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Oakland's 2013 Outfield According To ZiPS

Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system offers projections for individual players. In Part 1 of this exciting new series, we will discuss our thoughts on ZiPS's projections for Oakland's outfielders.

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

How good will Yoenis Cespedes be this year? That's not a rhetorical question. I really want to know, and I'm too impatient to wait 6 months to find out. I could just say, "He'll be really good," but that analysis seems lacking. In order to provide a worthwhile opinion, you need to put some concrete numbers on it.

Let's have a look at Oakland's 5 outfielders. We'll check their 2012 stats and their 2013 ZiPS projections, and then I'll offer my personal predictions, which are based mostly on wishful thinking and whatever Jameson is still left in my system from Sunday. Note that since ZiPS relies heavily on previous years' stats, it tends to be a bit pessimistic towards young players, due to lack of an MLB track record, as well as players who have missed lots of time recently (so basically, every single A's player). Here is a surprisingly entertaining FAQ about what ZiPS is and how it works. (ZiPS data was taken from Fangraphs.)

Yoenis Cespedes

2012 stats: .292/.356/.505, 23 homers, 43 BB's, 102 K's
2013 ZiPS: .273/.338/.452, 23 homers, 49 BB's, 104 K's
2013 Alex: .301/.367/.531, 32 homers, 50 BB's, 115 K's

ZiPS thinks that Cespedes won't maintain his .326 BABIP, and that he will require 50 extra plate appearances to produce the same extra-base-hit output as last year. It also thinks that he'll slightly improve his K:BB ratio.

I think that Cespedes could definitely be capable of maintaining an above average BABIP. He blasts the ball every time he makes contact, and even his routine grounders have a decent chance of streaking through holes for hits. Therefore, while his batting average could fall, I'm going to guess that it doesn't. Plus, I think that his power output will increase rather than decrease; his isolated power in the 2nd half was 20 points higher than in the 1st half last year, and his 2nd half batting average rose by 50 points as well. He adjusted to the league at an alarming rate, and he never seemed to stop getting better. I don't think it's unreasonable to hope that he hasn't yet hit his ceiling in MLB. I think that he can build on last year's success, and I'm probably right because I'm totally unbiased in every way.

Josh Reddick

2012 stats: .242/.305/.463, 32 homers, 55 BB's, 151 K's (673 PA's)
2012 stats (minus Sept): .262/.327/.505, 28 homers, 47 BB's, 124 K's (542 PA's)
2013 ZiPS: .243/.303/.430, 22 homers, 47 BB's, 130 K's
2013 Alex: .260/.324/.459, 25 homers, 55 BB's, 151 K's

First off, I added a line for Reddick. He fell off so dramatically in September last year that I wanted to remind everyone of the hitter he was for 5 months and 542 plate appearances.

ZiPS doesn't care about those monthly splits, though. It's pretty down on Reddick. It thinks that, while he does have solid power, he overachieved in that department last year. It also thinks that the below-average BABIP that he displayed last year reflected his true talent. Finally, it thinks that his beard is stupid. I told you, ZiPS is a jerk.

Just last week, I wrote about how I expected Reddick's power to dip. I've spent more time looking at his stats, though, and I'm starting to doubt myself. Even when Reddick slumped in September, he still hit a handful of dingers and he still maintained a roughly normal K:BB ratio. In the minors, he consistently posted isolated power rates over .200 and hit nearly as many homers as he did doubles. It makes me wonder if his power really could be for real; perhaps he is so strong that he will always punish at least 25-30 mistakes a year, even during times when he's not hitting much else. I'm still predicting a dropoff in homers, but it's a milder one than I was originally planning.

Looking further at Reddick's September slump, his poor BABIP for that month (.179) really may have been bad luck. His line drive rate in September was actually abnormally high, and he only hit a couple more infield popups than normal. His free swinging ways and tendency to hit a lot of balls in the air will always keep his batting average low, but I am now even more confident that he can stay in the .260 range like he did for 80% of the 2012 season. However, I do agree with ZiPS that he will probably continue to be a bit below-average in BABIP, due again to his fly ball tendencies.

