Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Christian Vazquez

2014: 55 games, .240 BA, .308 OBP, .309 SLG, 1 HR, 20 RBI
2015 projection: 110 games, .256 BA, .326 OBP, .343 SLG, 3 HR, 35 RBI

Though Red Sox catchers talk this season has been focused on the possibility that prospect Blake Swihart might get packaged to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels, the Sox have quite a catcher already in Christian Vazquez.

Though Swihart is widely regarded as the best catching prospect in baseball, Vazquez has some serious supporters of his own. Joe Kelly calls Vazquez "Mini-Yadi," a nod to Yadier Molina of the famously talented Molina catching brothers.

The comparison makes some sense, even if it's quite a lot to live up to, as Vazquez spends part of each offseason working out with the Molinas in their native Puerto Rico. For his part, Yadier Molina has confidence in Vazquez's abilities, both behind the plate and with the bat, proclaiming, "He's going to hit."

In 55 games with the Red Sox last season, Vazquez hit a light .240, but his teammates are rooting for him, and he did show improvement near the end of the year. Bill James and his team project only minor improvement for Vazquez this year, but catcher isn't typically a position that's expected to should a huge offensive responsibility.

If Vazquez can hold steady or even improve behind the dish with Kelly singing his praises to the pitching staff, the bridge to Swihart appears to be very solid.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Mookie Betts

2014: 52 games, .291 BA, .368 OBP, .444 SLG, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 7 SB
2015 projection: 154 games, .321 BA, .405 OBP, .493 SLG, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 40 SB

Despite the very crowded Red Sox outfield heading into spring training, Bill James and his team expect Mookie Betts to burst onto the Red Sox scene and never look back. Betts made his major league debut in June of last year, and bounced between Pawtucket and Boston a few times before finishing the season with the Red Sox.

When Betts was in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system, he primarily played second base, though he'd also excelled at shortstop and outfield in high school. Though he was blocked at second by Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox valued his athleticism and prowess with a bat enough to retrain him as an outfielder rather than shipping him off in a trade.

Betts no longer counts as a Red Sox prospect, or he'd be near the top of all the ratings lists floating around the internet this month. If he even approximates the numbers James has laid out, the Red Sox will be thrilled: at only 21, Betts won't be eligible for arbitration until 2018, and he's under team control through 2021.

Betts' success would probably mean one of the older and more expensive outfielders on the Sox roster being shown the door, but the Red Sox have handled their farm system well, and Betts is just one of a number of young players looking to make a name for themselves this coming season.

Given the fact that he barely flinched at the adjustment to facing major league pitching last autumn, Betts seems like the kind of player to establish his star-power early - and woe to anyone who might stand in his way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Shane Victorino

2011: 132 games, .279 BA, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI
2012 projection: 149 games, .277 BA, .344 OBP, .441 SLG, 17 HR, 64 RBI
2012: 154 games, .255 BA, .321 OBP, .383 SLG, 11 HR, 55 RBI
2013 projection: 155 games. .269 BA, .338 OBP, .418 SLG, 14 HR, 59 RBI
2013: 122 games, .294 BA, .351 OBP, .451 SLG, 15 HR, 61 RBI
2014 projection: 148 games, .270 BA, .336 OBP, .415 SLG, 14 HR, 58 RBI
2014: 30 games, .268 BA, .303 OBP, .382 SLG, 2 HR, 12 RBI
2015 projection: 129 games, .265 BA, .326 OBP, .410 SLG, 12 HR, 50 RBI

Shane Victorino's 2013 was derailed early on with hamstring and back problems, and then he underwent season-ending back surgery in August. In 2013, he was an integral part of the World Series run, but with just one year left on his deal and a crowded outfield situation, we may be saying goodbye to the Flyin' Hawaiian sooner rather than later.

I like Victorino a lot, and I hope he sticks around at least through the end of his deal, but this might be one of those situations where the Red Sox showcase him a lot during spring training and early on in the season before dealing him to a team in need to open up some space in the outfield.

Bill James and his team project a return to form for Victorino in 2015, but it's hard to guess what any player will do after such an extended time away from baseball activities. The Red Sox owe Victorino $13 million in 2015, so they'll be looking for a trade partner that might be willing to take on a significant portion of that money.

If Victorino does get to stay around, that salary is likely to be a factor in determining playing time - you don't pay a guy that much to ride the bench four days a week. Victorino is a great clubhouse guy, and he's seriously embraced playing in Boston, so his presence might help some of the young players and transplants adjust.

Wherever Victorino ends the 2015 season, he's sure to be a solid contributor. But here's hoping he ends his Red Sox tenure the way he started it: celebrating a World Series victory on the field at Fenway Park.