Favorable projections for Sanchez

If you’re like me, well, first off, you’re in some trouble, as I don’t have a day job yet and graduated three months ago (but it gives me so much time to devote to Marlin Maniac!).

To be fair, I am working for Kaplan Test Prep, but it’s a part time gig that just happens to pay well. It also starts next month, which means I’ve been sitting here for a few months now just writing Marlins stuff and taking some courses. Wooh!

If you’re like me, you might also be among the many hoping that the Marlins do not attempt to retain corner infielder Jorge Cantu at the cost that he’ll be charging us. At $5M or so, the Marlins could probably pick up a Jorge-Cantu like player in the free agent market on a short-term deal and get a veteran junk reliever who may or may not revive his career for us (see Calero, Kiko).

You might also be especially interested in trading Cantu for any sort of value when you consider the possibility of corner infield prospect Gaby Sanchez hitting well this season. So far, two projection systems have come out and the results have been favorable for Sanchez. Both Bill James and Sean “Rally” Smith have released their respective projections (Bill James and CHONE), and Sanchez has appeared pretty good even in limited playing time.

Both projection systems have Jorge Cantu at a wOBA of around .340. When I did a simple 5/4/3 Marcels, I got a .345 wOBA when including reaches on error, so these projections seem right in line with my own. Using the average as .330, a .340 wOBA gives you about 5 runs above average in 645 PA.

Compare that to the lines that Sanchez is expected to produce. Both systems more or less agree on playing time, labeling Sanchez a part timer at around 360-400 PA. Bill James’ system has Sanchez at an absurdly high .360 wOBA coming into what would be his rookie season. This would be excellent, but James’ system is well-known for being a bit generous normally, so I’ll defer to CHONE on this one. CHONE has Sanchez playing very well as well, posting a .349 wOBA.

I do not know how either James’ system or CHONE determined playing time. I’m certain they used some sort of weighted projection and regression of the various components and park/league adjusted accordingly. Sanchez has not played a whole in the majors, but he has hit well in his 31 PA in the big leagues. My primary concern is whether either of these are projecting Sanchez as a part timer as part of a platoon. From all that I hear and have seen of Sanchez’s minor league numbers, he has done a very good job of hitting lefties, but has fared worse versus righties. Are these projections accounting for that having him platoon, because if so, then the wOBA’s projected above are going to have an inordinate amount of lefties involved.

I’ll give the systems the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re projecting based on a league average distribution of pitcher handedness. That being said, can we take Sanchez’s .350 wOBA and project it at 600+ PA, or something similar to what Cantu would see? At that sort of playing time, the difference between a .350 and .340 wOBA is around five runs, or half a win. That’s quite significant given the money that we would also be saving by trading/otherwise dumping Cantu and starting Sanchez instead.

As for certainty, I do have a strong feeling that Cantu will play as well as projected here. He has more or less been around that .340 number for the last few years, and he will be turning 28 next season, so he has little to no projection left in him. Sanchez, on the other hand, will be turning 26 and, according to these projections, is on the verge of being a solid first baseman-type hitter.

I am a bit skeptical, however. For one thing, both systems are projecting Sanchez at a 10.6% walk rate (or thereabouts), and we know that walking and plate patience in the minors does not initially translate that well to the major league level. Chris Coghlan, for example, posted walk rates around 10-12% consistently before dropping to around 9% this season in his rookie year. I suspect that should be lowered a bit.

One final note on Sanchez. We all know defense counts, and so I checked out TotalZone data for Gaby in the minors and did a Marcels projection for his work at first and third base. I used Sean Smith’s work on translating minor league defensive numbers to make “major-league equivalents” for defense. With that, I got Sanchez as a -2 defender per 150 games at first base and a +3 defender per 150 games at third. If his third base defense can hold up, it will be even easier for the team to simply plug a hole at first base.

Tags: Gaby Sanchez Jorge Cantu Miami Marlins

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