The Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Their Projections: Outfielders


Part of the fun of the pre-season is projecting just how good or bad each individual team and player could be. This is the second part of the series in which I will break down projections for every Tampa Bay Ray’ player and why they will play better than their projections or play worse than their projections. You can check out part one of the series here, where I looked at projections for the Rays’ middle infielders. In this series, I am using three of the most popular projection systems: Oliver, Steamer, and ZiPS. Without further ado, here are the 2014 offensive projections for the Rays’ outfielders.

David DeJesus- .251/.327/.402 (102 wRC+) in 582 PA in 2013

Steamer- .244/.310/.371 (97 wRC+) in 472 PA
Oliver- .244/.322/.374 (99 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .241/.317/.366 (95 wRC+) in 466 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Each projection thinks DeJesus will fall under a 100 wRC+, something he has only done in three of his ten full big league seasons. Each of the past two seasons his wRC+ has been north of 100, so who can say with certainty it is going to fall under this mark in 2014? Also, last season DeJesus missed extended time due to a shoulder strain that kept him out of action for over a month. Then after he came back, he went through a big slump, hitting only .198/.323/.235 in the month of August. Shoulder injuries can be pesky for hitters and can take more than just a month to completely heal, so DeJesus was less than 100% when he came back. Minus that stretch, DeJesus’ overall numbers were much better, and the projections do not take into account that this month was likely a fluke.

Why he won’t beat the projections

DeJesus is getting older, and at 34 years old he is getting to the age that players start seeing significant regression in the power department. This is reflected in the projections, as all expect his slugging percentage to fall significantly from his .402 mark in 2013. Obviously the Rays do not expect this–they wouldn’t have given DeJesus a multi-year deal if they were too worried about it. However, age is a cruel thing to baseball players, and it is certainly a huge factor with DeJesus.

Desmond Jennings- .252/.344/.414 (112 wRC+) in 602 PA in 2013

Steamer- .243/.325/.386 (103 wRC+) in 624 PA
Oliver- .256/.337/.402 (110 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .249/.326/.403 (107 wRC+) in 633 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Jennings is a young player, and young players are generally going to get better and better their first couple of years in the big leagues. This was true of Jennings, as he went from a 98 wRC+ hitter in his first full season to a 112 wRC+ hitter in his second thanks to a better plate approach that led to increased on base percentage and power. With Jennings being just 27 years old this year, he still has plenty of time to continue to improve his approach. Jennings also arrived in camp 15-20 pounds more muscular this year, which should bode well for his power numbers. If he can build off his advances in plate discipline and use his added weight to increase his power numbers, Jennings could very well be regarded as one of the league’s best centerfielders in 2014.

Why he won’t beat the projections

Simply put, it is hard to tell if Jennings’ 2013 numbers were better because of natural fluctuation, or because he truly got better as a hitter. He did lower his K% from 21.3% to 19.1% and raise his BB% from 8.2% to 10.6% from 2012 to 2013. The increase is solid, but it could be more due to year-to-year variation than anything else. When a player has two full big league seasons under his belt, it is tough to say which season he is going to be more like. He has the potential to be even better than his 2013 season, but at the same time he has been inconsistent in terms of power, plate discipline, stolen bases, and even defense his entire career. This season is the year when we find out what kind of player Jennings truly is.

Wil Myers– .293/.354/.478 (131 wRC+) in 373 PA in 2013

Steamer- .257/.326/.439 (114 wRC+) in 625 PA
Oliver- .265/.330/.452 (118 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .263/.326/.437 (113 wRC+) in 659 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Most players would be projected for regression after being among the league’s best hitters in his first big league action. But Wil Myers isn’t most players. In fact, the 131 wRC+ was the second LOWEST single-season wRC+ that Myers has posted in his career (the lowest was in 2011 in AA when he dealt with a nagging knee injury for a good portion of the season). That thought alone is just crazy. He does have a hole in his swing–he has issues with pitches low and away–but opposing pitchers knew that from the day he was called up and he still mashed. Myers features some of the best bat speed in all of baseball, and he could very well increase his power numbers as he matures as a hitter. Myers could be among the league’s best hitters in 2014, and could significantly outhit his projections.

Why he won’t beat the projections

Major league pitchers are extremely good at exploiting flaws, and Myers has a big hole in his swing. He managed to hide this weakness for the most part in 2013 and was able to adjust after tough stretches, but especially in a bigger sample, pitchers will keep adjusting back. Veteran pitchers often figure out young hitters after their first taste of big league action, and often the hitters will go through growing pains until they learn how to adjust. Can Myers avoid the sophomore slump?

Brandon Guyer- .301/.374/.458 (135 wRC+) in 405 PA at Triple-A Durham in 2013

Steamer- .249/.304/.381 (93 wRC+) in 134 PA
Oliver- .258/.319/.384 (100 WRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .253/.306/.386 (96 wRC+) in 386 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Guyer has done nothing but rake the last four years in the minors, but two out of three projections think he will be a below-average hitter, while Oliver thinks he will be exactly league average. But from 2010-2013 the LOWEST wRC+ that Guyer posted in a full season was 135. Guyer could have been a big league regular by now if he had kept himself healthy. Even though he is no longer a prospect, his skills should translate to the big leagues. He will not be quite as good as he was in the minors, it is very conceivable to see him put up around a 110 wRC+. He also will be exposed primarily against lefties this year, whom he hits extremely well, as he will be David DeJesus’ platoon mate in left field. This will only increase his overall numbers, and could lead Guyer to be an impressive rookie in 2014.

Why he won’t beat the projections

You never know how a hitter will be able to adjust to big league pitching in general. Guyer will have flaws in his swing that are going to be brought out, even if they are minor, and he will have ups and downs in his first extended big league action. Some players feel the pressure too much, and flop in the big leagues because they cannot adjust to the pitching. Guyer has extra pressure to performas he is not exactly young at 28 years old, and we will have to see how he handles it in his rookie year.

Matt Joyce– .235/.328/.419 (112 wRC+) in 481 PA in 2013

Steamer- .244/.337/.428 (116 wRC+) in 454 PA
Oliver- .238/.332/.413 (112 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .246/.338/.430 (116 wRC+) in 471 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Joyce’s numbers dropped in 2013, but part of the reason for that was a .251 BABIP, which was the lowest his career. This indicates he was an unlucky hitter, and automatically his numbers should go up if he experiences better luck in 2014. All the projections projection him to be either the same or slightly better than he was in 2013. But his career wRC+ of 120 is better than all the projections, and there is no reason his numbers shouldn’t return to that level if he has better luck this season.

Why he won’t beat the projections

Matt Joyce will move to be the Rays’ primary DH in 2014, which could lead to his numbers falling. It is weird to say that not playing the field might hurt numbers, but some players do not make the transition well. Being in the rhythm of playing in the field each inning vs. sitting on the bench and only hitting every two or three innings is more of a transition than you would think. On top of that, Joyce’s numbers have been declining the last three years despite that fact that he should be in his “prime” (generally viewed as ages 26-28). If his numbers declined each year during his “prime” what is to say they won’t continue to decrease as he begins to move out of his glory years?

All-in-all, the Tampa Bay Rays have an interesting crop of outfielders. If Myers, Jennings, and Guyer all find their true potential and DeJesus and Joyce avoid decline, this could be one of the better outfield corps in all of baseball. Check back at Rays Colored Glasses in the next few days as I continue on the series by looking at Rays’ corner infielders.