Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pablo Projections

Grant at McCovey Chronicles is running a Pablo Sandoval projection thread, and below is what I wrote, with new stuff, as I am wont to do:

Projections: Ceiling and Floor

Here is what Baseball Forecaster currently projects for Kung Fu Panda:

AB: 415
BA: .294
OBP: .319
SLG: .482
OPS: .801

HR: 14
Runs: 73
RBI: 85

If Pablo ended up with, say, 625 AB instead (playing a full season), his counting stats would be the following, at the same rate per AB:

HR: 21
Runs: 110
RBI: 128

CHONE's projection, I think, would make a nice floor for what Pablo can achieve in 2009. The authors of The Book determined that CHONE had the best projection system in 2008, and CHONE projects:

AB: 477
BA: .283
OBP: .315
SLG: .426
OPS: .741

HR: 11
Runs: 64
RBI: 68

In 625 AB, roughly 15 HR, 85 Runs, 90 RBI.

I would say that these numbers are pretty good floors and ceilings for what Sandoval could do in 2009, both part-time and full-time. Given his youth, great strikeout rate (it's real, he's been doing it like that in the minors, so the league won't catch up with him as some suggests; a low walk rate does not mean that he has a hole waiting to be exploited, it could mean he's hyper aggressive in swinging the bat), and his breakout in 2008, which was due to his power kicking in, he is about as sure a prospect as any player, and I would lean more towards the high end of the projections, in terms of power.

Power is Key Indicator Here

Because his power actually kicked in in 2007, looking at his spray chart, it is not like 2008 was a fluke power year, he was already displaying it in 2007, only under different circumstances. He had 23 batted balls that traveled over 350 feet in 2007, but 9 of them were to straight-away center for outs and hits (mostly outs) but no homers. In 2008, looking at his Connecticut spray, all his long hits were pulled for homers, and in SJ, he either pulled them or hit them out further into center, making them no doubts, many of them were over 400 ft, some approaching 450 ft.

Thus, his power definitely kicked in during the 2007 season, and he then adjusted to pull them more to make them pay off in homers in 2008. So, each season was a year of growth and development, first in learning to hit for more power, second in learning how to take advantage of that power by pulling the balls more. He grew and adjusted, whereas the league was unable to counter him.

In addition, his 2008 MLB stats were skewed because he didn't hit very many flyballs while in the majors. He had a much higher flyball rate in the minors than he had in the majors in 2008, and thus, if he is able to hit more flyballs in 2009, more of them should go out for homeruns. Lastly, his HR/FB rate was only 8% when the average major leaguer is around 10% (the 10% mean pitchers are suppose to regress to; hitters have their own HR/FB rate), and given his bodyshape and weight, one would think that he would have a higher HR/FB rate than the average hitter.

Defensively OK at 3B, Not So Much at C

CHONE projects -3 runs for his defense at 3B, which seems right to me. Despite his girth, most reports I've seen on his defense is that with experience there, he will be OK there defensively.

Whereas I have not seen any scouting reports that were optimistic enough to think that Sandoval can play catcher decently as a regular. So any plus offense he might do there, he could be negating a lot of it via his play behind the plate. And that is in spite of his strong arm that caught a lot of base stealers, so that means the other parts of his defense there has to be much worse.

People who think he can be a catcher is dreaming. The thing is, people point out that he hasn't played 3B since 2006, but the fact is that he was a 3B when we signed him, he only converted to be a catcher while with us, and clearly he not only has a lot more to learn as a catcher, there are scouts who think that he won't ever learn it enough (unlike Posey, who is projected by some to win a Gold Glove eventually).

BA thought he can be average at 3B with experience in 2006, but noted this last season: Though he has arm strength and threw out 46 percent of basestealers with San Jose, his hands and lack of agility work against him at catcher. They also quoted scouts who had seen him catch and they said that they didn't believe Sandoval could play at catcher regularly in the majors. Plus, two managers said Sandoval had problems just physically squatting behind the plate. McKamey wrote in his 2007 book that as a catcher, poor agility prompted his move to the corner infield where Pablo can be average defensively with his soft hands and arm strength. So stop thinking that he can be a decent catcher if only the Giants would trade Molina and play him instead.

And it is not like 3B is a sure thing for Sandoval either. I've read a lot of complaints about him playing 3B. But I think there is at least a chance he can figure things out there defensively, based on what I've read from scouts, and we can take 2009 to have him figure that out since that is a position of need for us.

At least he would have had a year in the majors and we would have a much better idea what type of MLB hitter he is. If he is a good hitter but poor defensively anywhere he goes, then maybe he can be a super-utility player who can be our backup catcher, 1B, and 3B, while still seeing a lot of games, plus be our DH when the time comes for that. That could give him up to 75-100 starts plus a good bat off the bench. That would be an advantage for us, assuming he's the hitter he appears to be, because then he could be the DH for us in the World Series, should we be lucky enough to get that far.

