Can Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman John Jaso eclipse his 2016 projections?
This off-season, the writers at Pirates Breakdown will take a look at two different sets of 2016 projections for meaningful players on the roster and give you, the readers, their take on whether or not they think said player will meet, surpass, or fall below those projections. The projections for Steamer and ZiPs (created by Dan Szymborski) can be found on fangraphs.com.
Today we are going to crack open the projections for new Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman John Jaso.
Hint: they aren’t pretty.[table id=49 /]
Note: At the time of publication of the Pirates’ ZiPS projections, Jaso was not yet on the club. Therefore, he has no ZiPS projections.
Before a single word is uttered on these projections, we must remember that Jaso will likely be platooned with Michael Morse, who should bat against most – if not all – left-handed pitchers.
On the surface, Jaso’s projections do not overwhelm. Although he’s projected to post a 1.2 WAR, many observers will point to low home run and RBI totals and wonder if it will be enough to replace the production that Pedro Alvarez delivered.
There’s just one problem with that thinking. Jaso was not brought on board to replace Alvarez’s production.
That may seem counter-productive, but the Pirates are likely relying on progressive seasons from Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte to shoulder some offensive load. After factoring in a potential bounce-back year from Josh Harrison, it’s easy to see the Pirates’ approach. While I would stop short of labeling it purely as “small ball,” the club is clearly putting value on consistent run production rather than having a home run threat lurking in the lineup.
Indeed, Jaso’s wRC+ (weighted runs created+, a measurement that aims to quantify a batter’s ability to create runs) supports this new approach. It’s important to note that wRC+ is an average and not a rate stat. That makes it possible for Jaso to out-pace Alvarez in this regard. In 2015, Jaso put up a 136 wRC+ while Alvarez could only muster a 114 rating despite his 27 home runs. Note: a score of 100 is considered to be the MLB average.
In many ways, the projections listed above hardly matter. With the Pittsburgh Pirates firmly committed to this type of offensive approach, Jaso would need to merely replicate his previous numbers to be considered a quality acquisition. Of course, there is also a good chance that he could eclipse them. Jaso’s ability to limit strikeouts and take walks could suit the Pirates at several spots in the batting order. Hitting second, for example, could see him ride the protection that Andrew McCutchen provides to a 60+ RBI season. It’s going to be very interesting to see the tinkering manager Clint Hurdle will do with this lineup.
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