Projecting The New Red Sox Hitters
The Red Sox threw money at their 2014 struggles in an effort to rebuild in a hurry. Is it going to work? Who knows? There are defensive deficiencies to consider and locker room roles to fill, but what do those have to do with winning you a Fantasy Baseball championship in 2015?
Zip, nada, nothing.
The question you’re concerned about is: how will the move from Los Angeles to Boston affect the statistical production of this three-time All Star? Well, ponder no more: I’m here for you.
[caption id="attachment_74488" align="alignright" width="300"] Hanley Ramirez should put up elite numbers if he can stay healthy. Photo Credit: Eric Endow[/caption]
First of all, you need not worry about his age. He will be 31 in December, but he rediscovered the high-end Fantasy production as a member of the Dodgers after a disappointing 2011 with the Marlins and appears poised for another big season. The young talent in today’s MLB is often highlighted (the early career success of Mike Trout for example, or the 13-year contract for Giancarlo Stanton), but we did have four hitters finish 2014 inside ESPN’s Player Rater Top 20 that are older than HanRam, two of which put up big numbers in the division that Ramirez now calls home.
Alright, now that we’re past that hurdle, let’s evaluate what we are looking at for the upcoming season and see if Ramirez can be the next 30-plus year-old player to finish with elite Fantasy numbers. Using the Park Factor metric, one that tracks hitting success in ballparks since 2010, this offseason move places Ramirez in an opportunistic spot. Since 2010, he is hitting .312 in parks that rank as a Top 10 hitter’s park with 10.74 percent of his at-bats resulting in an extra base hit and 16.13 percent of his hits leaving the ballpark. Those numbers may not mean a whole lot to you without a point of reference, so try this on for size. He hit .278 with 10.16 percent of his at-bats resulting in an extra base hit and 13.54 percent of his hits going for homers in games played outside of those Top 10 ballparks. That difference in production is magnified when you consider that 72.2 percent of Boston’s games will be played in a Top 10 hitter’s park this season, a significant improvement from Ramirez’s 14 percent rate a season ago.
Adjust those numbers accordingly, and Ramirez is a statistically good bet to hit .303 with 15.41 percent of his hits being round-trippers. Speed isn’t a huge part of HanRam’s game anymore, nor is it a major part of what Boston wants to do on offense, but there is some value to be had there. In his Dodgers career, he averaged a stolen base every 32.39 at-bats, a rate that isn’t all that different from the BoSox average (for players with at least seven stolen bases in 2014) of one stolen base every 37.85 at-bats. Simple math would indicate that one steal every 35.12 at-bats is a reasonable projection for Ramirez in 2015.
One final geeky way of number crunching and then I promise I will wrap everything up with a nice bow and give you what you came for. Ramirez was penciled into the 2-5 slots in the Los Angeles lineup 98.9 percent of the time last season, a trend that should continue on his new squad. In a disappointing 2014 season, Boston’s 2-5 hitters combined for 295 runs, 76 homers, and 335 RBI on 656 hits. In other words, they averaged 0.45 runs/0.51 RBI per hit and 3.88 runs/4.41 RBI per home run. Let’s project that for the .303 batting average and the 15.41 percent home run rate we calculated from above.
Hanley Ramirez 2015 Projection for 448 at-bats (five-year average)
.303 batting average, 72 runs (the average of 62 runs based on BoSox 2-5 hitters per hit averages and 82 runs based on their per home run averages), 21 homers, 82 RBI (the average of 70 runs based on BoSox 2-5 hitters per hit averages and 93 runs based on their per home run averages), and 13 steals.
