Oakland Athletics

Scouting Reports, 2014 Projections for Oakland A's Pitchers and Catchers

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIJanuary 29, 2014

Scouting Reports, 2014 Projections for Oakland A's Pitchers and Catchers

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    Stephen Vogt (left) talks to Sonny Gray on the hill during the ALDS.
    Stephen Vogt (left) talks to Sonny Gray on the hill during the ALDS.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    We are 16 days away from the Oakland A's pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

    General manager Billy Beane focused on constructing one of the most dominant-looking bullpens in the game, on paper, to counter interdivision rivals' moves for power in their lineups. Who will win that tug of war is one of the biggest questions heading into 2014.

    Most are familiar faces, with the exception of key arrivals like Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson.

    With the trade of Brett Anderson and the loss of Bartolo Colon, it's now up to Jarrod Parker to take the helm as Oakland's ace.

    Johnson replaces Grant Balfour, while Eric O'Flaherty takes a spot once filled by Jerry Blevins.

    Then there's a slew of guys fighting for limited spots after Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and the above mentioned Johnson and O'Flaherty.

    With a little help from FanGraphs.com, let's take a look at what the 2014 Oakland A's pitchers and catchers are projected to do, and then discuss that accuracy.

    You'll notice there are "Steamer" projections and "Oliver" projections. For this, the Oliver version is being used. Brian Cartwright of The Hardball Times (h/t: Cheng Sio of Bleacher Report) explains the projections to be calculated based on:

    Raw statistics going back to 2007, separated by league and team, so that you can see each player’s actual performance over the past few seasons. This is followed by a single major league equivalency (MLE) for each season, in which the raw statistics have been adjusted for ballparks and leagues. Oliver uses a simple weighted mean of the previous three seasons, with aging factors and regression to the mean.

    All standard statistics from previous years were obtained through Baseball-reference.com.

John Jaso, C

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    Jaso will move from primarily behind the plate to a DH role.
    Jaso will move from primarily behind the plate to a DH role.Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 143 GP, 11 HR, 68 R, 58 RBI, 82 BB, 91 K, .253 BA

    Jaso has never played more than 109 games in a season, so 143 would be pretty impressive.

    That would mean Jaso is the backup catcher during days Derek Norris sits and the DH all other days. That could hold somewhat true since there has been discussion about using Jaso as the primary DH.

    MLB.com's Jane Lee said "Jaso figures to get the bulk of playing time" at designated hitter in 2014. She also mentioned names like Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp being used.

    By simple math, 162 games minus 143 projected gets you 19 games in which Jaso would not play in.

    That doesn't seem right.

    Especially considering other guys like Craig Gentry will spend time as the DH and you have to figure you'll see an occasional Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick penciled into the spot. That knocks the number down to more like 130 games.

    Even that seems high.

    As for home runs, Jaso has hit double-digit home runs just once in his major league career. But again, that was in 109 games. Looking at the average of his last four years, Jaso hits a home run approximately once every 16 games. In 130, that translates to eight home runs.

    All other projections outside of the batting average are based on 143 games. Projecting based on 130 games instead drops the runs scored, RBI, walks and strikeouts. But not by significant amounts. It'd look more like: 60 runs, 50 RBI, 74 BB, 83 K.

    His career average is .258, so .253 is little deviation.

    However, Jaso has hit around .270 in years he's spent time playing more frequently. So if he makes it to 130 games, there's a great chance we see him hit at least .260, possibly even into the .270s.

    Adjusted Stats: 130 GP, 8 HR, 60 runs, 50 RBI, 74 BB, 83 K, .265 BA

Derek Norris, C

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    Norris makes a play at the plate.
    Norris makes a play at the plate.Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 143 GP, 20 HR, 69 R, 70 RBI, 60 BB, 145 K, .231 BA

    If Derek Norris completely takes over as the A's catcher without platooning, then there is a good chance he plays in 143 games.

    That would be a spike of 45 games compared to his career high. For this to happen, John Jaso would in fact have to be the full-time DH, and Stephen Vogt would be the only-used-in-a-day-game-after-a-night-game catcher.

