In this article series, I’ll be breaking down Baseball-Reference projections, and providing my own projections for the 2019 Dodgers.
Joc, like many Dodgers, had a fairly confusing 2018. At times he looked as lost at the plate as anyone has ever been, while others he looked locked in and better than he ever has. In 443 plate appearances, he produced a triple slash line of .248/.321/.522; posting the highest batting average of his career, but also his lowest OBP. He sacrificed some of the walks he normally works (career low 9.0 BB%) for some fairly lazy ground outs and pop flies. That said, he still hit 25 dingers, posted a 126 WRC+ (league average is 100) and a .354 wOBA, which are both considered above average.
The real, obvious stain on Joc though, is that he can’t hit lefties. He doesn’t struggle against lefties, he plainly just cannot hit them. Joc’s power is great, but when you can’t put someone in the lineup at all against LHP, it’s quite the handicap. Here are his 2019 projections.
Honestly, I think BREF has this nailed. I think Joc bats a low BA again, but gets on base with walks, and hits for power. At best, perhaps he hits closer to 25 home runs. Otherwise, this looks like a fair prediction. Of course, all this said is assuming that he remains in Los Angeles for the 2019 season.
The Dodgers newest outfielder posted a triple slash line of .257/.316/.484 in 460 plate appearances last year. While a mid-May thumb injury put him on the DL for about 6 weeks, he still produced an above average WRC+ of 110, and a wOBA of .338. Dodger fans who were reticent of his signing cited bad numbers outside of Arizona. Here are A.J.’s projections for 2019. He’s also plays plus defense in the outfield and has his entire career.
My Thoughts/Projection: The Dodgers have a great recent history of taking on new players and re-inventing their careers or improving their numbers. I don’t think A.J. Pollock is an exception. I think he hits 25 home runs this year. The rest of his numbers are probably about right. He’s not going to put up MVP numbers, but 25 dingers would be great output from our newest Dodger.
I included Cody Bellinger in the projections for the infielders here, as 1B is his natural position. He will very obviously be playing a ton of outfield, so I am also including his projections here.
As I mentioned in my infield projections piece, Bellinger’s sophomore year was going to be heavily scrutinized.
His dip in power was very much expected, as repeating his pace from his rookie year would be pretty unfair to expect. What was surprising, were the cold spells he had, and the frequent changes in his batting stance — he reached Joc Pederson levels of tinkering. His batting stance stood somewhere between ‘tennis swing after Sunday brunch’ to ‘8th grade dance with your rear out’ levels of ugly.
Experts (Keith Law) believe he’s going to need to make some crucial adjustments to his approach to succeed. And, as I mentioned before, after hitting 39 home runs in an abbreviated season in his rookie year, it’s understandable that one might over adjust next year when the results aren’t similar. He still played great defense in multiple places, hit 25 dingers, and had an OPS over .800. His WRC+ was a solid 120, and his wOBA was a good .345. “Solid” and “good” are not exactly what you’re hoping for from your biggest slugger, though. Here are his BREF projections for 2019.
They project Cody is still going to hit 28 home runs and they predict he’s going to slug over .500, and post an .850 ops.
My thoughts/projection: I think this is a solid projection, but I feel he might to hit closer to 33 home runs. I see Cody finding a more consistent swing and approach at the plate, and he’s going to be an all star. You can book it Ask @brookme3 to brook it. @Diamondhoggers might have Cody Bellinger hitting 45 home runs, though.
Kiké Hernandez was impressive in 2018. People can react to this however they choose, but this is the truth. One need not blame his over-usage in the playoffs (like batting 3rd in an elimination game, yikes) to taint the fact his overall season performance was terrific. It wasn’t terrific compared to other utility players, it was terrific by a league-wide comparison. BREF gave him a 2.8 WAR, but Fangraphs, ordinarily a little more stingy, rated him at a 3.3 WAR. He posted a 118 WRC+ and a wOBA of .342, which is considered a ‘good’ rating for the statistic. For a player who played literally everywhere but catcher, played plus defense, and posted 21 dingers playing basically full-time, he was really good in 2018.
For 2019, here are his BREF projections.
They’re projecting that Kiké will receive about the same amount of playing time this year. They’re suggesting an enormous regression to the mean, however. A .233 batting average and an .316 OBP is a pretty low projection, especially when it downgrades his home runs to 17.
