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 finish up by looking at some of the players who were not included yet.
Before I start, just three quick notes. One, Jonathan Lucroy is not included on BP’s depth chart for some reason so that is why he included here. Two, I was going to include Kyle Hart with the pitchers but he was projected largely for a relief role, which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Third, I’m not going to put the WARP ranges for this section because the playing time projected is so limited for these players that WARP would not be useful. However, the rate stats are not limited to their playing time, so that will be my focus.
Dalbec is definitely a fascinating player to project forward to what should be, if there is a season, his first in the major leagues. Or, at least part of it. It’s particularly interesting for a projection system, which can only work off the numbers it is given. This is effective in removing any biases we may have, but it also does not necessarily factor in adjustments to the correct degree. That is a big deal for Dalbec, who cut way down on his strikeout rate in 2019 and needs that to be the start of a new career trend rather than just a blip if he is to succeed at the highest level. Sure enough the difference in his projections largely come down to his ability to make contact. Overall, his DRC+’s range from 79 at the 10th percentile to 119 at the 90th, and the difference in strikeout rate ranges from a manageable 28 percent at the high end and an unmanageable 36 percent on the low end. There are, of course, other differences, but it seems fair to think that Dalbec being effective in the majors will come down to his ability to keep that strikeout rate below 30 percent.
Lin is an interesting player looking ahead to 2020 as well, but at least in my eyes it’s more about his status on the roster than any range of production on the field. Out of minor-league options, Lin must make the active roster or be subject to waivers. As far as on the field goes, though, I think he mostly is what he is, which is a below-average hitter whose contact rate can lead to some positive BABIP luck to inflate the overall production and who also plays good defense in many spots which buoys his value. He also provides a bit of value on the bases as well. PECOTA largely agrees with the offensive assessment there, with DRC+’s ranging from 49 (which would get him cut) to 79 (which is passable given the other things he does).
Hernández is fighting for a similar role as Lin, albeit one that doesn’t involve some time in the outfield as needed. He also doesn’t have the defense to fall back on, which is not to say that Hernández is necessarily bad in the field, but he’s more average while Lin is good. That said, in my eyes at least there is a lot more upside with the bat, though the downside is about as low as Lin’s and arguably as realistic given all of the shoulder injuries through which he’s had to battle. PECOTA agrees generally with a DRC+ range of 54 to 85, though I’d probably have that wider myself. At the very least, I’d have the 90th percentile outcome at least in the 90s and maybe close to league average, acknowledging that luck would be needed to get there.
Of the three middle infielders who could serve as depth this year on this list, Chatham is the only one without major-league experience. PECOTA also sees him as the one with the highest ceiling, though that’s not a high bar. His 10th percentile outcome is not great with a DRC+ of 57, but the 90th percentile is 93. That actually seems about right to me as a rookie. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he likely needs to walk more if he’s going to hit enough to play everyday. I certainly wouldn’t expect that to happen in his first taste of major-league pitching.
Pedroia is not going to play baseball in 2020 whether there’s a season or not. There’s a good chance we’ve already seen him take his final at bat. I’m including him here mostly because I was fascinated by how a computer projection would look at someone like him. They have a range of DRC+’s from 73 to 108. I want to believe!
Wilson is extremely intriguing as an outfielder who is athletic enough to play anywhere on the grass and power potential to be dangerous if it all comes together. That being said, I think he’s a little too raw right now to count on as a real contributor for 2020. PECOTA sees a higher ceiling than me, however, with DRC+’s ranging from 62 to 97, with that latter number being carried by a BABIP of .378.
It’s no secret that the Red Sox’s rotation depth is a mess. (So is their actual rotation, but that’s not the point right now.) I really don’t have anything of interest to say beyond that, so I’ll just tell you Mazza’s range of DRA-’s. Remember, anything over 100 is worse than league average. His 10th percentile outcome is 139. His 90th percentile is 112. Ninetieth!
I’m going to do the same for Johnson. Please block your children’s eyes. 10th percentile: 146. 90th: 123.
If I were personally projecting Houck out as a major leaguer in 2020, it would basically entirely come down to what role you told me he’d fill. If he was to be a full-time starter, which is PECOTA’s projected role, I’d say the absolute best-case scenario would be league-average. I’d be much higher if he was to be a reliever. As a starter, though, PECOTA actually sees some real potential right from the get-go. They have his 90th percentile DRA- down at 91, which is really solid for a starter. For context, Eduardo Rodriguez and José Berríos finished last season with that mark. On the other end of the spectrum, Houck’s 10th percentile projection is 132, which is truly terrible. Having a wide range of outcomes is certainly defensible, and it largely comes down to control. At his best here, Houck walks just under three batters per nine innings. At his worst? Over five per nine.
I have no idea what I think of Colten Brewer, which is something that I’m kind of just realizing now. I don’t think he’s great, but I think he might be usable, but also there were times last year where he looked anything but. I think ultimately the control is too much of an issue for a guy who doesn’t have big strikeout stuff — there’s a reason the Matt Barneses and Brandon Workmans and Darwinzon Hernandezes of the world can get away with marginal control — but also his ability to generate ground balls could raise his floor a bit too. Last year, he finished with a 106 DRA-, and that certainly didn’t seem like an upper-echelon outcome for him, so I would’ve guessed his 90th percentile would be around 95. Instead, it was around 102. I’ll agree with the 128 mark at the bottom because I can see him being unusable at his worst, but I’d dole out a big of a higher ceiling if I was a computer. And you can’t prove that I’m not.