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Community Projections, Part 1: Infielders

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To those who haven't played this game before, every spring was gaze into our crystal ball, sheep intestines or scrying device of choice, and try to predict the numbers to be put up by the Diamondbacks players in the coming season. Sometimes, we're surprisingly close to the mark: we predicted Chris Snyder would have fifteen homers, 58 RBI and an OPS of .785, with the actual numbers being sixteen, 64 and .800. Other times, however... not so much, but we'll draw a veil over those!

It's all really just for fun: no prizes except the admiration of your peers, as we review these at the end of the season. For each player I list the numbers they produced last year, and also those predicted by each of the main projection systems, and give my own projections. For position players these will be BA, OBP, SLG [resulting in OPS], HR and RBI, but if you feel like giving less than that, it's not a problem. Some players will also get bonus categories for projection, if they're deemed important. We start with the catchers and infielders: note that, for the purpose of this exercise, Conor Jackson is deemed an outfielder.

C. Chris Snyder
2008: .237/.348/.452 (.800), 16 HR, 64 RBI
Bill James: .243/.342/.429 (.771), 16 HR, 63 RBI
Chone: .241/.344/.419 (.763), 13 HR, 51 RBI
Marcel: .253/.346/.440 (.786), 15 HR, 60 RBI
Oliver: .237/.320/.409 (.729), 13 HR
ZIPS: .246/.347/.425 (.772), 12 HR, 44 RBI

Snyder certainly had a breakthrough season in 2008, despite missing time due to... well, y'know. He's now 28, so should be approaching his peak as a hitter: most of the projections expect a step-back from his numbers last season. I'm not quite sure why: it's not as if his solid OBP were because he always hit ahead of the pitcher [only 31% of his PAs were in the #8 spot]. He may get a few less walks, but otherwise I'm expecting number very similar to last season, and if he gets to hit higher up the order, as he should, his RBI total will probably increase too. Just avoid those freak injuries please, Chris.
AZ SnakePit: .244/.330/.455 (.785), 17 HR, 70 RBI

C. Miguel Montero
2008: .255/.330/.435 (.765), 5 HR, 24 RBI
Bill James: .255/.330/.430 (.760), 11 HR, 44 RBI
Chone: .256/.329/.419 (.748), 12 HR, 54 RBI
Marcel: .254/.324/.423 (.747), 10 HR, 39 RBI
Oliver: .251/.312/.413 (.725), 8 HR
ZIPS: .253/.322/.425 (.747), 9 HR, 37 RBI

After being shopped to Boston, among others, in the off-season, he's going to have to work for his playing-time, but being a left-handed bat, should see his share of starts. Important to realize he's still young, only 25, Montero has improved his offensive production steadily since debuting in 2006 and if platooned, his numbers will likely be close to Snyder's, making the two among the most productive catchers in the league. The idea of playing him at third seems to have fizzled out, but that it was even considered, shows how important his offense is thought of by the club.
AZ SnakePit: .259/.335/.450 (.785), 8 HR, 33 RBI

1B. Chad Tracy
2008: .267/.308/.414 (.722), 8 HR, 39 RBI
Bill James: .283/.340/.449 (.789), 10 HR, 41 RBI
Chone: .276/.339/.452 (.791), 16 HR, 59 RBI
Marcel: .269/.332/.430 (.762), 10 HR, 43 RBI
Oliver: .274/.324/.429 (.753), 9 HR
ZIPS: .274/.332/.422 (.754), 9 HR, 45 RBI

Tracy's health is going to be the big issue here. He will probably start the season as the regular at first-base, but if his knee holds up, should see time at third too; as with Montero, being left-handed is a definite plus. All the systems expect Tracy to improve, by between 32 and 69 points of OPS, and there's a recursive function involved here: the better he plays, the more he'll play, the better his numbers. I've a feeling he could be a nice sleeper for the Diamondbacks this year. He'll get the playing time he deserves, and I hope that's a lot.
AZ SnakePit: .275/.335/.465 (.800). 15 HR, 55 RBI

2B. Felipe Lopez
2008: .283/.343/.387 (.730), 6 HR, 46 RBI [with Nationals/Cardinals]
Bill James: .267/.340/.392 (.732), 7 HR, 36 RBI
Chone: .274/.339/.400 (.739), 11 HR, 56 RBI
Marcel: .263/.333/.375 (.708), 8 HR, 44 RBI
Oliver: .267/.332/.394 (.726), 10 HR
ZIPS: .272/.345/.392 (.737), 10 HR, 53 RBI

Will the real Felipe Lopez please stand up? The one who dogged it in Washington for the first two-thirds of 2008, or the one who tore it up for the Cardinals down the stretch? As with most things, the truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle, but even the most optimistic projections suggest a sharp drop-off from Hudson, who had an OPS of .817 in both 2007 and 2008. The move to Arizona will help Lopez, and with a one-year contract, he knows he'll be playing for a job in 2010 - even if it probably won't be in Arizona.
AZ SnakePit: .275/.340/.400 (.740), 10 HR, 50 RBI

SS. Stephen Drew
2008: .291/.333/.502 (.835), 21 HR, 91 RBI
Bill James: .279/.336/.470 (.806), 19 HR, 66 RBI
Chone: .276/.340/.451 (.791), 16 HR, 66 RBI
Marcel: .277/.334/.461 (.795), 16 HR, 61 RBI
Oliver: .264/.315/.436 (.751), 18 HR
ZIPS: .274/.327/.449 (.776), 17 HR, 80 RBI

Drew put it all together in the second-half with a .326/.372/.556 line that was among the elite for shortstops in all baseball. Be nice if he could sustain that for an entire season. While I don't think he will be quite there, some of the predictions - .751 OPS? - seem very pessimistic. Actually, even the usual effervescent Bill James seems subdued, with a drop of almost 30 points. True, he's only one season removed from a sucky 72 OPS+ but I think he'll avoid stretches like May 27-June 25, where he hit .212/.231/.327, and his numbers will be all the better for it.
AZ SnakePit: .288/.352/.490 (.842), 22 HR, 88 RBI

3B. Mark Reynolds
2008: .239/.320/.458 (.800), 28 HR, 97 RBI, 202 K
Bill James: .269/.350/.515 (.865), 32 HR, 105 RBI, 182 K
Chone: .254/.333/.462 (.795), 22 HR, 81 RBI, 157 K
Marcel: .260/.336/.469 (.805), 23 HR, 82 RBI, 159 K
Oliver: .249/.319/.461 (.780), 27 HR, 180 K
ZIPS: .257/.334/.484 (.818), 28 HR, 89 RBI, 180 K

First things first. No: I don't think Reynolds will match last year's total of strikeouts. While that's partly because he'll become better at putting the ball in play, it's also because he'll see fewer at-bats, Chad Tracy taking some away [Mark started 149 games at third last year, third-most in the majors - he won't repeat that in 2009]. That's likely to hurt his counting stats like HR and RBI, and I think the Bill James numbers are definitely optimistic but I can foresee an improvement in his batting average and on-base percentage.
AZ SnakePit: .255/.335/.475 (.810), 24 HR, 89 RBI, 155 K

As is traditional, we also attach a poll to the Community Projections, asking a broader question - in this case, which Diamondback will have the best batting average this season? I'm going to have to think about that one a bit before casting my own vote: Jackson is the obvious candidate, but Drew's second-half was very impressive, and Felipe Lopez's time in St. Louis possibly even more so. Then there's the wild-cards in Tracy and Justin Upton, the former now back to full health, the latter a year older, wiser and better. Here's to all of them giving the .300 mark a run for its money.