For us baseball junkies, “Steamer Day” is kind of like a national holiday. I love waking up on Steamer Morning, waiting for the folks over at Steamer Projections to tell us what’s going to happen in the baseball world for the year.
So projections are never perfect, fine, but they run arguably the most respected projection system in baseball. According to Mr.CheatSheet.com, Steamer is ranked third in overall hitter projections, and first in pitcher projections in 2017. Only FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projections ranked better (second and first respectively).
Since this list of projections includes our Royals, I'm going to go through the projections for the Royals projected starting lineup in 2018, then we’re going to play a little game called over/under. I’ll tell you what I think will happen, and then I want you guys to give me your opinion in the comments section below. Let’s get after it.
C - Salvador Perez
2018 Steamer Projection: .263/.298/.467, 23 HR, 97 wRC+, 2.9 WAR, 121 games played
162 game averages: .272/.301/.442, 23 HR, 98 wRC+, 3.21 fWAR
I’m going to take the over on a lot of Salvy’s projections here. I recently wrote an article describing my desire to give Salvy a little rest in 2018. This season presents a perfect opportunity to get Salvy some rest and I think he’s going to get it.
I think the rest is what makes the difference for Salvy. Instead of having to catch 130 games per year, I think Salvy ends up catching only 110-120, but playing closer to 145 games, which is my first over.
Barring some kind of massive free agent signing (Eric Hosmer), the Royals lineup is not going to be good enough for Salvy more than once a week or once every other week. He’ll DH a lot more in 2018, helping him to stay healthy and perform better offensively. The Royals are going to need his bat in the lineup, and to appease d fans in seats that come to watch their favorite player.
Here are the rankings for Salvy’s best offensive seasons, compared with his rankings for games played:
- 2013; 2nd fewest games played
- 2017; fewest games played
- 2014; most games played
- 2016; 3rd fewest games played
- 2015; 2nd most games played
As you can see, Salvy’s best two offensive seasons came in the two seasons in which he also played the fewest amount of games. It may sound contradictory, but I actually believe Salvy would get walked more, and hit more home runs if he had less plate appearances. Given that I believe rest is coming for Sal in 2018, I will take the over for on Steamer’s projections for Sal.
2B - Whit Merrifield
2018 Steamer Projection: .272/.316/.409, 13 HR, 25 SB, 90 wRC+, 1.8 WAR, 142 GP
162 game averages: .286/.324/.437, 15 HR, 30 SB, 100 wRC+, 3.43 fWAR
If Whit Merrifield is a Royal for all of 2018, he’s going to play far more than 142 games. He played 145 in 2017 and he started the year in AAA Omaha. Whit has a chance to be one of KC’s top 2-3 players in 2018 and you can’t afford to rest him very often. Whit has shown that he can be a durable player during his time in KC and I have no reason to believe he couldn’t play 155-158 games if he was asked to.
You may be wondering why Whit’s projections are so much lower than his career averages. I have two theories.
- Whit Merrifield won’t be starting 2018 in Omaha. People know who Whit is now and they’ll opposing pitchers will be targeting him when they face the Royals. The Royals don’t have many guys that can beat you with the bat (as of now), and Whit is arguably the Royals best returning offensive player. Teams aren’t going to let him beat them buy being on base and being a nuisance when he gets on. They’ll watch the film, focus in on Whit, and make it a point to ensure that Whit isn’t on base.
- Whit may still very well be traded, which could really hurt his playing time opportunities. If Whit gets traded to a contender, he could come out of his leadoff role with KC and turn more to a utility role. That would not only hurt his number of games played, but his ability to hit home runs, steal bases, and get in a groove offensively.
I’m going to take the under on Whit for both of those reasons. I’m still not sold that he’ll be a Royal for all of 2018, and I think the league has shown an ability to adjust to young hitters. Whit Merrifield is not “young” per say, as Raul Mondesi is. He’s young in the sense that he still doesn’t have two seasons worth of at bats under his belt. Teams are going to adjust to Whit, and while I think he’s going to be fine, I also don’t think he’s a three win player.
SS - Alcides Escobar
2018 Steamer Projection: .256/.289/.351, 5 HR, 8 SB, 67 wRC+, 0.4 WAR, 115 GP
162 game averages: .260/.294/.346, 5 HR, 21 SB, 72 wRC+, 1.45 fWAR
Bleh. The return of Alcides Escobar at SS is not something that I wanted to see in Kansas City this year. Yet, here we are, once again rostering the worst everyday offensive player in all of baseball.
I’m going to make this one quick for you. I’ll take the slightest over that you can possibly take for Alcides on his Steamer projections. Not much over, but ever so slightly. Alcides is 31 years old and his predecessor took MLB at bats in 2017. Raul Mondesi isn’t ready to play shorttop in the big leagues yet, but he ought to be bnext year. If he isn’t, Nicky Lopez could be. The point is, this is Esky’s last year in KC. If he ever wants to play big league baseball again, he’s going to have to put up an OBP closer to .300 this year and have a wRC+ closer to 75.
3B - Cheslor Cuthbert
2018 Steamer Projection: .260/.319/.423, 16 HR, 96 WRC+, 0.6 WAR, 127 GP
162 game averages: .261/.306/.390, 12 HR, 85 wRC+, 0.08 fWAR
I would take the under on Cuthbert’s numbers even if he did play the projected 127 games. Cheslor had a really nice year in 2016, OPSing .735 and hitting 12 HR in the absence of Mike Moustakas. I just don’t see him as a long-term solution at third base for the Royals. Give me the under on this year’s projections, but hopefully it’s because Dozier takes over.
