Judging by the number of responses that came into the old e-mail bucket (to steal Bob Dylan’s phrase from his outstanding weekly XM Satellite Radio show), it seems prudent to take one more look at potential breakout hitter candidates based on their spring training statistics.
Last week, we took a look at 15 position players who seemed poised for improved seasons while using a simple formula created by STATS, Inc. founder John Dewan. The formula reflects the theory that a hitter with a positive difference between his spring training slugging percentage and his lifetime slugging percentage of .200 or more correlates to a better-than-normal season once the games start counting.
Now that the final numbers are in from the Grapefruit and Catcus Leagues, let’s take a look at 10 more hitters who had at least 50 plate appearances during the exhibition season and wound up meeting the plus-.200 SLG criterion, along with their PECOTA projection for 2007:
Player Spring SLG Career SLG Difference Scott Hairston, Ari .935 .430 .505 Ronny Paulino, Pit .833 .395 .438 Aramis Ramirez, Cubs .835 .493 .342 Khalil Greene, SD .763 .434 .329 Raul Ibanez, Sea .750 .469 .281 Sammy Sosa, Texas .816 .537 .279 Johnny Estrada, Mil .661 .407 .254 Jose Guillen, Sea .691 .445 .246 Adrian Beltre, Sea .683 .457 .226 Placido Polanco, Det .618 .409 .209
- Hairston played in 101 major league games with the Diamondbacks in 2004, but only a combined 24 in the last two seasons. Last year, he hit .400/.438/.533 in nine games in the majors and .324/.407/.591 in Triple-A with Tucson. He’s getting an opportunity early, seeing time in left field while Carlos Quentin is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
PECOTA projection: .275/.341/.501 with 22 HR, 71 RBI, and a 35 percent improve rate
- Paulino came basically out of nowhere to be the Pirates‘ primary catcher last season, hitting .310/.360/.394 to secure his hold on the job. The Pirates believe there is more power to come from the 6’2″ 240-pounder, as he combined to hit 19 home runs in 441 at-bats between Triple-A (at Indianapolis) and Double-A (at Altoona) in 2005 despite playing his home games in two tough hitters’ parks.
PECOTA projection: .293/.347/.448 with 11 HR, 57 RBI, and a 49 percent improve rate
- Ramirez has consistently been among the best powers hitters in the National League in his three full seasons with the Cubs, averaging 35 homers and 105 RBI; he hit .291/.352/.561 with 38 homers and 119 RBI last year. In a season in which he turns 29 on June 25, Ramirez seems primed to break through with a monster year.
PECOTA projection: .299/.362/.562 with 35 HR, 107 RBI, and a 49 percent improve rate
- Greene has shown flashes throughout his three full major league seasons, but hit just .245/.320/.427 last year. Health has always been an issue, but maybe this is the year he finally avoids the injury bug and breaks out at the plate.
PECOTA projection: .261/.332/.454 with 18 HR, 63 RBI, and a 51 percent improve rate
- Ibañez had the best season of his career in 2006, hitting .289/.353/.516 with 33 homers and 123 RBI. While it is hard to imagine him improving upon those numbers in a season in which he turns 35 (on June 2), the spring stats say he could; PECOTA doesn’t agree.
PECOTA projection: .282/.352/.474 with 21 HR, 83 RBI, and a 34 percent improve rate
- Sosa will definitely improve on last season’s performance since he took a year off after an awful 2005 with the Orioles in which he hit .221/.295/.376 with 14 homers and 45 RBI. Regardless of what he says publicly, a big part of Sosa’s motivation to return is to get the dozen homers needed for 600 on his career. PECOTA doesn’t see that happening, projecting him to hit a combined eight in the next two seasons before again being out of the game.
PECOTA projection: .219/.293/.385 with five HR, 18 RBI, a 26 percent improve rate, and Collapse and attrition rates of 43 percent
- Estrada hit .302/.328/.444 with 11 homers and 71 RBI last season with Arizona, but seems just good enough to be trade bait every winter, as he is with his third team in three seasons. However, he is an upgrade over Damian Miller behind the plate for the Brewers.
PECOTA projection: .282/.327/.425 with 8 HR, 44 RBI, a 44 percent improve rate, but a 33 percent collapse rate
- Guillen won’t need to do much to improve over a terrible 2006 in which he hit .216/.276/.398 with nine homers while being limited to just 69 games because of injury problems. The big question surrounding Guillen after signing with the Mariners in the offseason is his durability in his age-31 season.
PECOTA projection: .260/.310/.432 with 13 HR, 50 RBI, a 36 percent improve rate, and a 33 percent collapse rate
- Beltre joins Ibañez and Guillen on this list to give the Mariners more potential breakouts than the average 15-year-old. Beltre used a strong second half last season to finish at .268/.328/.465 with 25 homers and 89 RBI, production that at least starts to kinda/sorta justify the five-year, $64 million contract given to him as a free agent in the winter of 2004-05.
PECOTA projection: .273/.335/.473 with 27 HR, 95 RBI, and a 37 percent improve rate
- Polanco hit .295/.329/.364 in what was obviously a down year. Some Tigers insiders believe Polanco can use the spacious gaps of Comerica Park to his advantage enough to win the American League batting title, though that is kind of hard to fathom.
PECOTA projection: .296/.335/.383 with 5 HR, 48 RBI, a 31 percent improve rate, but a 28 percent collapse rate.
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