Or he could be traded to an AL team and get us another good position prospect, perhaps for SS since that is a place we are lacking.


  1. >> People who think he can be a catcher is dreaming. The thing is, people point out that he hasn't played 3B since 2006, but the fact is that he was a 3B when we signed him, he only converted to be a catcher while with us, and clearly he not only has a lot more to learn as a catcher, there are scouts who think that he won't ever learn it enough (unlike Posey, who is projected by some to win a Gold Glove eventually).

    There are also scouts who think that he'll never be able to play third base, either. So, that's probably dreaming as well. I think he'll settle at first base.

    Go check out KG's Giants Top-11 @ BP for his comments on Sandoval playing third.

    Also, I don't think what he's originally drafted as matters. Nick Noonan was drafted as a SS, but everyone knew he wouldn't be able to play the position at a pro-level. Athletes often changes positions from when they are drafted.

  2. I've seen no reports that Sandoval can handle catching, other than the Giants using him there.

    I've reported a couple of credible sources that believe that he can play 3B adequately eventually.

    Thus, instead of short circuiting his possibilities right now by throwing him to 1B, where he is expected to be below average in value because he won't hit well enough to play average defense there PLUS we have other viable 1B candidates, you play him at 3B in 2009, where some think he can play OK (and yes, some think he can't play there) and where his offense would be OK there, perhaps good, AND we have no other viable prospects close enough to start for us now.

    If KG is perfect with his projections, then I would accept that Sandoval couldn't play 3B. BA is not perfect either, that's why I'm trying to show a variety of opinions I've gathered and read. KG's sources says he can't play 3B, which I did not know. McKamey (who is a scout) and BA's scout sources have said that he could play 3B OK; none of them thinks he can play catcher.

    So, there is no consensus that he can't play 3B in the majors; meanwhile, there has not been one who said he can play C in the majors. (I haven't read BP's comment on Sandoval, I don't subscribe, got higher priorities)

    The point that he played 3B before is that it is not a new position for him and there are some scouts who think that he can still play there, particularly with experience. He was only moved off there to give him more position flexibility.

    Nobody I've seen has said that about him catching, which is a new activity for him, and he has only really have maybe one plus season's worth of games played at catcher in the minors. If you know of some commentary that he can catch, then my ears are open, but I would have led with that had I supported him at catcher. However, from what I know, a number of credible sources says catching is not in his future and I've seen no one who says he can.

    And sure, some say 3B is not either. But there are at least some who think he can play 3B in the majors adequately, his CHONE defensive projection is not that bad, plus, though small samples, he played 3B well in 2008 in the majors, registering a 1.7 UZR.

    Again, why move him to a position (1B) that he doesn't profile at all offensively when there is at least some possibility that he can be offensively plus at 3B while perhaps he can defensively OK at 3B? Why keep him at C when no scouts appear to think that he can play there in the majors? His greatest upside that is possible is being a good hitter who is passable at defense at 3B, he doesn't pass muster defensively at C, offensively at 1B, neither are likely possibilities, according to the scouts.

    No need to lecture me about prospects who play other positions, I've been noting that about Noonan, for instance, since he was first drafted:

    Heck, if you want an ultimate Giants example of a player drafted who eventually ended up at another position, Joe Nathan who was a shortstop when we drafted him and his failures there led to him converting to pitching. Others include Nate Schierholtz and Angel Villalona.

    Wasn't that hard to check too, that I said that about Noonan, I have labels on the side, 2007 Draft and Nick Noonan, and searched for "2B".

  3. >> No need to lecture me about prospects who play other positions, I've been noting that about Noonan, for instance, since he was first drafted:

    No worries, I wasn't lecturing you. I WAS pointing out that it isn't relevant for a lot of prospects as to where they start defensively.

    >> Wasn't that hard to check too, that I said that about Noonan, I have labels on the side, 2007 Draft and Nick Noonan, and searched for "2B".

    I'll be sure to dig through your archives for previous work before I make a comment next time. What was I thinking!

    The spread between position adjustments between 1B and 3B is -10 runs, that's his defense threshold. If he's a -10 or greater defender at third base, you move him to first. I don't think anyone is arguing that. Instead, that his chances at third are going to be slim.

    His UZR data from 2008 at 3B is insignificant, it doesn't mean a thing. I'm not sure how CHONE does his defensive projections, I'll email him to find out if he includes minor league data, which he may. If not, Pablo's score isn't terribly reliable.

  4. And, you might be interested to know that CHONE has Sandoval projected as a -1 run catcher.

  5. Er, I meant the spread between 1B/3B is 15 runs (that assumes he would be average "0 runs" at 1B). Meaning that he'd have to be a -15 run defender at third base to be shifted to 1B. I think he could do better than -15, but I honestly don't know. Guys like Garrett Atkins and Edwin Encarnacion have been -15 run defenders in the past. Ryan Bruan was a -24 run defender at 3B in '07.



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