2012 projections review: catcher

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I’ll be doing some projection reviews over the next couple of weeks, starting with catcher here. Along with running down my preseason top 10 (for fantasy purposes) from each position, I’ll also present a few more that are of interest. Requests of players not listed can be made in the comments.

1. Carlos Santana – Indians
Projection: .273/.382/.485, 25 HR, 85 R, 90 RBI, 4 SB in 524 AB
2012 stats: .252/.365/.420, 18 HR, 72 R, 76 RBI, 3 SB in 507 AB

Turned in a vastly improved second half (.281/.389/.498, 13 HR, 46 RBI) after a bad start.

2. Buster Posey – Giants
Projection: .307/.385/.493, 19 HR, 67 R, 78 RBI, 2 SB in 475 AB
2012 stats: .336/.398/.549, 24 HR, 78 R, 103 RBI, 1 SB in 530 AB

The likely NL MVP. I thought my projection was bold, all things considered.

3. Matt Wieters – Orioles
Projection: .285/.358/.494, 25 HR, 72 R, 81 RBI, 0 SB in 502 AB
2012 stats: .249/.329/.435, 23 HR, 67 R, 83 RBI, 3 SB in 526 AB

I kept looking at his modest strikeout totals and thinking a higher average was on the way. Unfortunately, he fanned 28 more times his year than last.

4. Joe Mauer – Twins
Projection: .317/.406/.444, 9 HR, 81 R, 70 RBI, 1 SB in 480 AB
2012 stats: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 81 R, 85 RBI, 8 SB in 545 AB

5. Brian McCann – Braves
Projection: .267/.353/.465, 23 HR, 65 R, 80 RBI, 3 SB in 490 AB
2012 stats: .230/.300/.399, 20 HR, 44 R, 67 RBI, 3 SB in 439 AB

McCann may well have peaked young. Injuries have been a factor, but even before 2012’s big drop off, his OPS fell slightly three straight seasons.

6. Mike Napoli – Rangers
Projection: .267/.358/.509, 24 HR, 66 R, 70 RBI, 3 SB in 401 AB
2012 stats: .227/.343/.469, 24 HR, 53 R, 56 RBI, 1 SB in 352 AB

I should have stuck with my 2011 projection, which called for Napoli to hit .251/.338/.475 with 20 homers and 57 RBI in 362 at-bats. Of course, he was a whole lot better that season.

7. Alex Avila – Tigers
Projection: .276/.358/.449, 16 HR, 63 R, 75 RBI, 2 SB in 468 AB
2012 stats: .243/.352/.384, 9 HR, 42 R, 48 RBI, 2 SB in 367 AB

8. Miguel Montero – Diamondbacks
Projection: .268/.339/.450, 18 HR, 61 R, 70 RBI, 1 SB in 473 AB
2012 stats: .286/.391/.438, 15 HR, 65 R, 88 RBI, 0 SB in 486 AB

Among the things I didn’t see coming this year: Montero finishing third (or fourth, if you want to slot in Joey Votto) in the National League in on-base percentage.

9. Yadier Molina – Cardinals
Projection: .286/.347/.402, 10 HR, 49 R, 60 RBI, 5 SB in 458 AB
2012 stats: .315/.373/.501, 22 HR, 65 R, 76 RBI, 12 SB in 505 AB

Molina added 60 points of OPS to a 2011 total that appeared to be the product of a career year. Unfortunately, the increased power was nowhere to be found in the postseason.

10. Geovany Soto – Cubs/Rangers
Projection: .263/.351/.448, 18 HR, 53 R, 65 RBI, 0 SB in 422 AB
2012 stats: .198/.270/.343, 11 HR, 45 R, 39 RBI, 1 SB in 324 AB

12. Russell Martin – Yankees
Projection: .258/.348/.383, 11 HR, 53 R, 50 RBI, 9 SB in 400 AB
2012 stats: .211/.311/.403, 21 HR, 50 R, 53 RBI, 6 SB in 422 AB

Martin’s isolated slugging percentages by year: .154, .176, .116, .079, .084, .171 and now .192. However, even with the career high in homers, he had just about his worst season for runs and RBI.

18. A.J. Pierzynski – White Sox
Projection: .277/.310/.387, 8 HR, 46 R, 47 RBI, 1 SB in 419 AB
2012 stats: .278/.326/.501, 27 HR, 68 R, 77 RBI, 0 SB in 479 AB

Pierzynski busting out with a 27-homer season at age 35 qualifies as one of the biggest stunners of the year. If it had happened five years ago, people would be crying steroids. His previous career high was 18 homers. He had nine homers in 2010 and eight in 2011.

24. Jonathan Lucroy – Brewers
Projection: .251/.324/.372, 9 HR, 44 R, 46 RBI, 3 SB in 403 AB
2012 stats: .320/.368/.513, 12 HR, 46 R, 58 RBI, 4 SB in 316 AB

With all of the surprising catcher seasons around, I wonder if anyone even noticed Lucroy’s .881 OPS. He struck out 99 times in 430 at-bats in 2011 and 44 times in 316 at-bats this year.

26. Carlos Ruiz – Phillies
Projection: .266/.363/.386, 7 HR, 43 R, 42 RBI, 1 SB in 376 AB
2012 stats: .325/.394/.540, 16 HR, 56 R, 68 RBI, 4 SB in 372 AB

33. Kelly Shoppach – Red Sox/Mets
Projection: .233/.327/.430, 8 HR, 24 R, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 172 AB
2012 stats: .233/.309/.425, 8 HR, 23 R, 27 RBI, 1 SB in 219 AB

Sorry, had to toot my own horn the once before finishing with a couple of ugly ones.

34. A.J. Ellis – Dodgers
Projection: .257/.361/.317, 2 HR, 30 R, 25 RBI, 1 SB in 265 AB
2012 stats: .270/.373/.414, 13 HR, 44 R, 52 RBI, 0 SB in 423 AB

35. Wilin Rosario – Rockies
Projection: .226/.259/.400, 7 HR, 22 R, 24 RBI, 1 SB in 190 AB
2012 stats: .270/.312/.530, 28 HR, 67 R, 71 RBI, 4 SB in 396 AB

Not that Rosario’s power was in doubt, but the .270 average was really encouraging. Also, his 25 walks were more than he had Double-A last year (19 in 405 AB).

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.