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Examining possible ranges of outcomes: Infielders

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How good, or bad, can the infielders be?

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images

We are now into what should have been the third full week of the major-league season, which means we are getting pretty deep into this whole baseball-less thing. That also means that, even if baseball does come back, it is going to be very different than anything we’ve ever seen before and thus we can pretty much throw many or most of our preconceived notions about things out the window. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m just not sure how useful projections will be this year in the event baseball is played.

With that out of the way, I’m going to spend the rest of this article talk about projections, because what else do we have?! There are a lot of different projection systems out there these days, which is a good thing because no one system is perfect but the more data points you can throw into a sample the more useful the information you do have should be. Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system is one of the most famous systems and has been around forever at this point, and again while it’s not perfect it is one of my favorites.

Specifically, I love that PECOTA doesn’t just publish the 50 percent projection. That is still their main output, but BP will also publish different percentile projections for every hitter, essentially creating a ceiling and a floor for a player. They go mostly by tens of percentage points, but also include the one percent range and 99 percent range projections. Essentially, using their model they simulate the season tens of thousands of times and these are the performances that happened 90 percent of the time, 10 percent of the time, et cetera.

I’m going to take a look at those ranges for the players on the Red Sox roster (click here for BP’s depth chart and links to individual player projections) today and see what the more relatively realistic possible range of outcomes are for everyone, looking at the 10th and 90th percentile outcomes. Today I’ll look at the infielders (including the catchers). The outfielders and pitchers will come later in the week.

Christian Vázquez

10th percentile: 1.9 WARP

90th percentile: 3.9 WARP

It may be a little bit surprising that Vázquez’s floor is basically a league-average regular given how bad we’ve seen his offense relatively recently, but remember that BP values framing more than any other site. A good framing catcher provides themselves a massive floor, and that’s where Vázquez shines. On offense, the range is from a 73 DRC+ to a 103 DRC+. Unsurprisingly, the big difference in outcomes is the power, with the 90th percentile producing a .197 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG) versus a .126 mark in the 10th percentile.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Kevin Plawecki

10th percentile: 0.2 WARP

90th percentile: 0.9 WARP

The good news here is that the difference in overall value doesn’t really change too much here. The bad news is that this is almost entirely due to a lack of projected playing time. An injury to Vázquez would obviously change that, and it would drastically change Plawecki’s range of outcomes, too. On the high end, the backstop is projected to produce a 93 DRC+, which is really solid for a catcher. On the low end, it’s all the way down to 58, which is borderline unplayable.

Mitch Moreland

10th percentile: -0.5 WARP

90th percentile: 1.5 WARP

There’s no real ceiling for Moreland according to these projections, though he’s not really on the roster to be a true value hog for the Red Sox. He’s a role player, but an important one. Moreland’s value is to hit well against most righties and provide leadership to Michael Chavis and eventually Bobby Dalbec at first base. That said, the range here is pretty start with a 113 DRC+ at the high end and a 77 mark at the low. As with Vázquez, power is the big separator here with a .264 mark at the 90th percentile versus .171 at the 10th percentile.

Michael Chavis

10th percentile: 0.3 WARP

90th percentile: 2.4 WARP

The defensive projections are kind of holding Chavis’s ceiling down here, which isn’t unfair for a projection system. I think he’s better than what’s being indicated by the WARP totals here, at least on the high end, but I understand why a system would look at a third baseman who is still new to the right side of the infield — and particularly second base — in this light. That said, the differences at the plate are large too with DRC+’s ranging from 85 to 124, BABIPs ranging from .289 to .368 and strikeout rates from 35 percent to 30 percent. If I was picking the widest range of possible outcomes on the entire roster on my own without projections to work off of, Chavis would be on my shortlist.

José Peraza

10th percentile: 0.0 WARP

90th percentile: 0.9 WARP

You have to go all the way up to the 99th percentile to get an above-average performance at the plate from Peraza, which seems a little unfair to me given that he’s been solid for a couple years now. I say that, too, as someone who feels like they’re lower on the former Red than most. That said, the low end here of 65 DRC+ seems totally reasonable, and I could actually argue that should be a bit lower, too. Peraza is going to make contact no matter what, and really it’s just going to come down to how often that contact turns into a hit. PECOTA projects anywhere from a .266 BABIP on the low end up to a .321 mark. Having to rely so much on an inherently fluky stat is what gives me pause about Peraza in the first place.

Xander Bogaerts

10th percentile: 2.2 WARP

90th percentile: 4.7 WARP

Even in the worst-case scenario here, Bogaerts is an average regular. That’s probably obvious at this point as he has put himself in the upper echelon of shortstops across the league, but it’s still nice to see, especially compared to some of these other projections on this list. That said, I was a little surprised the upper level didn’t push him higher, though I suspect that was about the defense. PECOTA has a 148 DRC+ at the high end, which would have been seventh in baseball last year. Even on the low end, it’s 120. Bogaerts is going to hit, is basically what this is saying.

Rafael Devers

10th percentile: 2.2 WARP

90th percentile: 5.0 WARP

It’s fitting that Devers and Bogaerts — good friends, mates on the left side of the infield and a dynamic duo in the lineup — are essentially in the same position with respect to their range of outcomes. I’m not really surprised by Devers having a higher ceiling, even with the difference in positional value, but I am surprised that his offensive peak here with 139 DRC+ is actually lower than Bogaerts’. Given that they are both projected for 595 plate appearances, that means the difference comes down to defense. Either way, if both of these players perform to their upper-level projections, Boston’s infield will be buoyed by a pair of MVP candidates.

Overall

10th percentile: 6.3 WARP

90th percentile: 19.3