2011 Orioles Projections: Derrek Lee

The initial team projections are posted here. A more thorough walkthrough of how I put the individual ones together is in the Matt Wieters post here. The components I’m looking for are playing time (plate appearances), batting (BA/OBP/SLG), and fielding.

Today we’re looking at the team’s new first-baseman, Derrek Lee.

Playing Time:

Lee has accumulated over 600 plate appearances in 9 of his last 10 seasons, getting to only 204 in 2006 due to a wrist injury. He dealt with a thumb problem during the 2010 season – for which he had surgery a couple months ago – but he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training. Still, he’s 35 years old. I went back and forth between 550 and 525 plate appearances for Lee for 2011, and decided to split the difference (rounded up) and go with 540.

Batting:

Lee has an 11.2% career walk rate, and a weighted average of his last three years is a touch above that. He will be moving to the tougher league though, so a small decline isn’t out of the question. Say, down to 10.75%.

The strike-out rate isn’t quite as stable, with three straight years at ~20% jumping up to 24.5% last year. Lee’s contact rate has been trending ever so slightly downward, so I don’t think too much of a decrease from last year is reasonable – going with 23%.

Lee seems like a neutral-ish flyball hitter, though he lifted the ball quite a bit in 2009 when he hit 35 home runs. His home run per flyball rate that year was also elevated at 17.9%, but in other more recent seasons it’s been around 12%. A small drop there to 11% – Camden Yards is more friendly to right-handed power than Wrigley Field, but tougher league + aging + injury is a bit worrisome – would result in around 16 home runs.

A .322 career BABIP is pretty good, and the .309 mark from 2010 is the lowest it’s been since 2004. His expected BABIP has consistently been above average as well. I’ll go with .315, which would give Lee 112 non-HR hits; 80 singles and 32 doubles.

So now we’ve got all the components. 128 hits in 482 at bats is a .266 batting average. Add 57 walks (and a HBP) for a .346 on-base percentage. Slugging would be .432.

A .266/.346/.432 line would make Lee around 4 runs above average with the bat in 2011.

Fielding:

The stats have Lee between average and pretty good. Career UZR/150 is +1; DRS/150 is +1; Total Zone is 0; and the Fan Scouting Report (just for the past two seasons) is +5 per 150 games. I had Lee at an even zero for 2011, but I’ll bump that up to +1; he’ll be older, but his recent years are also the ones with the better numbers.

WAR:

Adding it up, Lee would be at around 1.3 Wins Above Replacement in 2011. That’s not quite as high as I had him previously, but if he stays healthy enough to accumulate 600+ PA (or bounces back a little more from his down 2010) then he’d still be worth the contract the O’s gave him.

Let me know how you think Lee will do next year here.


Stats: BB% & K%, FB%, HR/FB%, BABIP, wRAA, UZR, DRS, Total Zone, Fan Scouting Report, WAR