The Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Their Projections: Catchers


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 third part of a series in which I will break down the projections for every Tampa Bay Rays player and why each one will play better than their projections or play worse. You can check our projections for middle infielders here, outfielders here, and corner infielders here. For this series, I am using three of the most popular projection systems: Oliver, Steamer, and ZiPS. Each one features differences on how they calculate a player’s regression, which leads to variation in projected stats. Oliver also standardizes each player’s stats to 600 plate appearances while the other two attempt to project the number of plate appearances a player will have. That has an effect on counting statistics, but I will keep things simple and use none of those in this article. Without further ado, here are the 2014 offensive projections for the Rays’ catching duo.

Ryan Hanigan– .198/.306/.261 (53 wRC+) in 260 PA in 2013

Steamer- .242/.330/.323 (84 wRC+) in 351 PA
Oliver- .246/.334/.309 (82 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .249/.342/.311 (85 wRC+) in 297 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Hanigan was awful in 2013, but that was due to an oblique injury and a wrist injury, both of which are very unforgiving to hitters. These injuries led to a .216 BABIP, so surely his numbers will go up in 2014, but how much will they increase? Hanigan’s numbers from 2010-2012 were all better than the projections, but because these systems all take into account performance from the last few years, his horrible 2013 season drags down the projections. If he stays healthy, he could easily hit like his 2010-2012 self once again.

Why he won’t beat the projections

Yes, Hanigan did struggle with two tough injuries last season, but were they really enough to lead to a horrid 53 wRC+? Maybe part of the reason that his numbers fell is because Hanigan is naturally declining. He is not a dinosaur like Molina, but he isn’t young at 33 years old, so maybe 2013 was the year his age started to catch up with him. He should be better next year without the injuries, but natural decline could lead to him not beating the projections.

Jose Molina– .233/.290/.304 (69 wRC+) in 313 PA in 2013

Steamer- .226/.283/.320 (71 wRC+) in 286 PA
Oliver- .209/.271/.290 (59 wRC+) in 600 PA
ZiPS- .225/.283/.317 (70 wRC+) in 274 PA

Why he will beat the projections

Last season, Molina’s ISO (as stat that is used to indicate a hitter’s raw power) dropped considerably. After posting an ISO better than .130 each year from 2010-2012, his ISO fell to .071. This is quite a fall, and even if part of it is due to age, Molina should rebound a bit in this area and hit for a bit more power. Also, Molina’s numbers were much better in the first half of last season than the second half.  It is safe to say he tired over the course of the season, as he had a career record 313 PA despite playing at age 37-38. With the offseason acquisition of Ryan Hanigan, he won’t need to catch as many games and thus will remain fresher down the stretch, which should help his overall numbers.

Why he won’t beat the projections

Molina is old and really showed it down the stretch last season. Even with Hanigan ready to become the starter, Molina just isn’t able to play very many games without getting tired. His numbers also have considerably dropped the last two seasons (1o8 wRC+ in 2011, 81 wRC+ in 2012, 69 wRC+ in 2013).  With Molina being another year older, we could see his numbers once again plunge.

Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina represented two of the Tampa Bay Rays’ big offseason moves, and they are expecting big things from the duo. They are valued so highly because of their defense, but Hanigan should represent an upgrade offensively at catcher, and Molina also looks to be decent with the bat as he moves to a true backup role. Overall, these two will play a key role in the Rays’ attempt at a World Series run in 2014.

Check back at Rays Colored Glasses later this week to take a look at the projections for the Rays’ starting pitchers.