SPECULATOR: "What if" full-timers + BF20 DN: list

Projecting players with any sort of accuracy is hard. Projecting playing time before spring training even starts? Pfft!

We essentially say as much on the home page for our 2020 projections. From the section on How the Projections are Created:

The more difficult part of the process is assessing playing time (PT). PT expectations are fluid, changing constantly based on what we expect to happen on any given day.

So what if we just ditch playing time, and speculate only on skills? By normalizing playing time across the board and prorating hitters to 600 plate appearances, which stat lines bubble up to the top? A few filters to build our speculative hitter list (projections as of February 2):

  • Between 100 and 400 projected plate appearances
  • < 20 projected HR or SB
  • > 25 projected HR or SB when prorated across 600 plate appearances.

Our search comes up with a bunch of names, so we'll sort them by Average Draft Position (ADP). Players with commentaries are in bold; feel free to ask about others in the comments.

                            PROJECTION     |      PER 600 PA
Name               ADP   PA   AVG  HR  SB  |    AVG  HR/600  SB/600
================   ===  ===  ====  ==  ==  |   ====  ======  ======
Garrett Hampson    172  272  .262   7  14  |   .262    15      31
Sam Hilliard       302  204  .226  10   5  |   .226    29      15
Dylan Carlson      323  306  .272  13  10  |   .272    25      20
Ian Happ           363  272  .239  14   5  |   .239    31      11
Evan White         382  340  .282  16   2  |   .282    28       4
Jesus Aguilar      389  374  .249  16   0  |   .249    26       0
Garrett Cooper     400  374  .269  16   0  |   .269    26       0
Mike Tauchman      416  204  .267  10   5  |   .267    29      15
Kyle Lewis         434  340  .226  17   2  |   .226    30       4
Ryan Mountcastle   451  136  .281   6   1  |   .281    26       4
Jose Martinez      465  306  .282  13   3  |   .282    25       6
Dominic Smith      502  238  .264  12   1  |   .264    30       3
Yoenis Cespedes    503  238  .280  14   2  |   .280    35       5
Alec Bohm          521  238  .280  10   2  |   .280    25       5
Clint Frazier      524  340  .248  15   4  |   .248    26       7
Jake Fraley        537  238  .251  11   8  |   .251    28      20
Franchy Cordero    544  170  .241   9   3  |   .241    32      11
Aaron Hicks        549  204  .246   9   3  |   .246    26       9
Kevin Cron         561  374  .239  19   1  |   .239    30       2
Franklin Barreto   579  238  .237  11   6  |   .237    28      15
Jordan Luplow      609  238  .263  12   3  |   .263    30       8
Jay Bruce          610  272  .228  16   1  |   .228    35       2
Mike Ford          610  204  .261  10   0  |   .261    29       0
Ty France          611  136  .264   6   1  |   .264    26       4
Jarrod Dyson       622  170  .222   2  12  |   .222     7      42
Randy Arozarena    631  238  .271   7  10  |   .271    18      25
Ryon Healy         663  136  .257   6   0  |   .257    26       0
Matt Thaiss        717  170  .228   9   1  |   .228    32       4
Greg Allen         718  238  .243   3  12  |   .243     8      30

The youth movement is underway in Seattle. Evan White (1B, SEA) and Kyle Lewis (OF, SEA) have legit shots to break camp as the team's starting 1B and LF, respectively. White signed a six-year, $24 million contract this offseason, which lifts any threat of service time keeping him in the minors. White paired some notable power gains with an already-steady plate approach in 2019, so if he can hold the gig and rack up 600 plate appearances, his projected .282 BA and 28 HR would comp similarly to Kris Bryant (.281 BA, 29 HR) going 300+ picks earlier.

Lewis was once viewed as a true five-category prospect before severe knee injuries decimated his speed game. The 24-year-old still flashed some legit raw power in his September cameo (6 HR, 216/144 PX/xPX in 71 AB), which lends credence to our 30-HR projection over a full season. Our .224 projected BA highlights the risk here; however, as Lewis struggled to make contact (59% ct%) in his first exposure to MLB pitching. He's still a fine stab outside the Top 400.

Jake Fraley (OF, SEA; pictured) could sneak into some early playing time with starting RF Mitch Haniger now questionable for Opening Day. Haniger's rehab from core surgery could easily linger into May, and even when he returns, the 29-year-old is a prime trade chip on a rebuilding club. Enter Fraley, whose 19 HR and 26 SB across Double-A and Triple-A have us projecting a 20/20 season with a reasonable BA in a potential full-time role. For more on Fraley, White, and Lewis, check our 2020 Seattle Mariners Org Report.