LF - Alex Gordon
2018 Steamer Projection: .238/.327/.391, 15 HR, 7 SB, 91 wRC+, 1.4 WAR, 132 GP
162 game averages: .259/.340/.419, 18 HR, 11 SB, 105 wRC+, 3.53 fWAR
Alex Gordon was horrific at the plate in 2017 - literally one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Yet he played such good defense in left field again that he won another Gold Glove and finished the season at 0.0 WAR. He’s that good in the outfield.
I believe that Alex Gordon will out do his 2018 Steamer Projections. He’s too talented and works too hard not to. Jeffrey Flanagan wrote an article recently detailing Alex’s 2017 struggles and why he thinks that he’ll be better in 2018, and I agree.
Alex Gordon has never had a season as bad offensively as he did in 2017. Even in the earliest years of his career, he wasn’t that bad. I think Gordon gets his offense turned around enough to be a one win (1.0 fWAR) player in 2018. If he winds up playing center field, which, I actually think he will, he could ultimately wind up being a two win player. I believe in Alex Gordon, and I believe he will be much better in 2018 than he was in 2017.
CF - Paulo Orlando
2018 Steamer Projection: .262/.299/.375, 6 HR, 7 SB, 77 wRC+, 0.1 WAR, 91 GP
162 game averages: .274/.300/.406, 9 HR, 12 SB, 87 wRC +, 1.47 fWAR
This is another projection that looks spot on to me. The slash line, the HR, the wRC+, the games played, I don’t have a problem with any of it. I’ll take a slight over, just because I have to pick one or the other. I think Paulo has proven the ability to put the bat on the ball and stay durable, which should keep him in the lineup in center field. If Paulo plays center field on a regular basis, I'll look for his fWAR to actually be much higher than 0.1 in 2018, simply because I really like Paulo’s defense in CF. Otherwise, the projections look pretty good.
RF - Jorge Bonifacio
2018 Steamer Projection: .249/.313/.416, 17 HR, 92 wRC+, 0.5 WAR, 128 GP
162 game averages: .255/.320/.432, 24 HR, 99 wRC+, 1.29 fWAR
I am honestly a little bit surprised at how low Boni’s Steamer Projections are for 2018. His projections on Baseball Reference look like this: .262/.331/.449 with 17 HR in 411 PA. That’s much closer to what I expect to see from Boni in 2018, therefore, I’m taking the over in his Steamer Projection.
Jorge Bonifacio was never a prospect that I heard a lot of people get excited about. He’s always been a little bit older than you’d like for the level he played at, but he's also consistently put up a wRC+ over 115 in the minor leagues (he also struggled mightily in two full seasons at AA in 2014 and 2015). He’s not a fantastic defender in the corners, but the kid can hit a little bit.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Boni put up a line very similar to his Baseball Reference projection in 2018. In the big leagues in 2017, Boni saw both success and his fair share of struggles. His BB% was about right compared to his minor league career, he was on pace for 24 HR in a full season, but his strikeout rate was higher than in any season in his career since debuting in 2010. If Boni can cut down on the strikeouts during his second stint in the big leagues, he should be set for even more success than he had in his rookie year.
DH - Jorge Soler
2018 Steamer Projection: .241/.330/.436, 22 HR, 102 wRC+, 0.5 WAR, 129 GP
162 game averages: .244/.318/.412, 19 HR, 96 wRC+, 0.33 fWAR
Ahh, the return for Wade Davis. Jorge Soler very well may have been the most disappointing Royal last year, as he played in only 35 games and spent most of the year in AAA Omaha. I’m still not quite sure why that trade made sense to anyone at the time, but what’s done is done. Jorge Soler still has a chance to make that trade worth it.
The tools are undeniable. Jorge Soler stands 6’ 4” and weighs about 215 lbs. The man is an absolute monster and looks like a defensive end on a baseball field. Seeing him on a major league field is special, but it was even funnier watching him play AAA ball in Omaha.
What was more encouraging for Jorge Soler in Omaha wasn’t just his size, but he actually hit the ball too. In 74 games at AAA last season, Soler slashed .267/.388/.564 with 24 HR. Soler went nuts facing AAA pitching, but could just never get it going at the major league level. He’ll certainly get his chance in 2018.
Steamer projects Soler to hit 22 HR in just 129 games this season. If we’re being honest, Steamer’s projection for Soler in 2018 looks perfect to me, save for the fact that I think he’ll play closer to 145 games and hit closer to 30 HR.
This may sound like a cop out, but I’m split on my decision for Soler. When it comes to the slash line, I'm going to take a very, very slight under. Maybe something like .230/.320/.430. When it comes to HR and games played, I’m going to take the over. I’ll also take the under on wRC+ and WAR. Until Soler can prove that he can hit for a decent average over a full season in the big leagues, I'm not going to anticipate him hitting any where close to .250.
This is about all we’ve got for the big league club. The Royals don’t currently have a first baseman on the roster, and we have no guarantee of seeing Dozier, Mondesi, or Starling in 2018. That lineup looks pretty abysmal from a projection standpoint, and the Royals would be well suited to let their young guys (Mondesi, Dozier, Boni, Soler, Cuthbert) get as many at bats as possible this year. Let’s continue this discussion, let me know what you guys think in the comments.