    Norris has never hit more than nine home runs in a season. He averages about one home run every nine games or so. If he plays in 143 games, the more realistic number is 14. Perhaps rhythm adds one or two more.

    To score 69 runs and produce 70 RBI, he'd have to get a ton of hits and get on base frequently.

    He is a career .226 batter with a projection of .231 this season, so both of those numbers seem way too high.

    Comparing 2012 and 2013, Norris maintained a similar walk rate, but decreased the rate at which he struck out. In 30 more games, he struck out just five more times. So there's little reason to believe that in an additional 45 more games Norris would strike out 70 more times.

    That just seems silly.

    Adjusted Stats: 143 GP, 14 HR, 56 R, 58 RBI, 60 BB, 110 K, .240 BA

Stephen Vogt, C

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    Stephen Vogt hit a walk-off single to win the game for the A's in Game 2 of the ALDS
    Stephen Vogt hit a walk-off single to win the game for the A's in Game 2 of the ALDSBen Margot/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 143 GP, 15 HR, 66 R, 69 RBI, 48 BB, 116 K, .252 BA

    So far you've seen three catchers all projected to play 143 games, so we know something is amiss. Of the three, Vogt won't get close to this number.

    Backup catchers typically play in 25 to 50 games. For these purposes, let's say Vogt plays in 40.

    As the image above shows, Vogt is capable of doing damage in small spurts. So it's not unrealistic to see him produce in as little as 40 games. But as much as FanGraphs' Oliver projections?

    No way.

    His 2013 line is the only major league sample we have on him, but let's go ahead and use that as the starting point.

    In 2013, he hit .252 with four home runs, 16 RBI, nine walks, 28 strikeouts and 18 runs scored in 47 games.

    In less games, he's going to hit about the same or less in all categories and nowhere close to the Oliver projection.

    Adjusted Stats: 40 GP, 3 HR, 12 R, 15 RBI, 8 BB, 27 K, .242 BA

Ryan Cook, RP

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 5-3, 68 IP, 3.06 ERA, 63 K, 25 BB, 4 HR (allowed)

    In two seasons with Oakland, Ryan Cook has averaged 70 innings pitched. And that's in a bullpen that included Grant Balfour, Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins.

    The estimate of 68 innings pitched here seems logical.

    That said, Cook may not have to work as much now with the addition of Luke Gregerson most notably, assuming Gregerson jumps into the setup role. With one extra dynamite arm and potentially getting bumped from setup duties, Cook could pitch in less innings.

    As for ERA, that number is 2.30 in two years with Oakland. Why it would jump to over 3.00 is a bit of a head-scratcher.

    Cook has been incredibly consistent with walks and strikeouts. The 25 walks projection appears to be right on the money, but he typically strikes out batters at a rate of 2.83 strikeouts to every walk. So his final number should be more like 71.

    Adjusted Stats: 5-3, 63 IP, 2.60 ERA, 71 K, 25 BB, 3 HR (allowed)

Sean Doolittle, RP

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 4-2, 51 IP, 2.64 ERA, 53 K, 13 BB, 3 HR (allowed)

    Last season, Doolittle caught fire while pitching in 69 innings.

    The season before, he pitched in 47.1 innings. Like Cook, all of the quality additions should affect Doolittle's innings pitched, so we'll go right in the middle and say 57 innings is realistic.

    As for ERA, he has never finished a season with a sub-3.00 ERA. The projected ERA would be incredible, but you're more likely to see that number be closer to 3.00.

    He also averages 12 walks and 60 strikeouts a season.

    Both numbers have been very consistent.

    In 2012, he finished with 11 walks and 60 strikeouts. Last season, he pitched in over 20 more innings and finished with 13 walks and 60 strikeouts. The same can be said for how many home runs he allows (three in 2012, four in 2013).

    Unless he hits a major setback or becomes an All-Star, there's little reason to believe his numbers deviate wildly. 