While certainly a bummer for fans of the team and of competitive instinct, CLE's inaction this offseason at least gives Greg Allen (OF, CLE) a shot to crack the Opening Day lineup. The 27-year-old is a legit 30-SB threat and has mediocre competition for a corner OF gig (Bradley Zimmer, Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin, and Jordan Luplow). Allen's 2020 Baseball Forecaster box was admittedly pessimistic, but did offer a "smidgen of hope" thanks to some 2H discipline gains (79% ct%, .249 xBA). And a "smidgen" is all we need in this space. Allen's 700+ ADP makes for a fine dart throw if he makes the team, and an easy drop if he doesn't.

Dylan Carlson (OF, STL) likely sits behind Harrison Bader as STL's center fielder to start the year, but he'll get a chance to change that in spring training. Our top prospect in STL's system, Carlson tore up Double-A in 2019 (21/18 HR/SB, 0.53 Eye) with enough underlying skill support for us to project a .272 BA, 25 HR, and 20 SB over a full season. Carlson's 326 early ADP is a cheap price to see if he can eclipse Bader, whose significant contact issues could lead to an extended slump at any time.

Sam Hilliard (OF, COL) is one of the more expensive options on our list; likely thanks to his late-season barrage in 2019 (.273 BA, 7 HR, 2 SB in 77 AB) and the allure of Coors Field. Hilliard probably starts the year as the team's fourth OF, but given his ability to play all three spots behind "F" health grader David Dahl and aging Ian Desmond/Charlie Blackmon, he seems like a shoo-in for regular playing time at some point. Hilliard was tabbed one of the game's premium sleepers by our own Stephen Nickrand last month—our per-600-PA projection backs that up as well.

Remember Yoenis Cespedes (OF, NYM)? The guy who had back-to-back .280+ BA, 30+ HR seasons before a myriad of injuries—from surgery on both heels to a fractured ankle during an incident with a wild boar—derailed his career? Well, he might be back. Early reports have Cespedes "ready to go" for spring training as he builds up leg strength. Sure, it's unlikely Cespedes suddenly becomes a beacon of health and plays the field all year, but those odds are good enough for the Speculator. Our .285 BA, 35 HR projection for Cespedes over 600 PA is well worth an end-game stab to see how he looks this spring.

 

The BF20 DN: list

Part two of this week's Speculator puts a bow on our speculative projections from the 2020 Baseball Forecaster. Our breakdown of the UP: listers from the past two weeks can be found here (batters) and here (pitchers). The admittedly scant list of DN: listers is shown below; we'll offer a few quick thoughts on those whose outlooks have changed since press time:

Batter                 ADP  DN:
=================      ===  ===================       
Chavis,Michael         235  more AAA time
DeShields Jr., Delino  470  <200 PA, 10 SB.
Dixon,Brandon          693  300 PA, 10 HR
Dozier,Hunter          283  400 PA.
Gordon,Dee             278  under 20 SB.
Hamilton,Billy         663  single-digit SB
Martinez,Jose          465  250 PA
Mondesi,Adalberto       40  .240 BA, 10 HR.
Myers,Wil              279  the short end of a platoon.
Stanton,Giancarlo       55  300 PA.
Wong,Kolten            225  .250 BA, 10 SB

Pitcher                ADP  DN:
=================      ===  ===================
Gonzales,Marco         392  5.00 ERA
Gott,Trevor            750  Lots of IL days
Kimbrel,Craig          142  4.00+ ERA, <10 Saves.
Miller,Andrew          561  Another 4-plus ERA, <5 Sv
Nova,Ivan              714  5.00+ ERA
Roark,Tanner           510  5.00 ERA
Samardzija,Jeff        316  5.00 ERA

Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, CLE) was traded from TEX after the book went to press, but his playing time outlook remains dreary as he'll play second-fiddle to Oscar Mercado in CF. DeShields has swiped 20+ bags in each of the last three seasons, but everything else in this skill set (projected 72% ct%, .228 xBA, 59 PX) cement him as a one-trick pony. Without a starting gig, our "DN: <200 PA, 10 SB" remains firmly in play.

Someone hurt by the previously mentioned SEA youth movement? Dee Gordon (2B, SEA), who enters camp as the backup 2B behind Shed Long. Leg injuries have lowered Gordon's once-elite SB ceiling, leading us to a "DN: under 20 SB" in this year's book. A slump from Long or a trade seem to be Gordon's only paths to fantasy relevance, but a 32-year-old speedster with shaky OBP skills has limited value on the open market.

The good news for Jose Martinez (OF, TAM)? He was traded to the American League, where he can contribute without his glove being a liability in the field. The bad news? He heads to a platoon-happy TAM organization that will likely only play him vs. LHP. Downward three-year trends in xBA (.286, .273, .258) and xPX (123, 101, 85) suggest he may not make the limited playing time count, either. Our current playing time projection (45%) isn't far off from the Forecaster's "DN: 250 PA".

 

The Speculator is not designed to make definitive assertions about the future; rather, it is designed solely to open reader's eyes to possibilities they may not have previously entertained, and in doing so, provide a different perspective on the future. Many of the possibilities will be of the "out on a limb" variety. All are founded on SOME element of fact. But none should be considered any more than 20% percentage plays.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.