Projections are fun at a time of year in which there is no baseball to watch, and they are also useful as new data to implement. Yesterday, I looked at some of the more interesting hard projections from Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA. Another function contained in many projection systems, including PECOTA, is a list of comparable players from the past and present. I don’t find these comparisons incredibly useful, but I do find them to be a lot of fun. With that, here’s a quick rundown of ten noteworthy comps for Red Sox players. They will appear in no particular order.
- Mookie Betts’ top comp is Al Kaline.
This is obviously very high praise. Kaline is one of the greatest players of all time and was a first ballot Hall of Famer. He spent the prime of his career in the 1960’s, so comparing simple metrics won’t work given the difference in era. Kaline did finish his career with a 134 OPS+, though, and had a 13-year stretch with a 142 mark. Despite all that, the biggest reason I like this comp is that Al Kaline inspired Mickey Kaline, Arnold’s favorite baseball player in Hey Arnold. Hopefully, Mookie can influence a show as great as Hey Arnold.
- Andrew Benintendi’s top comp is...Mookie Betts
Hey, there’s that Mookie guy again. Benintendi has been the talk of the town lately with his repeated honor of being named the top prospect in the game. Projecting he can make the same kind of jump Betts made is extremely high praise, and the thought of two Mookie-caliber players playing in Boston’s outfield has me giddy.
- Drew Pomeranz is compared to Garrett Richards and Tyson Ross
These two comps are probably close to perfect, and they make me happy because they are two of my favorite pitchers in the game. When they are on, they have both shown the ability to rack up strikeouts and induce ground balls like Pomeranz did with San Diego last year. Unfortunately, they’ve also both had major injury issues. Still, this is just more evidence that, if healthy, Pomeranz has some big upside for a fourth or fifth starter.
- Chris Sale got Rich Harden and Tim Lincecum
So, I guess here is when we find out that not all of the comps listed in this space will be positive. Harden and Lincecum have a lot in common. Both were incredibly talented pitchers who took the league by storm in their younger years. Then, they both fell off the face of the Earth. Harden fell off due to injury, Lincecum just stopped being good and then got hurt. If the Red Sox got that kind of pitcher for the package they gave up, Boston will revolt. I will now mention that the third comp for Sale was Felix Hernandez. Feel better?
- Xander Bogaerts’ top two comps were Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes
There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. Bogaerts got compared to two of the best shortstops of the last decade. Ho hum
- Craig Kimbrel’s top comp was Carlos Marmol
Yikes, this is a poor reflection on those control issues Kimbrel showed off in 2016. Marmol was certainly talented in his heyday and had his moments, but this should not be Kimbrel’s number one comp. Luckily, the other two names listed were Francisco Rodriguez -- one of the best relievers of all time — and David Robertson — one of the best of the last five years. There is hope, yet.
- Jason Groome is comp’d to Chris Archer and Roberto Osuna
The first name on Groome’s list is J.C. Ramirez, which immediately put me to sleep. The other two names are exciting, though. Archer is one of the most electric pitchers in all of baseball when he’s on, although he’s coming off something of a down year. Osuna was supposed to be a starter, but has instead turned into one of the elite relievers in baseball at just 21 years old. Groome has a long way to go, but it’s clear he has huge potential. Or, ya know, he could turn into J.C. Ramirez.
- Rafael Devers’ top comps were Josh Vitters and Matt Dominguez
None of the comp lists caused me more pain than this one. Devers is going to be Boston’s top prospect as soon as Benintendi exhausts his status, and is one of the best minor-league hitters in baseball. And yet, his top comps were two of the biggest third base prospect busts in recent memory. Both players were top-15 picks in 2007 and both were top-100 prospects in multiple years. Let’s hope Devers can avoid their fate.
- Jake Cosart drew comps to Greg Holland and Ken Giles
Cosart is not a prospect many think of in Boston’s farm system, but he might be a fun one. I actually saw him a few times when he was still starting in Lowell, and thought to myself “This is one of the worst pitchers I’ve ever seen.” To say things have changed for him since converting to the bullpen would be an understatement. We’ll see if he can hold those gains in the higher levels, but PECOTA sees some similarities between him and some of the better relievers we’ve seen in recent years.
- Tyler Thornburg’s top comp is Alfredo Aceves
All hail Aceves.