Before you spend too much time wondering what the connection between corner infielders and catchers is, and why I lumped them together during this series, I’ll put an end to the speculation. There is no connection other than not wanting to drag this series out any longer than it has to be. For me, two of the most intriguing and mysterious players reside on the corners, they were huge in 2012 down the stretch, but whether or not they can repeat those performances is a major uncertainty. Those two players of mystery would be first baseman Brandon Moss and third baseman Josh Donaldson.
The catcher position underwent a major transition from Kurt Suzuki to Derek Norris last season, and Norris showed tiny flashes of power but largely struggled to make consistent contact of any kind. The A’s saw fit to upgrade the catcher position and acquire a platoon partner for Norris in the person of John Jaso. Chances will be that they play a real strict platoon as well, which is fine if the net production is increased.
The elephant in the room if you will is Daric Barton. Once thought to be well on the outside looking in, the departure of Chris Carter has opened the door for Barton to make his way onto the A’s 25 man roster. He may get some playing time at first, and he’ll be sure to log time late in games for defensive purposes. For the record, ZiPs projected Carter to hit 25 home runs next season, he could hit that number of even surpass it in Houston.
So for those still with the Athletics, we’ll figure out what to expect from them in 2013.
Brandon Moss: 532 PA, .236/.305/.426, 21 HR, .190 ISO, .314 wOBA, 100 OPS+
Daric Barton: 496 PA, .231/.351/.345, 7 HR, .114 ISO, .312 wOBA, 94 OPS+
Josh Donaldson: 535 PA, .234/.299/.383, 15 HR, .149 ISO, .297 wOBA, 86 OPS+
Derek Norris: 470 PA, .198/.307/.338, 12 HR, .140 ISO, .290 wOBA, 79 OPS+
John Jaso seems to have fallen through the cracks with the ZiPs projections, the Athletics projections were released in December before Jaso was acquired, and the Seattle Mariners projections were released on January 30th, so Jaso isn’t there either. There seems to be no sign of a ZiPs projection anywhere I could find, so I’ll go with this composite projection from Rotochamp.com. They project him to hit .260/.365/.390 in 308 AB (not PA) with 7 HR and just 50 K’s. This projection seems absolutely reasonable and should be close to what actually happens.
I find it odd that many people seem to expect a major regression for Brandon Moss in 2013, that it’s simply a foregone conclusion that he will slip backwards. I may be biased by my general affinity for the guy, but the projections for him seem incredibly low. He hit 22 home runs last year in just about half a season, so it seems weird to expect him to fail to reach that number over the course of a full season. Just watching him hit last season, there’s not a doubt in my mind that his power is legit. A .260/.340/.500 line with 30 longballs seems absolutely attainable for Moss.
Daric Barton probably won’t get 496 PA in Oakland this season, but his slash line seems about reasonable. He won’t make much impact with the bat, but he’ll still be able to get on base which does have some value.
As much as the masses expect Moss to regress, there seems to be the same expectation that Donaldson’s production from the latter part of the season is the real deal. Call me a contrarian, but I’m not so sure. Donaldson was struggling so badly early in the season that it was a massive shock when he returned to Oakland and seemingly figured out how to hit major league pitching. All that said, I actually think his projection for 2013 is fairly accurate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit more power than ZiPs expects, perhaps 20-22 home runs, but the on-base rates will probably not be overly impressive still.
I have felt throughout this offseason that Derek Norris needed to log more time in Sacramento to hone his hitting skills, but despite the addition of John Jaso it doesn’t appear that will happen. I think the projection from ZiPs for Norris is a worst case scenario, and while I don’t have a ton of confidence that he’ll improve a lot from 2012, I have my doubts that they’ll be this low. He’ll probably at least be able to keep himself above the Mendoza line… hopefully.
The Athletics should see a consistent level of offensive production from their lineup in 2013, and the corner infielders will likely find themselves right in the middle of that onslaught. The final installment of the ZiP It! series will examine the A’s bullpen, from the middle relievers all the way to Grant Balfour in the 9th inning.