2014 Example: Matt Kemp (Top 40 overall player)
.287 average, 77 runs, 25 homers, 89 RBI, and 8 steals
Hanley Ramirez 2015 Projection for 500 at-bats (maybe the DH slot can increase his AB total)
.303 batting average, 82 runs, 24 homers, 92 RBI, and 15 steals
2014 Example: Adam Jones (Top 20 overall player)
.281 average, 88 runs, 29 homers, 96 RBI, and 7 steals
Hanley Ramirez 2015 Projection for 604 at-bats (his current career-high)
.303 batting average, 98 runs, 29 home runs, 111 RBI, and 18 steals
2014 Example: Michael Brantley (Top 10 overall player)
.327 average, 94 runs, 20 homers, 97 RBI, and 23 steals
Now, I could wax poetic about how his FB and HR/FB rates both took an expected decline in 2014, and that his career track record indicates that a bounce back in fly ball percentage is likely, thus resulting in a very nice bump in Fantasy value as his HR/FB rate should spike given the friendly nature of Fenway, but the numbers above already paint a fairly positive picture, so we’ll leave it at that. Ramirez’s return to the team that originally drafted him should prove to be a career booster loaded with Fantasy goodness.
Fantasy Baseball Projection: Pablo Sandoval
Hanley Ramirez wasn’t the only newcomer to Bean Town this offseason. The one-and-only Kung Fu Panda signed his name on the dotted line after bringing home another World Series title with the Giants, and while his postseason production cannot be over looked (.365 batting average with a near 1.000 OPS over his last two trips), is that the type of Fantasy impact we should expect long-term?
In a word: no. He has played his best when the lights are the brightest, but assuming that he is going to become an elite Fantasy contributor in a city where the lights are always on is a bit of a mistake. It’s a mistake because that’s just not who this hefty 28-year-old has proven to be. Since 2010, Sandoval owns a .268 batting average in Top 10 hitter’s ballparks, with 13.16 percent of his knocks resulting in round-trippers. The quantity of hits actually declined from when he was playing in parks ranked outside the Top 10 in park factor (.286 batting average), but the quality improved, as only 10.62 percent of his hits were leaving the yard in the bigger parks. Combine those numbers with the fact from above that Boston will play 72.2 percent of their games in a Top 10 park this season and The Panda is a good bet to hit .273 with 12.45 percent of his hits resulting in a slow trot around the bases this season.
In San Francisco, Sandoval was penciled into the 3-6 slot 99.7 percent of the time, a role he figures to assume in Boston as well, serving as protection for David Ortiz. The Red Sox 3-6 hitters combined for 258 runs, 81 homers, and 334 RBI on 611 hits. In other words, they averaged 0.42 runs/0.55 RBI per hit and 3.19 runs/4.12 RBI per home run. Is this a perfect way to determine a projection? No, but it does give us an idea about the dangerous opportunities created from batting in this spot in the order. Now my favorite part: crunching the numbers.
500 at-bat projection (5-year average): .273 batting average, 58 runs, 18 homers, 76 RBI
2014 Example: Jhonny Peralta(Top 160 overall player)
.263 batting average, 61 runs, 21 homers, 75 RBI
557 at-bat projection (2-year average): .273 batting average, 65 runs, 20 homers, 84 RBI
2014 Example: Neil Walker (Top 110 overall player)
.271 batting average, 74 runs, 23 home runs, 76 RBI
588 at-bat projection (career-high): .273 batting average, 68 runs, 21 homers, 88 RBI
2014 Example: Marcell Ozuna (Top 100 overall player)
.269 batting average, 72 runs, 23 homers, 85 RBI
As you can see, The Kung Fu Panda projects as a nice Fantasy option, especially at a hot corner position that is full of declining stars or young studs that may still be a year or two away from being reliable Fantasy assets. That said, don’t overrate Sandoval on draft day just because he is one of the last things you remember from the 2014 season or because he is leaving a pitcher-friendly atmosphere for a hitter-friendly one. He is a starting third baseman in most formats, but a Fantasy star he is not.
*Rounding up, as you cannot score a partial run, knock in a partial run, or hit a partial home run. Therefore, if a projection comes out to 28.01, it will round up to 29.
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