MLB: Projections Primer

Jason Martinez

Opening Day rosters aren’t all we project during the MLB offseason. Our Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, available to subscribers and updated daily, is built primarily around Roster Resource’s Statistical and Playing Time Projections for the upcoming season.

Not only do these projections give readers much better context to a team’s roster state—just because a player isn’t on the projected Opening Day roster doesn’t mean that player isn’t expected to receive significant playing time and vice versa—they allow us to create our Fantasy Rankings (four different formats: 5×5, 4×4, 6×6, Points) and present an idea of what could happen during the season. Projected standings and team stats are generated and are updated after players are added/subtracted from a team’s playing time projections.

How do I come up with my projections and why should you trust them?

This is my fifth offseason (two for Baseball Prospectus and the last three for Roster Resource) projecting playing time. It’s the second offseason in which I’ve created statistical projections. At this point, I do not have a computer program that spits out these projections. At some point, I will. As I develop a consistent and reliable group of criteria that I feel will account for all the different types of players and scenarios that occur for each of these players, a program will be created and I won’t be spending most of my waking hours in December working on this project.

As far as my current process, I analyze each player one at time using Baseball-Reference‘s player pages. From there, I’m able to get a good understanding of a player’s consistency level and career trends. A veteran player’s average 162-game statistical line is utilized. Most recent performance is integral. The second half of 2015, overall performance in 2015 and performance from 2013-2015 are most important when weighing which direction they’re headed.

If a player had a poor season in 2015 that was not in line with their previous seasons, it’s up to me to research and determine whether they’ll bounce back, remain the same or continue to decline. On the other end of the extreme, I also have to determine whether a player will come down to earth after a career season or whether that’s the new norm.

The projections are very conservative, in my opinion. I’m not going out on a limb to claim a player is going to do much better or worse than anyone who follows the game closely would expect. Most of the projected “breakouts” are from high ceiling players who are heading into years 2, 3 or 4. Most of the projected declines are for players in their early-to-late 30’s who have had more than one consecutive bad season. And none of the examples in those cases are really all that dramatic.

Here’s one projected “breakout” …

Gregory Polanco’s 2015 actual: .256 BA, .701 OPS, 83 R, 36 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 27 SB, 10 CS, 55 BB, 121 K
Gregory Polanco’s 2016 projection: .276 BA, .777 OPS, 91 R, 35 2B, 8 3B, 14 HR, 64 RBI, 33 SB, 9 CS, 62 BB, 114 K

I’m projecting the former top prospect, who is closing in on 1000 big league plate appearances as he enters his age-24 season, to improve slightly in several categories. These numbers are closer to what he did in the 2nd half of 2015. Throw in the fact that he hit several balls hard late in the season that did not fall for base hits and a decent-sized jump in overall production wouldn’t be a big surprise.

Another cool feature with our projections is that they are customizable in the draft kit and the Projections-Only excel file. So if you don’t like my projection, you can change it.

What I’m most excited about is the role that these projections will play in a new statistic I’ve created and will be using during the regular season in unison with our MLB Power Rankings. It’s called the Performance Expectation Meter.

The quick explanation is that it will be able to tell you, according to my pre-season expectations, which players are doing better than expected and which players are underperforming. I will have a detailed explanation near the beginning of the regular season.

If you have any questions at all regarding the projections, please feel free to contact me at @mlbdepthcharts or I’ll be happy to share some of my projections and explain my thought process on any of them.

Click HERE for more details on our Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, Projections or Lightning-Fast Browsing subscriptions or you can sign up below if you’re ready to get started.

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