01 March 2011
Going into Spring Training, the Diamondbacks have big position battles at both the 1B and LF positions. At 1B, veteran Russell Branyan is competing with newcomer Juan Miranda, veteran Xavier Nady, and Brandon Allen. Nady and Allen are also in the competition for the LF job, along with Gerardo Parra. Here, we take a look at the projected performance for each of these players from five different projection systems:
Baseball HQ - from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster book and Baseball HQ website
Baseball Prospectus - from Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system
ZIPS - from Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory
Bill James Online - from sabermetrician Bill James, taken from the FanGraphs web site
Marcel - a simple system based on weighted averages, with regression and age factors; also available at FanGraphs
(Note that all five systems use different assumptions about playing time.)
Let's start with Brandon Allen's projections. All five systems project a batting average between .241 and .251, and the consensus OBP seems to be a respectable .330. Where they differ most is in the power department, where the range of slugging percentages varies from Marcel's .403 up to .462 from Bill James. This will be the key for Allen - everyone expects a somewhat low batting average with lots of strikeouts and plenty of walks. But he needs to show good power to earn a starting spot.
The projections for Juan Miranda are not quite as good - only Marcel projects him to outproduce Allen, although he may hit for a higher batting average.
Russell Branyan is a much more proven commodity than Allen or Miranda. He has had a SLG over .480 for six of the last seven years, along with respectable OBPs. There is some concern about age and injuries with Branyan, but if he is healthy, he is probably the team's best offensive option at 1B.
After Nady's excellent .305/.357/.510 season in 2008, he has struggled the last two years with injuries. He is believed to finally be healthy again, but the projection systems are very consistent in their expectations from Nady - something around .265/.320/.420.
Al five systems expect Parra to put a respectable batting average, but with low power for a corner outfield spot.
The projection systems agree that Russell Branyan is the best offensive option at 1B. But his age and health make him a question mark, especially for a team like the Diamondbacks that needs to develop some younger players for the future. There seems to be consensus on what Xavier Nady can do, but is that good enough for a key offensive position? To justify regular playing time, Nady needs to get back to his performance from 2008 before elbow surgery. Brandon Allen looks like a promising choice, but the batting average may be low and the strikeouts will be high. At a minimum, he should be part of a platoon with Nady at either 1B or LF. Juan Miranda should be an adequate offensive 1B (his defense has looked very good so far in Spring Training) and is also out of options, so he can't be sent to the minor leagues without passing through waivers. That fact might keep him on the Major League roster. Gerardo Parra should not be used as a starting outfielder, due to the below-average power and on-base skills. He should be fine as a defensive replacement all over the outfield.