March 07, 2009

The Project-a-tron, part 1

We will start with the Cubs outfield, and I'll work my way through the team as spring training continues.

The Cubs outfield projects to be:
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Kosuke Fukudome
RF Milton Bradley
OF Reed Johnson
OF Joey Gathright

Johnson will likely pick up a big chunk of starts in CF against left-handed pitching, and will be the first guy to make substitutions if anyone else needs a break/is injured. Gathright will mainly be used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner, from what I can guess.

Without further ado, here are the projections. The WAR values are calculated based on the projected wOBA.

Johnson3857.338.400.327+10 (LF)
-10 (CF)+0 (RF)
Gathright1751.340.325.310+7 (CF)0.2

As you can see from the amount of PAs above, I'm feeling quite optimistic about Soriano staying healthy this year. He is a talented baseball player, and he is criminally underrated by most Cubs fans. He also has a cannon for an arm in LF, which boosts his defensive rating. He may take terrible routes on balls, but his speed makes up for it. Plus, compared to most of the statues that teams put into LF, Soriano looks pretty good.

I don't think we will see the April/May 2008 Fukudome this year...but I also don't think we will see the often terrible-looking Fukodome who faded down the stretch in the worst way as the season wore on. Fukudome is a professional, and he will make adjustments. I don't have hope that the power people were hoping to see when he entered the league will emerge, but he is for real as an OBP machine, and I'd love to see him in the leadoff spot if it looks like he's gotten things together.

Bradley can hit the crap out of baseballs. I don't take (much) stock in the "oft-injured" label that Bradley has aquired - everyone seems convinced that he can't play the outfield and that he will have a season-ending injury at some point this year, which is just crazy talk. He played plenty of outfield (and did it quite well) while with LA and Oakland, and then blew out his ACL in an altercation with a racist umpire (or technically, his manager) after a fantastic season in San Diego in 2007. He mainly DHed in Texas last year, and hit the crap out of the ball, because his knee wasn't still 100%. Certainly his injury history makes him more likely to be injured in the future, but it's not like he's a ticking time bomb. He was rightly the centerpiece of Hendry's offseason, and replacing him with DeRosa was the right move:


DeRosa looks great as a 2b, but as a RF, he is barely league average (and a lot of that comes from defense, which I think is a very generous projection. He does have much better UZR numbers in RF than I thought though). As we will see later, Fontenot is also a quite good 2b, which made DeRosa expendable.

Johnson is a serviceable fourth outfielder - he can play all three positions (though he's not really a CF), and he hits the crap out of lefties. Right handed pitchers, however, turn him into Neifi Perez, which is why he should never be more than a 4th OF.

Gathright will likely be Bradley/Soriano's late game defensive caddy, and be kept around for his speed for pinch-running and as a pinch hitting leadoff type player. His value would multiply by a factor of 10 if the outfield were littered with cars.