John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: Bill James Player Projections Updated

With spring training underway, the most popular question in baseball is “How good is he going to be?” It can be applied to hitters, pitchers, stars, hidden gems, prospects, and just about anyone else.

The 2019 Bill James Handbook, released last fall, provided the first projections for the 2019 season. In March, those projections are adjusted to account for free agent signings, trades, ballpark changes and playing time adjustments.

Not surprisingly, Mike Trout has the best projected numbers among position players – a .297/.433/.596 slash line with 38 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 146 games. Trout’s 1.029 OPS is the highest projection in this system. The second-highest belongs to Nolan Arenado (.951), who is one of two players projected to hit 40 home runs in 2019.

Most Projected HR in 2019
Giancarlo Stanton42
Nolan Arenado40
Nelson Cruz39
Khris Davis39
Mike Trout38
Aaron Judge38
Joey Gallo38

Amazingly, rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. projects to have the third-highest OPS (.937). Guerrero’s minor league numbers translate into major-league greatness – a .310/.377/.560 slash line with 31 home runs in 131 games.

The system does project a decline for 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, though he’s still expected to have an impressive .290/.374/.504 combination. An .878 OPS would be a 122-point decline from Yelich’s NL-leading 1.000 in 2018.

Among starting pitchers, not surprisingly, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer rank 1-2 in lowest ERA, with Sale projected for a 2.85 and Scherzer at 2.92.

Scherzer is also projected as the MLB leader with 278 strikeouts, 18 more than division rival Jacob deGrom, who ranked second. If you’re looking for a sleeper Cy Young candidate, a good choice might be Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, whose 3.19 ERA is the sixth lowest for a starting pitcher in the system. He’s also pegged for 202 strikeouts.

Scherzer’s new teammate Patrick Corbin might be in for a decline. He’s projected for a 3.78 ERA for the Nationals this season, a drop from his career-best 3.15 ERA in 2018. His projection was hurt by his 5.15 ERA in 2016 and the 4.03 ERA he posted in 2017. Corbin signed a six-year, $140 million free agent deal this offseason, so expectations for him are high.

Among relief pitchers, the projected saves leaders are Edwin DiazWade Davis and Craig Kimbrel—who currently remains unsigned—with 38, with Kenley Jansen just behind them with 37. The lowest projected ERA for a reliever is Diaz’s 2.58 for the Mets, followed by Sean Doolittle at 2.59 for the Nationals.

If you are interested in ordering the March update to the Bill James Player Projections, click on this link.

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