    Adjusted Stats: 4-2, 57 IP, 2.94 ERA, 61 K, 12 BB, 4 HR (allowed)

Sonny Gray, SP

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 26 GS, 10-7, 117 K, 59 BB, 12 HR (allowed), 3.67 ERA

    We've only seen one season of Sonny Gray, and though he was phenomenal, it was a small sample size.

    Still, there's no reason to believe he won't be in the starting rotation in 2014. And he still has the luxury of being a fresh face to batters, at least for a little while longer.

    In 10 starts, he earned five wins and three losses. In a projected 26 starts, he should easily be able to double his wins to 10, so that number is a great baseline. The same thing can be said for losses.

    The rest of the numbers seemed to be skewed.

    Based on his career numbers thus far combined with his projected number of innings pitched, his walks and home runs allowed would both be a bit lower, while his strikeouts would be much higher.

    Lastly, an ERA of 3.67 would be one full run higher than his 2013 production. Until we see him regress that much, let's give Gray the benefit of the doubt here.

    Adjusted Stats: 26 GS, 11-7, 160 K, 48 BB, 10 HR (allowed), 3.17 ERA

Luke Gregerson, RP

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    Gregerson may have been the steal of the offseason.
    Gregerson may have been the steal of the offseason.Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 4-3, 63 IP, 3.15 ERA, 55 K, 19 BB, 5 HR (allowed)

    First and foremost, Gregerson was a stud with the San Diego Padres. In five years, he averaged a 2.88 ERA with 21 walks and 70 strikeouts a season.

    But some have their doubts as he turns a new page in his career.

    Howard Bender of Fangraphs.com says Gregerson's 2014 won't be as dazzling as many think:

    Between the reduced strikeouts [since a 2011 injury], the diminishing velocity and now fewer opportunities to pitch and garner holds, Gregerson simply doesn’t have the value as an elite middle reliever anymore. He’s still plenty talented and will likely post an ERA and K/9 similar to these last two seasons, but when it comes to opportunities, we will likely see fewer innings from him which means a lower strikeout total, fewer holds, and probably very little chance of picking up a save at all.

    He averages 69 innings per season. Oliver projections see that dropping to 63. And Bender claims it could be even less. For safe, round numbers, we'll say it's no more than 60.

    His average is typically always around a 4-3 record, so that number is fine.

    But while his velocity and strikeout numbers may be down since 2011, his ERA hasn't risen above 3.00 since 2010. Therefore, it's fair to bank on Gregerson's 2014 ERA continuing to be under that mark.

    The Oliver projections for walks and strikeouts are close to his averages (21 and 70). But with reduced innings, both of those numbers could hypothetically drop.

    Adjusted Stats: 4-3, 60 IP, 2.85 ERA, 60 K, 19 BB, 5 HR (allowed)

AJ Griffin, SP

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Projected Stats: 30 GS, 12-8, 141 K, 44 BB, 29 HR (allowed), 3.47 ERA

    AJ Griffin was an absolute beast when it came to health, innings pitched and games started in 2013.

    He started 32 games, earning 14 wins and losing 10 times. The Oliver projection is simply saying he'll start two fewer games, lose two fewer and win two fewer.

    That's a safe assumption.

    Griffin is a fly-ball pitcher with a strikeout rate of around 20 percent.

    Translated that means he strikes out about one in five guys, and the remaining four are likely to hit the ball in the air rather than on the ground. So the projections for his strikeouts should be even higher. And if it seems like that's a huge number for home runs, it's about right.

    The 46 walks are on the dot ,and the ERA is right in the middle of his 2012 and 2013 production.

    Adjusted Stats: 30 GS, 12-8, 160 K, 44 BB, 29 HR (allowed), 3.47 ERA

Jim Johnson, RP

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    Johnson brings 101 saves in the last two seasons over to Oakland.
    Johnson brings 101 saves in the last two seasons over to Oakland.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 5-3, 75 IP, 2.89 ERA, 51 K, 18 BB, 5 HR (allowed)

    Let's just look at the last two seasons for a recent sample size which encompasses his time as a closer.

