Bill James has come out with his new handbook for 2009, and in the handbook are the early statistical projections for players next year. This may be especially significant in the case of the Red Sox, as James has a vast amount of knowledge of players in the Red Sox system due to being employed by the team.
James posited that his projections for younger players are more accurate than older ones:
Actually, while there is a problem with young players because it's hard to guess how much playing time they're going to get, there is a bigger problem with older players because they get hurt more and their production becomes unreliable.
On the cusp of free agency and a new season for the Red Sox, let's take a look at some projections that are of interest to us...
Jeff Bailey: .270//.354/.476 in 185 at-bats. Anyone else think Bailey should be our backup first baseman next year? He can also rove the outfield, too. Isn't this logical?
Jason Bay: .280/.376/.505 with 30 HR and 9 SB (3 CS) in 582 AB, notching 102 RBI. Perfectly fine with me—may not be Manny-esque, but those are similar numbers that Manny was putting up while tanking, so to me, there's no loss here.
Coco Crisp: .279/.338/.403, 9 HR, 22 SB in 494 AB. Decent. Not great, but decent. With his plus defense in center field, it makes him a viable starter.
J.D. Drew: .273/.395/.477 with 22 HR in 495 AB. I'd take it out of the No. 5/6 spot.
Jacoby Ellsbury: .302/.359/.424 with 9 HR, 100 R in 559 AB, swiping 52 bags. Oooh, me likey. Reminds me of something I saw in the Globe today:
"Justin Masterson," said an American League GM. "I'll bet you the Red Sox hear that name called a lot in their trade talks. I think the other guy is Jacoby Ellsbury. The hope is the Red Sox are down on him and would move him. That's probably just a hope." (Boston Globe)
With Bill James on staff, don't bet on the Sox moving Ellsbury as long as James projects that season out of him.
Andruw Jones: .233/.328/.445 with 16 HR in 301 AB. I include Andruw because I think if we have any shot of getting Russell Martin, it comes by absorbing either Jones or Juan Pierre's contract.
George Kottaras: .242/.335/.430 in 223 AB. This is pretty interesting; could they have him replace Kevin Cash as Wakefield's caddy?
Mike Lowell: .277/.343/.448 with 16 HR, 31 2B, 75 RBI in 462 AB. This would be absolutely fantastic.
Jed Lowrie: .276/.366/.417 in 544 AB. Would you rather have Lowrie or this guy...
Julio Lugo: .257/.328/.359 in 463 AB. Yeah, thought so.
Russell Martin: .292/.390/.439 with 15 HR and 30 2B in 535 AB. Just sayin'.
David Ortiz: .288/.396/.570 with 37 HR, 39 2B, 119 RBI in 539 AB. Now that's what I'm talking about!
Dustin Pedroia: .315/.376/.472 with 15 HR and 107 runs in 642 AB. Could this be yet another MVP-worthy season?
Juan Pierre: .292/.340/.355 in 394 AB. Yes, but he also has three years and $30 million left.
Manny Ramirez: .301/.404/.551 in 552 AB with 34 HR and 113 RBI. Not that far off from Bay...
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: .262/.349/.424 with 11 HR in 344 AB. Looks like a future starting catcher to me!
Mark Teixeira: .299/.397/.559 with 36 HR. Amid reports the Sox will pursue Tex heavily, thought I'd drop this here.
Jason Varitek: .238/.334/.392 with 13 HR, 20 RBI in 395 AB. You know, we just might be able to squeak past with this line in 2009. But 2010 must look terrible. It may not be a wise investment to bring him back unless he is told that he will start full-time in 2009 and then transition to a backup in 2010. I bet he wouldn't go for that.
Kevin Youkilis: .289/.386/.487 with 23 HR, 102 R, 101 RBI. Youuuuk!
David Aardsma: 38 IP, 4.81 ERA. Will he even stick in the Sox pen?
Josh Beckett: 13-8, 189.0 IP, 3.57 ERA. Please be wrong, Bill.
A.J. Burnett (100 percent chance he stays in the A.L. East and has been linked to the Sox): 14-11, 224.0 IP, 3.62 ERA. Wow... sign me up.
Manny Delcarmen: 81 IP, 3.44 ERA, 80 K and 35 BB. Settling in as a fine reliever.
Jon Lester: 12-11, 212.0 IP, 168 K, 88 BB, 4.02 ERA. I actually really agree with this. I think there has to be some natural regression this year, then in 2010 and on he'll bounce back to 2008 levels.
Javier Lopez: 57 IP, 4.14 ERA. Nothing really to report here.
Derek Lowe: 14-9, 206.0 IP, 3.60 ERA. Will he do this in pinstripes?
Pedro Martinez: 9-5, 120.0 IP (20 GS), 3.36 ERA. Actually predicting something of a bounceback season for Petey.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 12-8, 184.0 IP, 3.58 ERA, 77 BB, 174 K, 30 GS. There are parts to this I agree with, and parts I don't. Agree: ERA, BB, K, GS. Disagree: W-L, IP.
Hideki Okajima: 61 IP, 3.19 ERA. Really? Projecting yet another decrease in effectiveness for Oki.
Jake Peavy: 14-8, 202.0 IP, 3.26 ERA. I love Peavy, but I think his price tag is too rich because of too many questions about Petco Park.
CC Sabathia: 16-10, 240.0 IP, 3.48 ERA. Goodness, what a horse he is. Is it worth it for us to invest in his late-year seasons in order to get this? I say no.
Ben Sheets: 13-8, 186 IP (29 GS), 3.39 ERA. Another pitcher that's been linked to Boston.
Tim Wakefield: 10-8, 28 GS, 160.0 IP, 3.91 ERA. James still sees Wake as an effective pitcher, but continues his injury questions. Could the time be approaching to put him in the bullpen and have him be a spot starter?
Dontrelle Willis: 2-2, 8 GS, 31.0 IP, 5.78 ERA. YIKES! Someone we're linked to vis a vis Julio Lugo
Well, there you have it. What do you think? What projections do you like/dislike? What's spot on, what's not?
Additional player projections furnished upon request in comments.