Coco Crisp

2012 stats: .259/.325/.418, 11 homers, 45 BB's, 64 K's
2013 ZiPS: .263/.325/.400, 8 homers, 38 BB's, 57 K's
2013 Alex: .260/.325/.411, 9 homers, 39 BB's, 58 Ks

ZiPS thinks that Coco pretty much is what he is. It has him down for slightly less playing time this year, which makes sense due to the arrival of Chris Young. It also thinks that his power will dip ever so slightly.

Sounds good to me. I have no reason to predict any major changes for Coco except the aforementioned decrease in playing time - say, 400 plate appearances, down from 500 last year. Move along.

Chris Young

2012 stats: .231/.311/.434, 14 homers, 36 BB's, 79 K's (363 PA's)
2013 ZiPS: .225/.321/.392, 16 homers, 61 BB's, 123 K's (525 PA's)
2013 Alex: .240/.326/.429, 15 homers, 44 BB's, 80 K's (400 PA's)

ZiPS is not impressed. It thinks that Young will rebound a bit in OBP, specifically by restoring the type of walk rate that he enjoyed from 2009-2011 (11.6%, according to ZiPS) rather than his reduced rate from last year (9.9%). It also thinks that he'll really struggle in the Coliseum, losing a lot of power and dropping his slugging percentage below the .400 mark. This is likely due to leaving hitter-friendly Chase Field; his career ISO there is .211, compared with .185 on the road.

There are two forces which make me want to pull Young's stats in opposite directions. On the positive side, you have to figure that BoMel is going to find Young as many at-bats against left-handed pitching as possible, which should help him like it helped Jonny Gomes last year. Young's splits suggest far better plate discipline and slightly more power against lefties than against righties.

On the other hand, the Coliseum might take a big toll on Young. While looking through his numbers, one thing jumped out at me: Young hits a ton of popups. His career percentage of infield fly balls is 16.2%, and in 2011 he did it 43 times in 659 PA's, good for over 20% of all his fly balls. For comparison, Seth Smith has popped up 36 times in his entire career, covering nearly 1900 PA's; only 7 players in all of MLB posted 16% infield fly ball rates last year, and that's Young's career average. Anyone who pops up that much will likely have a problem with Oakland's expansive foul territory, as Johnny Damon seemed to in 2001 with his career 15.7% rate (data only goes back to 2002, though).

Young was a bit off last year as he struggled with leg injuries. Although his final line was remarkably close to his career averages, he actually fell off a lot from his previous two seasons (mostly due to that decreased walk rate). I have him rebounding a bit in AVG and OBP, but not too much because I think he'll lose an extra handful of at-bats to silly foulouts. ZiPS has him down for a significant career-low in isolated power, but I'm sticking closer to his career average in road games.

Seth Smith

2012 stats: .240/.323/.420, 14 homers, 50 BB's, 98 K's (441 PA's)
2013 ZiPS: .242/.327/.411, 13 homers, 45 BB's, 94 K's (445 PA's)
2013 Alex: .250/.338/.440, 10 homers, 40 BB's, 70 K's (300 PA's)
ZiPS doesn't expect much change from Smith.

I, however, think that he's going to lose some playing time. He'll still get plenty of starts against right-handed pitching, but Young will steal some extra starts from him due to his defense in center and will likely pinch-hit for him against lefty relievers as Gomes did last year. The less that BoMel exposes Smith to left-handed pitching, the more it should help his numbers. Given that there is just no excuse for Smith to face a lefty this year, I'm bumping up his averages and his K:BB.

Of course, in the likely event that another outfielder misses significant time to injury, Smith could get the amount of playing time that he did last year. If that happens, then he'll probably end up facing a handful of lefties again and his overall line will be similar to last year's.

Your Turn

Well, those are my predictions for 2013. Now it's your turn! What kind of stats do you see these 5 guys putting up in 2013? Do you agree or disagree with ZiPS' projections? Do you see any of these guys changing significantly from last year? If so, why? Take your best guesses in the comments section!

Later this week, we'll return with Part 2 of the ZiPS series: The Infield.

(Disclaimer: Projections are not the same as predictions. ZiPS offers objective projections based on previous years' objective data. It doesn't take context or extenuating circumstances into account. Predictions, like the ones I make here, are actual guesses about what you think will happen in the future, taking context into account. ZiPS makes projections. I make predictions.)