As you very well know by now, PECOTA is out. If you were like me, you first sorted the list to show your favorite team and then started combing through the player comps and the projections for each player. The Rays fan in me enjoyed seeing what PECOTA thinks about Dan Johnson and James Shields, but died a little inside when I saw that Jeremy Hermida was the first player comp for Matt Joyce.
After you were done looking through your favorite team, you either started filtering the results to show your keepers in your most competitive league or you sorted the players to show which players have projections that jump off the page. After a quick initial pass through the hitters and pitchers, here are six names that really leapt off the page for me.
John Bowker (OF, PIT): PECOTA has him at a 53 percent improvement rate and projects a slash line of .268/.342/.457 with a .282 TAv. On the surface, that seems like quite an aggressive projection for a guy that owns a .237/.288/.393 slash line in 590 major league plate appearances, but he did have a very strong year in AAA last year between Fresno and Indianapolis. His slash line was .313/.382/.587 in the minor leagues in 2010, which mostly came from the hitting friendly PCL, though he also had 13 extra base hits in just 98 plate appearances while playing with the Pirates’ Triple-A ballclub. The outfield situation in Pittsburgh is quite crowded with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata all but locking up two of the spots while Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit, and Matt Diaz fight for playing time. This makes it unlikely Bowker gets a chance to reach the 483 plate appearances PECOTA has him down for in 2011, as most of the former Giants' prospects time will come from yet another year in Triple-A.
Dan Johnson (1B, TBA): When PECOTA projects a guy to have the same home run total as Evan Longoria and a .297 TAv after hitting all of .199 the previous season, you take notice. Johnson projects for a .244/.368/.465 slash line in 438 at-bats with 67 runs and 71 runners driven in. Pundits have tried to replace Johnson on the roster most of the off-season with names such as Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Branyan, but if Johnson puts up that slash line, fans will quickly forget Carlos Pena . Fantasy owners who roster Johnson in the late rounds of a draft or for $5 in an auction will be quite happy as well. Johnson is also coming off a season in cozy Durham Athletic Park in which he had a .303/.430/.624 slash line in 340 at bats–not too shabby for a guy that has been twice released and once sent over to Japan where he managed just a .215 batting average.
Russell Martin (C, NYA): Martin killed a lot of fantasy seasons in 2010 with his .248/.343/.332 slash line and just six stolen bases. Honestly, his 2009 numbers killed a lot of fantasy seasons as well. He is coming off a hip injury that prematurely ended his 2010 season and is moving out of the spacious Dodger Stadium into the cozier Yankee Stadium. PECOTA has him at a very strong .264/.361/.382 slash line with 11 home runs, 67 runs, and 13 stolen bases which is a step back toward his fantasy glory days of 2006-2008. The risks of Martin are that the Yankees could have a short fuse with him (uber-prospect Jesus Montero waits in the wings) but I would be willing to take a chance on a Martin rebound, rather than bank on, say, a John Buck repeat of 2010.
Erik Bedard (SP, SEA): Just the very phrase makes you a little sick to your stomach, I know. The fact he has thrown just 164 innings over the past three seasons, combined, makes you feel queasy. That said, it is hard to ignore his efforts in 2007 and 2009 when he put up excellent ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rates before breaking down. I am by no means suggesting you spend anything more than a handful of dollars or a late round pick on Bedard, but if Livan Hernandez and Bruce Chen can come back from the statistical abyss, why can’t Bedard? PECOTA shows a 9.1 K/9, a 1.22 WHIP, and 3.09 ERA in 114 innings. If he breaks down quickly, you can easily find another pitcher to plug in his place as long as you draft him like a sixth starter.
Tim Collins (RP, KCA): If the Royals ever do trade The Mexicutioner, the closer role is wide open. Hard throwing/hard-smoking Jeremy Jeffress could fill that role, but so could the diminutive Tim Collins. The five-foot-seven southpaw pitched for three different minor league affiliates last season and struck out 108 batters while walking just 27 over 71 1/3 innings: that equates to a 13.6 K/9 and a strikeout to walk ratio of four. He has yet to throw a major league pitch in his career and has twice been traded, but PECOTA projects an 11.4 K/9 and just two home runs allowed in 53 2/3 IP. It also lists Byung-Hyun Kim as one of his comps, and he had some successful flashes in the pan as a reliever (World Series appearances notwithstanding). Dayton Moore has insisted that Soria is not on the trade market, but Collins is still a guy I want to roster based on his upside as a middle reliever.
Frank Francisco (RP, TOR): Yes, the Jays have signed a bevy of relievers this off-season as they traded for Francisco while signing Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch to add to Jason Frasor. Francisco has the best chance to emerge from that group as the closer this season. Francisco was either an effective middle reliever or closer for the Rangers over the past three seasons, but a slow start out of the gate cost Francisco his closer role early in 2010 and he never got it back. He comes with less risk than the other new additions: Dotel cannot get lefties out effectively and Rauch is rather fly-ball friendly in a division that does not do any favors for flyball pitchers. PECOTA has Francisco with a 3.44 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9 in 54 innings pitched; those look like solid numbers for a closer you can probably grab at a discount on draft day, and hope he takes over the role as quickly as he lost it in 2010 in Texas.