It's not every year that a player hits nine home runs in Spring Training and subsequently doesn't make the Opening Day roster. Only two players in the past five years have hit nine or more home runs in Spring Training. Michael Morse hit nine in 2013 and went on to play 88 games (76 for the Seattle Mariners and 12 for the Baltimore Orioles) of -1.7 fWAR baseball. The other was Jake Fox who hit 10 dingers in 2011 and subsequently played 68 games in AAA plus a 27 game cup of coffee for the Baltimore Orioles.
For what purpose would one ever draw these comparisons? The reasons are twofold. First, to try and ease the pain of Chicago Cubs fans everywhere being deprived of Kris Bryant playing third base instead of Mike Olt. Second, to introduce the professional projections, which are also based on a comparison system.
Luckily however, projection metrics are not as easily fooled by Spring Training samples as are amateur writers. So let's break down the projections for Kris Bryant entering 2015.
|PECOTA||250||2.5||4.0 (FRAA)||.321 (TAv)|
PECOTA, following its usual modus operandi, seems to be the conservative one. However, it is based only on 250 plate appearances. While Bryant's call-up came early, ZiPS' projection for 557 plate appearances also seems unlikely. Let's assume Depth Charts and Steamer are the closest and Bryant has a nice, round, achievable 450 plate appearances. How would he look then?
It certainly appears as if FRAA isn't as scared of Bryant's defense as others. In fact, it seemed his defense was the only reason to justify his demotion (or lack of promotion I suppose). In actuality, the fans seems to be the only projection system that seems bearish on Bryant's glove. Since many of these projections are based on comparison, let's finish with who these numbers actually look like on the field.
First of all, the easy comparisons are straight out of the Annual. Players that PECOTA thinks compare to Kris Bryant include: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Carter and Chris Davis. As you may already know, PECOTA is comparing Bryant as a 23-year old to the 23-year old version of those three players based on similar career trajectories previous to their age 23 seasons. As a 23-year old, Stanton had 504 plate appearances, a TAv of .316, a WARP of 3.8 and the first name 'Mike.' I don't think PECOTA is projecting a name change in Kris Bryant's future, but I didn't want to misinform you.
While that is a favorable comparison, it should be noted that Chris Carter only played 15 games in the majors in his age 23 season. Chris Davis on the other, other hand played a respectable 113 games for the big club, but struck out in nearly 36% of his plate appearances. It seems that, while PECOTA is optimistic of Bryant and all three of the aformentioned players are good at their craft, they're all good in slightly different ways and at slightly different paces.
Let's just take a simple average of the remaining four projections and see what players Kris Bryant would resemble. Together they expect Bryant to have roughly 3.4 fWAR and an even 1.0 Def. In 2014 one third baseman had 3.5 fWAR and 1.2 Def which is easily in the realm of possibilities. That player was Evan Longoria. But wait, what if Kris Bryant does happen to get relegated to the outfield? In 2014 one outfielder had 3.3 fWAR and a 0.4 Def. That's on the pessimistic side but, with defensive metrics not being perfectly reliable yet, again I would say it is well within the realm of possibilities. That player was Yoenis Cespedes and, even though defensive metrics disagree on him at times, the highlight reel doesn't.
There you have it. The projections for Kris Bryant are a bit of a mixed bag, but regardless of his strikeout rate, it seems fairly decisive that he deserves his spot on the big club. Not many teams could pull a three win player out of their minor league system.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org