My Thoughts/Projection: I understand that a part time player having a full time year, and career highs highly suggests a regression — but I don’t buy it. I’m not saying Kiké is going to slug 30 dingers but…If he bats .233 he’s going to hit 25 home runs. Kiké’s power is 100% real. My prediction is that he’s either going to hit .270 with a .340 OBP and hit 15 home runs, or if he hits a low .230/.310 he’s going to hit 25 home runs. He’s going to continue to play plus defense almost anywhere he’s positioned. Kiké’s value tends to be underrated, but only because he was asked of a lot in 2018.
The Dodgers don’t appear to be giving Bryce Harper a contract, so Dugie should be seeing quite a bit of time in right field. In 2018 Alex posted a WRC+ of 98, and a wOBA of .311. He batted .260 with an OBP of .329. Don’t let those numbers discourage you, they’re the mother of all small sample sizes. What’s there to extrapolate is that he is already very good at discerning pitches at the plate. an OBP of .329 for a rookie is impressive. Rookies tend to be chomping at the bit to show their skills, and tend to whiff a lot. His patience tells a huge story–Alex Verdugo is confident, and shows mature judgement, at least at the plate. Let’s take a look at BREF’s projections for the rookie.
My Thoughts/Projection: Before I go on, I should add that the ‘reliability’ tab on these projections shows a 31 for Verdugo. In simplest terms, it means that the reliability of these projections for Alex is very low. BREF knows these numbers could be way off. With that said, I believe (if given ample playing time) Alex Verdugo finishes top 3 in rookie of the year voting, if not winning it. He has tremendous discipline and discernment at the plate already. He has a good bat to ball ability, and has the ability to hit lefties better than most lefties. If he gets full playing time, I could see him posting 15 home runs, a .275 BA, .340 OBP, and 30 doubles. Book it now, grill me later.
I included Chris Taylor in the projections for the infielders here, as 2nd is his is natural position. He will very obviously be playing a ton of outfield, so I am also including his projections here.
CT3’s 2018 tends to look better on paper than Dodger fans seem to believe. CT3 sure did strike out a lot in 2018 (36 more times in exactly 36 more plate appearances over his breakout 2017), but his production was still solid overall. He posted a WRC+ of 113, and a wOBA of .335. Both of those obviously fell short of his 2017, but still lie within the margins of ‘above average.’ Here’s BREF’s 2019 projection for Christopher Armand Taylor.
So if you look closely at those numbers, they bear a striking resemblance to 2018’s numbers. Same HR and RBI totals, even his OBP projection is almost exactly the same. BREF also sees CT3 striking out about 30 less times this year though, bringing him closer to what he posted in 2017. Overall BREF projects CT3 will have a better year in 2019.
My thoughts/projection: His 2017 performance isn’t going to happen again, folks. OK — it’s not likely to happen again. His 2017 OPS of .850 is not something we’re likely to see again. I predict we’re going to get what BREF is guessing, but I think he’ll hit a few more home runs. I see CT3 hitting around 20-23 dingers this year, and he could possibly post an .800 OPS. If he can cut down his strikeouts to around 140 again, he’s going to be an extremely valuable player. Calling it: 21 home runs, .800 ops, 135 K’s.
Andrew Toles we hardly knew ye, 2018. The amount of “Free Toles” tweets on twitter last season could have started a living, breathing, movement. He only played in 17 games last year and that’s a terribly small sampling size, so I won’t parse those numbers. In 2016 he played in 48 games. In those 48 games he posted a wRC+ of 131 and a wOBA of .365. Here’s his 2019 projection:
My Thoughts/Projection: So much of Andrew’s 2019 is predicated on how much time he plays on the LA Dodgers, versus the OKC Dodgers. These projections look pretty accurate. I believe he posts closer to a .475 percent slugging percentage. He has tremendous gap power, and I think with the limited playing time he gets, he’ll deliver.
With the departure of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, the outfield is missing a cannon arm, and about 40-45 home runs. With Pollock holding down centerfield, I believe the aggregate numbers can be filled. Alex Verdugo is going to get playing time, and this is when we’ll see him shine. Dodger fans should be excited about this. Every single player on this list is a plus defender in the outfield, which falls in line with how Los Angeles has operated in the Guggenheim era.
The Dodgers have low-key set themselves up for a productive outfield. Starting pitchers are the next projections. Look for that article soon!
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