    In that span, he averaged a 2.72 ERA, 70 innings pitched, two wins and four losses per year. He also hit the 50-save mark both times. Lastly, he averaged 16 walks and 48 strikeouts.

    All of the Oliver projections are on par.

    However, if we're being technical, Johnson usually loses more games than he wins. And the reason he has so many saves in two years is because he was consistently put in to close (as in, the score was close) games. Ideally, the A's won't be forced to use him that much if they're up by enough.

    Wouldn't that be nice?

    Adjusted Stats: 3-4, 70 IP, 2.80 ERA, 50 K, 17 BB, 4 HR (allowed)

Scott Kazmir, SP

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    Kazmir started a resurgence with the Indians in 2013.
    Kazmir started a resurgence with the Indians in 2013.Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 17 GS, 5-5, 80 K, 29 BB, 10 HR (allowed), 4.00 ERA

    You're probably in one of two camps: the one that says Kazmir began his rebound a season ago or the one that is skeptical and wants to see more before calling it a comeback.

    If you look at the above Oliver projections, you'll notice something fishy.

    Kazmir will only start 17 games? One could assume that Oliver projections are in the latter camp, thinking Kazmir will be supplanted in the rotation by a Dan Straily or Tommy Milone.

    It really wouldn't be that surprising.

    For this article, we'll say 2013 is the baseline and that Kazmir will pitch somewhere around that line without too much deviation.

    Here's last year's line: 29 GS, 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 47 BB, 162 K, 19 HR

    That's not bad.

    It's difficult to know what you're going to get from Kazmir in 2014.

    He was fine from 2005 to 2008. Then he faltered badly in 2009, influencing the Tampa Bay Rays to trade him to the Los Angeles Angels. Once in LA, he rebounded in his final six starts. Then his ERA rose to 5.94 in 2010. After a 27.00 ERA in one start in 2011, he was out of baseball in 2012.

    Then he won 10 games with a 4.04 ERA in 2013.

    It's wise to be a cautious realist when it comes to Kazmir. Let's put his line somewhere in between the Oliver projections and 2013.

    Adjusted Stats: 24 GS, 9-11, 120 K, 38 BB, 14 HR (allowed), 4.20 ERA

Tommy Milone, SP

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 30 GS, 11-8, 134 K, 35 BB, 22 HR (allowed), 3.69 ERA

    Comparing 2012 and 2013, almost all of Tommy Milone's stats are the same. He won 13 games in 2012 and 12 in 2013. He lost 10 and then nine. He walked 36 and then 39; struck out 137 then 126.

    The trouble is that last season he matched his walks and home runs allowed in less time. Five games and 40 innings less to be exact.

    So in looking at the Oliver projections, they're extremely accurate except for two spots.

    His ERA rose from 3.74 to 4.14 in the last two seasons.

    To see him reduce his ERA to the lowest it's ever been in his career just doesn't seem likely. Additionally, he averages about 24 home runs allowed per season. So in more time, giving up fewer home runs also doesn't seem like it will happen.

    Finally, 30 starts implies he's going to be a starter the entire season without spending any time in Triple-A or in the bullpen. Now that scenario is certainly plausible.

    Adjusted Stats: 30 GS, 11-8, 130 K, 38 BB, 25 HR (allowed), 4.02 ERA

Eric O'Flaherty, RP

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    O'Flaherty keeps an "A" on his hat but switches uniforms.
    O'Flaherty keeps an "A" on his hat but switches uniforms.Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 3-2, 42 IP, 3.06 ERA, 33 K, 14 BB, 3 HR (allowed)

    Here's the skinny on Eric O'Flaherty, courtesy of MLB.com's Jane Lee:

    He was 13-7 with a 1.99 ERA over 295 appearances with Atlanta over the past five seasons. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound southpaw compiled a 1.45 ERA in 161 appearances over the past three years, which is the lowest mark among Major League relievers with 125 or more innings pitched. O'Flaherty's 0.98 ERA in 2011 made him the first Major League pitcher to produce a sub-1.00 ERA while making at least 70 appearances.

