2012 projections review: first base

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This is the second of a position-by-position review of my 2012 projections. Along with looking at my top preseason top 10 (for fantasy purposes) from each spot, I’m highlighting some other interesting players. Any requests for players not covered can be made in the comments.

1. Albert Pujols – Angels
Projection: .306/.414/.586, 43 HR, 114 R, 117 RBI, 9 SB in 601 AB
2012 stats: .285/.343/.516, 30 HR, 85 R, 105 RBI, 8 SB in 607 AB

After finally settling in above the Mendoza Line on May 15, Pujols came in at .312/.374/.589 the rest of the way. The most striking thing about Pujols’ decline is the huge drop in his walk rate. He drew at least 70 unintentional walks every year from 2004-09 before dropping to 65 in 2010, 46 in 2011 and 36 this year.

2. Joey Votto – Reds
Projection: .314/.426/.564, 33 HR, 105 R, 107 RBI, 9 SB in 567 AB
2012 stats: .337/.474/.567, 14 HR, 59 R, 56 RBI, 5 SB in 374 AB

3. Adrian Gonzalez – Red Sox/Dodgers
Projection: .318/.401/.551, 33 HR, 103 R, 118 RBI, 0 SB in 604 AB
2012 stats: .299/.344/.463, 18 HR, 75 R, 108 RBI, 2 SB in 629 AB

The move to Dodger Stadium will get Gonzalez a weaker projection next year, particularly in runs scored. I may have to ramp up the steals, though. Gonzalez had as many stolen bases in 36 games with the Dodgers (two) as he did in 1,140 career games previously.

4. Prince Fielder – Tigers
Projection: .278/.412/.515, 33 HR, 98 R, 113 RBI, 1 SB in 565 AB
2012 stats: .313/.412/.528, 30 HR, 83 R, 108 RBI, 1 SB in 581 AB

It figured that the move from Milwaukee to Detroit would take a chunk out of Fielder’s home run total. However, he made up for it by hitting .300 for the first time in his career. After such a quick adjustment to the AL, I’ll give him a somewhat better projection next year.

5. Eric Hosmer – Royals
Projection: .293/.365/.487, 24 HR, 89 R, 97 RBI, 8 SB in 598 AB
2012 stats: .232/.304/.359, 14 HR, 65 R, 60 RBI, 16 SB in 535 AB

Hosmer was such a huge disappointment after hitting .293/.334/.465 with 19 homers in 128 games as a rookie. All he seemed to do as a sophomore was hit grounders. The future is still bright, but the Royals need to bring in an alternative at first base and consider sending Hosmer back to Triple-A if he can’t fails to make adjustments next spring.

6. Mark Teixeira – Yankees
Projection: .260/.367/.504, 36 HR, 93 R, 108 RBI, 2 SB in 573 AB
2012 stats: .251/.332/.475, 24 HR, 66 R, 84 RBI, 2 SB in 451 AB

Teixeira’s OPS declined for the fifth straight season, and the Yankees are still on the hook for another four years. Orioles fans should stop booing him and start cheering the fact that their team isn’t the one paying him $22.5 million per year.

7. Ike Davis – Mets
Projection: .277/.363/.501, 29 HR, 81 R, 95 RBI, 1 SB in 553 AB
2012 stats: .227/.308/.462, 32 HR, 66 R, 90 RBI, 0 SB in 519 AB

I don’t know how much the Valley Fever had to do with Davis’s early struggles, but the fact is that he hit .158/.234/.273 with five homers in 183 at-bats through June 8 and then .265/.347/.565 with 27 homers in 336 at-bats the rest of the way. Regardless, he still needs to step up his game against lefties if he’s going to post quality batting averages from year to year.

8. Paul Konerko – White Sox
Projection: .278/.371/.480, 28 HR, 73 R, 98 RBI, 0 SB in 540 AB
2012 stats: .298/.371/.486, 26 HR, 66 R, 75 RBI, 0 SB in 533 AB

Hitting Konerko behind Adam Dunn didn’t really work out for the White Sox. He was still pretty good, but he lost 30 RBI from his 2011 total.

