following season but still gives a projection for the rate stats. Clearly Steamer still believes that Chris Gimenez is the #2 catcher for 2018, when in reality Garver will likely be handed the reins instead.

1B Joe Mauer

2017: 141 games, .305/.384/.417, 7 HR, 71 RBI, .112 ISO, 11.1 BB%, 13.9 K%, 116 wRC+

2018: 133 games, .280/.365/.413, 11 HR, 64 RBI, .133 ISO, 11.5 BB%, 16.3 K%, 107 wRC+

Observations: Mauer is expected to see a dip in production but otherwise should still be an above-average hitter.

2B Brian Dozier

2017: 152 games, .269/.357/.496, 34 HR, 93 RBI, .227 ISO, 11.1 BB%, 20.0 K%, 124 wRC+

2018: 150 games, .255/.343/.478, 31 HR, 84 RBI, .223 ISO, 10.8 BB%, 20.3 K%, 114 wRC+

Observations: Did you know last year’s batting average was a career high for Dozier? With a career average of .250, it’s understandable that Steamer sees a drop back down to .255 in 2018.

SS Jorge Polanco

2017: 133 games, .256/.313/.410, 13 HR, 74 RBI, .154 ISO, 7.5 BB%, 14.3 K%, 89 wRC+

2018: 150 games, .272/.329/.420, 15 HR, 72 RBI, .148 ISO, 7.5 BB%, 14.5 K%, 97 wRC+

Observations: Polanco had a massive slump last season and would have earned a demotion had he not been out of options. His projections for 2018 look awfully similar to the numbers he put up in 2016 after his midseason call-up.

3B Miguel Sano

2017: 114 games, .264/.352/.507, 28 HR, 77 RBI, .243 ISO, 11.2 BB%, 35.8 K%, 124 wRC+

2018: 138 games, .252/.346/.509, 34 HR, 95 RBI, .256 ISO, 12.0 BB%, 32.9 K%, 122 wRC+

Observations: Sano is the first example where the projections could be completely wrong. Considering his surgery to insert a pin into his calf, it’s entirely possible that he may suffer some complications that might hurt him during the season.

LF Eddie Rosario

2017: 151 games, .290/.328/.507, 27 HR, 78 RBI, .218 ISO, 5.9 BB%, 18.0 K%, 116 wRC+

2018: 150 games, .273/.312/.461, 23 HR, 83 RBI, .189 ISO, 5.3 BB%, 20.3 K%, 100 wRC+

Observations: Rosario found another gear by simply swinging at nearly everything instead of nearly literally everything. Not only did he manage to increase his walk rate by 2.5 percentage points, but he also reduced his strikeout rate by nearly 8 percentage points from 2016 to 2017.

CF Byron Buxton

2017: 140 games, .253/.314/.413, 16 HR, 51 RBI, .160 ISO, 7.4 BB%, 29.4 K%, 90 wRC+

2018: 150 games, .254/.315/.437, 20 HR, 74 RBI, .183 ISO, 7.5 BB%, 27.8 K%, 96 wRC+

Observations: I thought Steamer was going to be more optimistic than this, but the numbers are virtually the same except Steamer expects a little more power from Buxton. I have to agree as he managed just 14 doubles last season (6 triples as well, which I think he could get 10 in a season someday).

RF Max Kepler

2017: 147 games, .243/.312/.425, 19 HR, 69 RBI, .182 ISO, 8.3 BB%, 20.1 K%, 92 wRC+

2018: 130 games, .260/.331/.449, 19 HR, 70 RBI, .189 ISO, 9.0 BB%, 19.0 K%, 104 wRC+

Observations: The one thing holding Kepler back is his inability to hit LHP. It took him a while in the minors to figure them out but he eventually did, so perhaps a breakthrough will come in the majors as well. Steamer seems to think that he’ll either accomplish that next season, or he’ll see a jump in production against righties. However, it’s odd that

OF/DH Robbie Grossman

2017: 119 games, .246/.361/.380, 9 HR, 45 RBI, .134 ISO, 14.7 BB%, 17.3 K%, 102 wRC+

2018: 126 games, .254/.358/.393, 12 HR, 56 RBI, .139 ISO, 13.5 BB%, 21.2 K%, 103 wRC+

Observations: If only Grossman could play better defense.

OF Zack Granite

2017: 40 games, .237/.321/.290, 1 HR, 13 RBI, .054 ISO, 11.2 BB%, 8.4 K%, 67 wRC+

2018: 19 games, .277/.330/.378, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .102 ISO, 7.0 BB%, 12.0 K%, 88 wRC+

Observations: Like Garver, Granite will easily clear the games played projection. He hit in the minors so he should be able to hit in the majors too, but from watching him in 2017, he popped the ball up far too often.

1B/DH Kennys Vargas

2017: 78 games, .253/.314/.444, 11 HR, 41 RBI, .191 ISO, 7.6 BB%, 29.2 K%, 98 wRC+

2018: 86 games, .238/.324/.431, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .193 ISO, 10.8 BB%, 28.2 K%, 98 wRC+

Observations: Vargas is out of options and will either need to be on the Opening Day roster or will join a new team. I’m still convinced he’ll spend 2018 in Korea.

IF Eduardo Escobar

2017: 129 games, .254/.309/.449, 21 HR, 73 RBI, .195 ISO, 6.6 BB%, 19.6 K%, 96 wRC+

2018: 34 games, .258/.310/.423, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .165 ISO, 6.5 BB%, 19.9 K%, 90 wRC+

Observations: It’s funny that Steamer thinks Escobar won’t see action in 34 of the games when he’s appeared in 100+ in each of the last four seasons.