St. Louis Cardinals: PECOTA projections for Cardinals position players


Recently, Baseball Prospectus came out with its 2018 projections courtesy of PECOTA. The St. Louis Cardinals did not fare so well.

PECOTA is often referred to as the best projection system. Obviously, projections are just that – a projection/prediction. The season can play out way differently than what a bunch of math formulas put together. That said, they are generally close to what fans should expect from the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at the projected 2018 St. Louis Cardinals team.

First, the team is “supposed to” finish with a record of 84-78, second place in the NL Central. This is five games behind the Chicago Cubs and one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. This record is tied for the fifth best record in the league with the San Francisco Giants. We would be competing with them for the second wild-card spot (read Tito’s piece on USA Today’s similar projections).

That’s also only one more win than the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals team. With the moves we’ve made this offseason, our team is only one win better? I don’t buy that. I predict 88 wins in 2018.

Now, let’s dive into the starting lineup’s projected stats and what I think about each:

Yadier Molina = .274, nine home runs, 49 RBI, 1.7 WAR. After hitting 18 home runs and driving in 82 runs last season, I think his projection is low. I would expect to see 12-15 home runs and 60 RBI.

Matt Carpenter = .263, 17 home runs, 67 RBI, 1.9 WAR. He’s only projected to have 417 plate appearances, which would be by far his lowest total in the past five years. Maybe they think injuries will catch up to him or Jose Martinez will steal some playing time.

Regardless, his lowest total in that time frame is 566 PAs in 2016, when he spent a significant amount of time on the DL. Every other year he’s had over 600 PAs. I think the average is close, but I expect 20-25 home runs. The RBI number will depend on where he actually ends up hitting in the order. If he does wind up hitting third, and actually has some success there, he could easily drive in 80+.

Kolten Wong = .260, 11 home runs, 60 RBI, 11 steals, 1.9 WAR. I think this is pretty reasonable. His average and steals might be a little higher.

Paul DeJong = .258, 29 home runs, and 91 RBI, 2.2 WAR. I think this is right on the money. Although he hit .285 last year, his low walk-rate and high strikeout totals lead to some regression in batting average. His projected OBP of .309 is concerning. I hope his plate discipline improves in 2018.

Jedd Gyorko = .245, 22 home runs, 70 RBI, 1.4 WAR. Offensively, I think this is pretty accurate.

Marcell Ozuna = .275, 23 home runs, 82 RBI, 2.1 WAR. He hit .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBI last year. So, his 2018 projections are a big regression. I do think he is going to regress (I hope I’m wrong), but not that much. I expect a .290 average with 27-30 home runs and 85-90 RBI.

Tommy Pham = .265, .353 OBP, 22 homers, 72 RBI, 22 steals, 1.7 WAR. He hit .306 with a .411 OBP last season. While some regression is expected (once again, I hope I’m wrong), I don’t think his numbers will drop off that much. I think he will hit around .285 with a .370 OBP. I think the other numbers are pretty close.

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Dexter Fowler = .254, 14 home runs, 69 RBI, 13 steals, 1.8 WAR. I think his average is a bit low. I expect something closer to .275, but everything else is pretty close in my opinion.

The team’s triple slash is projected to be .254/.324/.415 which equals a .739 OPS. In 2017, it was .256/.334/.426 which equals a .760 OPS. Our team OPS is projected to drop 21 points? I don’t think so, not with the addition of Ozuna, a full season from DeJong and Pham, and the continued improvement of Wong and Gyorko. Maybe I am being too optimistic, and this also assumes everyone stays healthy. But, I can’t imagine our offense is going to be worse.

Also, even with the expected regression of a few players, we don’t have a single player projected by PECOTA to be worth 3+ WAR. That’s crazy to me. Ozuna and Pham were worth over 11 BWARP (Baseball Prospectus Wins Above Replacement Player) combined last year.

Next: Plan B for the Cardinals

Overall, I think the projections for the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals hitters are low. If they end up being pretty close, it might be another frustrating season for Cardinals fans. What do you guys think about the projections? Are they too low or right on the money? Also, be on the lookout for an article by a fellow writer about the PECOTA projections for our pitching staff. Thanks for reading.