this got knocked around a little bit last night, but dan szymborski had pity on a man coming off a plane with nothing to write about and posted his projections for the st. louis cardinals in 2012.
actually the coolest thing about the projections is that you can practically taste that sweet, sweet prospect-y goodness. matt adams being worth a 98 OPS+ next year (the same projection as for david freese)? yes, please. occasionally downtrodden zach cox putting down a 92 OPS+? okey-doke. neck-and-neck 3B prospect matt carpenter with a 94 OPS+? sure. shelby miller out-pitching lance lynn (starter edition), who in turn out-pitches kyle lohse and jake westbrook? i should be paying $3.99 a minute to hear this.
now, of course, the most likely outcome, barring catastrophic injury, is that we do not see much of those four prospects this year. they'll have a further season to mature. in 2013, when we might more likely see some of these guys, they should be ready to put on a good show. of course, it is silly to put too much faith in these projections. there are many slips betwixt cup and lip, and i don't think all of them would truly pick up a bat tomorrow and put up those numbers.
but it is good news for the future. moreover, it's reassuring for now - both carpenter and cox are projected to hit numbers more or less comparable to descalso (93 OPS+), which would make them adequate infield backups, if needed.
in the outfield
the new projections are also a chance to bash some conventional VEB targets. in the anual game of "what league-min player is skip schumaker now comparable to?" skip (5th outfielder edition) looks indistinguishable from rule 5 pickup erik komatsu (both projected for an 86 OPS+), except that komatsu would probably be a good centerfielder. both have better projections than adron chambers (83 OPS+), which is slightly surprising to me. i could stand to watch chambers spend the season in AAA to let komatsu take a reserve outfield role, but staying in memphis so skip can take up a roster spot is somewhat annoying. aaron luna hangs about looking like a potential emergency call-up a la andrew brown (85 OPS+). ZiPS has just given up on shane robinson and daryl jones; sorry, guys.
behind the plate
ZiPS weighs in strongly on the backup catcher debate, projecting an 82 OPS+ for bryan anderson, compared to a 74 OPS+ for tony cruz. backup catcher is not the most exciting position on the field, but it will surely be interesting to see how this shakes out in spring training. (p.s. dan, if you're reading this, it looks like you did the tigers projection before gerald laird signed in detroit, and thus he appears in neither team's projections. i'd be interested in comparing his projection to our current backups.)
around the bases
without going back over adams, cox, carpenter, and descalso's projections above, they all look like decent potential backups during the season. the fairly small margin between cox, carpenter, and descalso on one hand, and freese, the third baseman they might replace, on the other (98 OPS+) shows that ZiPS has cast a fairly strong "no" vote on the perennial VEB debate: "is david freese's BABIP sustainable?" i actually don't have strong feelings either way in the discussion, but i'll be watching his numbers, like his ankles, in 2012 with some trepidation. hopefully, they will all hold up. in the absence of a beltran signing, the club will have to work to fill the offensive gap left by albert's departure, and serious regression by freese would create a big problem.
at first, matt adams looks solid, outstripping mark hamilton's 94 OPS+ despite competing at a lower level. even so, let's hope that we don't need to call on either this year; an average or tick-below-average bat doesn't belong at first base.
in the middle infield, ZiPS is not optimistic about tyler greene, looking at an 84 OPS+. while i'd rather see him at second than skip schumaker, the projection system seems pretty keen on a descalso-furcal middle infield. i'm not sure there's enough defensive difference between greene and descalso to justify giving greene a majority of PA's at second. most likely, tyler will get his chance in the field, but i suspect it will be intermittent. on the other hand, for the membership of the tyler greene fanclub, ZiPS recognizes (down below at the ODDIBE section) that greene has a remarkable high ceiling, to match a pretty low floor - assuming that i'm interpreting ODDIBE correctly.
ZiPS is not sad to see ryan theriot go (80 OPS+).ZiPS does not share my optimism on ryan jackson's offensive production (70 OPS+), but does not see him as Kozma-esque (56 OPS+). on the other hand, jackson still has another year to develop, and for a true plus-plus defensive shortstop, a 70 OPS is not disqualifying. elvis andrus had an 82, 72, and 87 OPS+ in the last three seasons.
on the mound
other than shelby miller's surprising-but-not-really projection, i most enjoy the surprisingly sharp projection for lance lynn the starting pitcher, with a big gap between him and westbrook. i'm perfectly happy to throw him into the rotation in spring training and make the better-paid starters at least sweat some about whether they can keep their jobs. unsurprsingly, adam wainwright is supposed to be really, really good, and chris carpenter and jaime garcia will both be slightly less good than that.
the pitchers projected as relievers tells us pretty much what we knew already - motte, salas, and sanchez are outstanding; rzepczynski and boggs are nice; and kyle mcclellan is getting paid more than any of them. surprising to me, ZiPS likes both chuckie fick (who i've never taken terribly seriously) and jordan swagerty better than mcclellan. wow.
jc romero looks dreadful, at an 84 OPS+; it is really essential that he be treated exclusively as a specialist. is it legal to fine matheny $1000 every time romero pitches to a RH batter? also, ryan franklin (80 ERA+) ranks with rich rundles (79 ERA+) and recent surgery victim adam reifer (80 ERA+). ugh.
last, it is fun to check out the player comps at the bottom. eric komatsu's third comp is curt flood? matt holliday = a smiling, well-tempered will clark? lance berkman = chili davis? allen craig has the most interesting full set of comps on the position player side: jose guillen, jermaine dye, and xavier nady. again, the shelby miller comps take the cake: jason schmidt (38.6 career WAR), tim hudson (49.0 thus far), and steve bedrosian (8.2 WAR, meh).
i would take the tyler greene-julio lugo comp if that means we get the good few seasons with lugo. and i think edwin jackson would pay dan some serious cash not to be compared to jeff weaver and sid ponson. seriously, dan, see if he'll cough up some money.