2014 projections: Catchers

Over the last couple of days, I looked at the projected stats for the starting pitchers and relievers in camp with the Yankees this spring. In the coming days, I will do the same for all of the players in big league camp this spring. Today’s installment is catchers.

There are a handful of projection systems out there that attempt to use statistical methods to forecast how players will perform in the future. The major systems out there include Davenport by Clay Davenport, Oliver by Brian Cartwright of Hardball Times; PECOTA by Baseball Prospectus; Steamer by Jared Cross, Dash Davison and Peter Rosenbloom, and ZiPS by Dan Szymborski of ESPN. Projections almost never predict performance with perfect precision, but give at least a general and objective prediction of what to expect out of a player going forward.

Additionally, Fangraphs hosts a crowdsourcing platform where every day fans like you and me can predict players’ performances. The Fans projections are only available for a select few players — namely those players who Fangraphs readers find interesting enough to project. They also tend to be somewhat biased as fans tend to be more optimistic forecasters than heartless computers. For these reasons, I didn’t include the Fans projections in the averages listed in the far right-hand column of the graphic below.

The following chart displays projected wOBA’s for all of the catchers in camp with the Yankees.

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The newly acquired Brian McCann figures to get the lion’s share of the playing time behind the plate this year and the projection systems all agree that McCann will be an above average hitter. Oliver’s projection, however, comes in a little more rosy than the rest of the field. This is entirely due to McCann’s projected power output — Oliver foresees a .233 ISO while all of the other projection systems peg him for a bit below the .200 mark. As a left-handed hitter at Yankee Stadium, McCann is likely see a bump in his home run totals. The projection systems are divided on just how big that bump will be. 

Behind McCann, the Yankees have no shortage of viable backup candidates. Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine ans J.R. Murphy all project for wOBA’s in the .280-.300 range — more than acceptable from a backup catcher with decent-or-better defensive skills, which all of them possess. Although Murphy may be the best player out of the trio, he’s likely to start 2014 in triple-A Scranton, where he can get regular playing time.

Francisco Cervelli, the favorite to win the backup catcher job out of camp, unanimously projects for about a wOBA a touch below .300 – well below the .385 mark he posted last April before a broken hand ended his 2013 campaign.

Offensively speaking, Romine seems to be a notch below Cervelli, Murphy, and even top prospect  Gary Sanchez. Still, he figures to be a better player than his .247 wOBA from last season. Sanchez‘s bat projects to be big-league ready, but he’s likely to spend the entire year in the minor leagues working out the wrinkles in his game.

Jose Gil and Francisco Arcia are in camp for no reason other to serve as warm bodies for the team’s pitchers to throw to. They have nowhere near the offensive aptitude to be big league players. Peter O’Brien has at least has a modicum of offensive potential, but is a terrible defender behind the plate and was actually moved to third base for most of last season. The Yankees are apparently trying him at catcher again, but figures to be a non-factor in 2014. I would expect all of these guys to be reassigned to minor league camp in short order.

Up next: First Basemen

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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