As spring training draws closer and closer, it’s reasonable to start wondering what kind of seasons individual players are likely to produce. No, we still don’t know every player who will be part of the Nationals’ 2019 roster, but we do know the vast majority of them at this point.
Projecting stats from year to year is a tricky business, but there are no shortage of analytical formulas out there that attempt to do just this. One of the most popular is FanGraphs.com’s Steamer projections, which uses past performance and historical aging trends to try to guess how individual players will perform in future seasons. It’s not a perfect system, by any means, but it’s among the most effective out there.
So, what does Steamer think of the 2019 Nationals? Here’s a look at its projections for the prominent position players, along with my own thoughts on those projections ...
Actual 2018 stats: 494 PA, 22 HR, .292 AVG, .406 OBP, .517 SLG, 3.7 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 578 PA, 28 HR, .292 AVG, .393 OBP, .517 SLG, 4.0 WAR
Comment: If nothing else, this system seems to believe Soto was the real deal last year, because it basically is projecting him to do the exact same thing this year, right down to the batting average and slugging percentage. The only real change is more plate appearances because he’ll be on the big league roster from the get-go instead of having to wait til mid-May for his call-up.
Actual 2018 stats: 597 PA, 24 HR, .308 AVG, .374 OBP, .535 SLG, 6.3 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 586 PA, 21 HR, .287 AVG, .373 OBP, .487 SLG, 5.0 WAR
Comment: There are few players as consistent as Rendon, who has pretty well established exactly what numbers he’s going to post over the last several seasons. This projection has his batting average and slugging percentage dipping a bit, but not much. The real question is whether Rendon will be bothered at all trying to perform during a contract year. Given his personality, it’s hard to believe it will negatively affect him on the field.
Actual 2018 stats: 740 PA, 19 HR, .271 AVG, .344 OBP, .416 SLG, 4.8 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 642 PA, 17 HR, .287 AVG, .350 OBP, .447 SLG, 4.4 WAR
Comment: Turner wound up having a very solid season, but it’s certainly fair to wonder if there’s still room for improvement. This projection thinks there is, though it doesn’t see the speedster leading the league in plate appearances again. That could be a safe bet, especially if Adam Eaton stays healthy and entrenches himself in the leadoff spot.
Actual 2018 stats: 323 PA, 13 HR, .264 AVG, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, 1.4 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 426 PA, 19 HR, .263 AVG, .328 OBP, .476 SLG, 1.0 WAR
Comment: As always, it’s all about Zimmerman’s health, and subsequently how much he’s able to play. He missed considerable time last season, and the Nats always have to consider the likelihood he’ll miss considerable time again this season (hence the re-signing of Matt Adams). When he’s on the field, though, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from Zimmerman.
Actual 2018 stats: 370 PA, 5 HR, .301 AVG, .394 OBP, .411 SLG, 1.9 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 549 PA, 10 HR, .283 AVG, .366 OBP, .412 SLG, 2.2 WAR
Comment: Though this formula expects Eaton to be much healthier in 2019, it expects his production to drop. That seems a bit odd, because even when he rarely felt 100 percent last season Eaton still hit and reached base at an impressive clip. If his surgically repaired knee and ankle really are strong and a non-factor now, there’s no reason to believe he can’t duplicate (or even improve upon) his prior numbers.
Actual 2018 stats: 632 PA, 21 HR, .215 AVG, .305 OBP, .391 SLG, 0.8 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 466 PA, 18 HR, .242 AVG, .327 OBP, .433 SLG, 1.8 WAR
Comment: This is not a particularly upbeat projection for a guy coming off a down season. The Nationals are banking on a bounceback performance from Dozier, who admittedly played much of 2018 with a bone bruise in his knee. If they don’t get 20-plus homers from their new second baseman, they’re not going to be real happy with the decision to sign him.
Actual 2018 stats: 66 PA, 3 HR, .288 AVG, .348 OBP, .525 SLG, 0.5 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 533 PA, 12 HR, .274 AVG, .335 OBP, .410 SLG, 2.0 WAR
Comment: If he opens the season as the everyday center fielder - a very big if at this point - Robles is going to get his first real opportunity to shine at the big league level. The Nationals would certainly take these numbers from him, though after watching Soto burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old last season, there are going to be plenty of folks who are looking for a Rookie-of-the-Year-worthy performance out of Robles.
Actual 2018 stats: 388 PA, 12 HR, .271 AVG, .332 OBP, .444 SLG, 2.0 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 247 PA, 8 HR, .264 AVG, .322 OBP, .424 SLG, 1.1 WAR
Comment: It’s probably asking for too much for Suzuki to duplicate his 2018 numbers with the Braves. The good news: The Nationals aren’t asking for that, only for Suzuki to do his part as half of the new catching tandem.
Actual 2018 stats: 435 PA, 16 HR, .266 AVG, .313 OBP, .449 SLG, 2.2 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 238 PA, 8 HR, .241 AVG, .295 OBP, .408 SLG, 1.0 WAR
Comment: As with Suzuki, Gomes is projected to suffer a drop-off in production. Again, the Nats don’t need his 2018 stats; they just need him to combine with Suzuki to give them a top catching duo.
Actual 2018 stats: 337 PA, 21 HR, .239 AVG, .309 OBP, .477 SLG, 0.8 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 198 PA, 9 HR, .253 AVG, .314 OBP, .458 SLG, 0.3 WAR
Comment: Is Adams really going to get fewer than 200 plate appearances this season? That only happens if Zimmerman has a huge year and can’t afford to be taken out of the lineup. History suggests that’s less than likely, which means more opportunities for Adams to start at first base.
MICHAEL A. TAYLOR
Actual 2018 stats: 385 PA, 6 HR, .227 AVG, .287 OBP, .357 SLG, 0.9 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 231 PA, 6 HR, .236 AVG, .294 OBP, .387 SLG, 0.3 WAR
Comment: These folks believe Robles is going to get the bulk of playing time in center field, leaving Taylor as a spot starter and bench player. We’ll see if that comes true, but as was the case during the second half of the 2018 season, Taylor hasn’t proven he can consistently produce when he doesn’t get regular playing time.