Jays From the Couch will look at projections made for Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders‘ 2016 season
When the Victoria, B.C., native was acquired by the Blue Jays via trade on December 14, 2014, not many knew what to make of the deal. The Blue Jays were giving away a much-needed, reliable backend starter in J.A. Happ, for a potentially high upside, but oft injured, Michael Saunders. For a team ripe with offensive talent, and thin in the pitching department, it didn’t seem to fit.
Just about the time fans were getting onboard with Saunders patrolling left field for their favourite team, the injury bug once again struck. An unfortunate run in with a sprinkler head during spring training looked to derail the 2015 season before it even began for the Canadian. Saunders, tried valiantly to get back on the field returning before the end of April; however his stint lasted a brief and unproductive (194/306/194, 0 HR, 3 RBI) nine games before being placed on the disabled list for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, the lack of games played over the last two seasons (78-2014, 9-2015) prediction models are not very favourable towards 2016, and if we are being honest, nor should they be. One of the major aspects of being a successful MLB player is staying on the field. This ability, typically through no fault of his own, has not been something available to Saunders during his career.
As you are able to see above, the available projection systems from Fangraphs (ZiPS, Fan (22), Steamer) as well as Baseball-Reference (Marcel) have Saunders playing somewhere between 61-90 games (average of ~73) between them, based on a 4PA/game rate. While it is likely that the 29-year-old will be on the field more this upcoming season, it wouldn’t be responsible for projection systems to factor “maybes” into their formulas. Therefore, it would be up to us to try to extrapolate a full season of statistics, or as close as we can, based on what numbers we have in front of us.
In order to harbour a guess at what a full season would look like, I decided to go with a sample of 135 games, based on the same 4PA/game average used before. I felt it would be irresponsible to base a projection on 162 games for a few reasons. First, Saunders has never played a full season, with 138 games played being his previous high. Secondly, the Blue Jays have some depth at the position, so we will likely see others get playing time, especially if Saunders doesn’t produce as expected. Lastly, who plays 162 games a season any more?
Using the 135 game formula, the numbers above are what I was able to extrapolate on Saunders’ behalf. Overall they do not jump off the page, but they bare a strong resemblance to the numbers various Toronto left fielders put up in 2015. Over 162 games (675 PA) last season, the Jays got .285/.326/.390, 11 HR, 75 RBI worth of production from left field. Based on those numbers, Saunders (plus others) should give a somewhat small, but worthwhile upgrade to the position, as a whole, for 2016.
With the team in a “win now” mode, it would be a perfect situation if, Saunders, were to stay healthy and find his stride in 2016. The addition of a productive left-handed bat, in the right-handed heavy lineup, would benefit the club on many levels. So here’s to hoping, for his sake and the teams’, the disabled list stints are a thing of the past, and we finally get to see the Canadian native blow past his projections.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Jeff Archer under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.