9. Freddie Freeman – Braves
Projection: .282/.348/.476, 24 HR, 73 R, 87 RBI, 3 SB in 561 AB
2012 stats: .259/.340/.456, 23 HR, 91 R, 94 RBI, 2 SB in 540 AB

10. Paul Goldschmidt – Diamondbacks
Projection: .246/.329/.485, 30 HR, 74 R, 85 RBI, 8 SB in 532 AB
2012 stats: .286/.359/.490, 20 HR, 82 R, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 514 AB

One of my most unusual misses: I was off by 40 points of average, 10 homers and 10 steals, yet by only 35 points of OPS and five runs+RBI.

11. Adam Dunn – White Sox
Projection: .230/.347/.489, 37 HR, 80 R, 92 RBI, 1 SB in 538 AB
2012 stats: .204/.333/.468, 41 HR, 87 R, 96 RBI, 2 SB in 539 AB

Dunn was a great story early on, but he was a below average DH over the final four months. In the end, his comeback ranked as only the White Sox’s third best behind Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. While my projection turned out OK, I’ll be going lower next year.

15. Ryan Howard – Phillies
Projection: .261/.350/.499, 21 HR, 51 R, 65 RBI, 0 SB in 337 AB
2012 stats: .219/.295/.423, 14 HR, 28 R, 56 RBI, 0 SB in 260 AB

17. Justin Morneau – Twins
Projection: .269/.361/.473, 23 HR, 71 R, 82 RBI, 0 SB in 490 AB
2012 stats: .267/.333/.440, 19 HR, 63 R, 77 RBI, 1 SB in 505 AB

It’s great that Morneau was able to return from post-concussion syndrome and become a solid contributor. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite resemble the old Morneau at the plate. Even though he was limited to 134 games, he still set a new career high with 102 strikeouts, and he had his worst full season from a power perspective. I expect I’ll give him a similar projection next year.

18. Kendrys Morales – Angels
Projection: .293/.346/.497, 20 HR, 61 R, 73 RBI, 1 SB in 433 AB
2012 stats: .273/.320/.467, 22 HR, 61 R, 73 RBI, 0 SB in 484 AB

As a fantasy projection, this one is pretty great. As far as actually projecting production, it’s a little off; I expected Morales to reach those run and RBI totals in 50 fewer at-bats. Considering that I was projecting a guy who had missed 1 2/3 seasons with a busted leg, I’ll take it either way. Morales had his best two months in August and September, which would seem to be a good sign for next year.

19. Justin Smoak – Mariners
Projection: .258/.350/.440, 22 HR, 70 R, 74 RBI, 0 SB in 539 AB
2012 stats: .217/.290/.364, 19 HR, 49 R, 51 RBI, 1 SB in 483 AB

Smoak was sitting at .190/.258/.316 through the end of August. He hit .341/.426/.580 with five homers in September to seemingly guarantee himself another shot as the Mariners’ first baseman next year.

21. Adam LaRoche – Nationals
Projection: .257/.332/.442, 19 HR, 61 R, 73 RBI, 1 SB in 475 AB
2012 stats: .271/.343/.510, 33 HR, 76 R, 100 RBI, 1 SB in 571 AB

LaRoche hit .172 with three homers in 151 at-bats before undergoing shoulder surgery in 2011. All he did this year was come back with the best season of his career at age 32.

29. Mark Trumbo – Angels
Projection: .248/.297/.460, 16 HR, 39 R, 49 RBI, 4 SB in 315 AB
2012 stats: .268/.317/.491, 32 HR, 66 R, 95 RBI, 4 SB in 544 AB

I’ve been a big skeptic with Trumbo, and I was looking like a big fool with him hitting .307/.358/.630 with 27 homers through 85 games this year. Then he suddenly collapsed to .213/.258/.293 the rest of the way. My feeling is that the flaws in his approach were exposed, and he’s going to have to start laying off bad pitches to survive. That said, he has some of the best power in the league and he can still crush mistakes. He can’t be completely written off.

Previous 2012 projection reviews: catcher

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.