    That was all before succumbing to an injury which required Tommy John surgery.

    O'Flaherty is scheduled to return as a lefty specialist early to midseason.

    The Oliver projections are playing it safe.

    They're assuming a moderate amount of innings pitched and a still effective—albeit higher than normal for O'Flaherty—ERA. But if the A's play it safe with his return (not pushing it) and shelter him somewhat in his first season back to health, it'll be 2015 in which we see his true return to domination.

    But for now, we're going to assume much less work than projected.

    Adjusted Stats: 2-0, 33 IP, 3.06 ERA, 24 K, 9 BB, 1 HR (allowed)

Jarrod Parker, SP

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 29 GS, 12-8, 129 K, 61 BB, 18 HR (allowed), 3.52 ERA

    Yet another Oakland A's pitcher with two seasons under his belt in green and gold, Jarrod Parker has been consistent if you look at the stats on paper.

    He pitched to a 13-8 record in 2012 and a 12-8 record in '13. His ERA was 3.47, then 3.97. He walked and struck out just about the same amount in both years too. But what doesn't show on paper is his ability to make midseason adjustments and rebound.

    Such is the case for Parker last season.

    He struggled early, allowing a ton of runs and home runs. But then he finished incredibly strong. And it's that finish that hopefully carries over into 2014.

    Twenty-nine games is the minimum. It's more likely he starts more.

    The record, walks and home runs are right on. The ERA may be a bit closer to 3.90 than the projected 3.52, but Parker will strike out much more than the projected 129. There's no reason his K numbers drop this season, unless he misses time.

    Adjusted Stats: 30 GS, 14-9 (assuming he continues to develop), 145 K, 63 BB, 21 HR (allowed), 3.75 ERA

Dan Straily, SP

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Projected Stats: 31 GS, 12-8, 150 K, 58 BB, 20 HR (allowed), 3.61 ERA

    According to Oliver projections, Dan Straily will start more games than any other A's pitcher in the rotation. But if Tommy Milone rebounds and Scott Kazmir doesn't flounder, Straily may be the odd man out.

    Although, doing the math on the prior slides' projections, 22 games are left over, available for Straily to start.

    A season ago, he won 10 games in 27 tries.

    He should certainly be able to win 10 games in 22 tries in 2014. As for strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, all three of those numbers should be greatly decreased with less time on the mound. Lastly, Oliver sees Straily's ERA as the best of his career, even though it has hovered around 3.90.

    Unfortunately, this projection appears to be the least likely.

    Adjusted Stats: 22 GS, 9-7, 110 K, 48 BB, 13 HR (allowed), 3.99 ERA

Quick Hits: Pitchers Fighting for a Spot

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    Drew Pomeranz pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2013.
    Drew Pomeranz pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2013.JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    With six guys that can fill the five-man rotation and an additional five pitchers guaranteed to pitch out of the bullpen, that leaves (likely) only one spot for one of the follow guys:

    Fernando Abad

    Jesse Chavez

    Josh Lindblom

    Drew Pomeranz

    Evan Scribner

    Dan Otero

     

    It's difficult to see Lindblom beat out the rest of the guys on this list. But after him, all of the remaining men have a great case to be included.

    The best candidate may be Otero.

    In 39 innings in 2013, he kept a 1.38 ERA. Chavez was also decently effective with a 3.92 ERA in 57.1 innings. Scribner spent some time in Oakland last season as well, but didn't do nearly as well as the prior two men.

    Meanwhile Pomeranz is a former prospect who hasn't panned out yet. Until he does, he'll take a back seat to the more proven talent like Otero and Chavez.

    Lastly, Abad has shown flashes of talent but hasn't put it all together yet. Like Pomeranz, until he shows otherwise, he will get skipped.

    The projection here is that Otero and Chavez take the two spots at the start of the season. When Eric O'Flaherty returns from Tommy John, he'll bump Chavez. If one of the six rotation guys needs to be sent down, it'll be Chavez coming right back up.

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