2011 Orioles Projections: Nick Markakis

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 line (BA/OBP/SLG), and fielding.

Today we’re looking at right-fielder Nick Markakis.

Playing Time:

Markakis plays a lot – he’s averaged over 700 plate appearances the last four years – but I’m not going above 625 PA for anyone (even usually healthy players sometimes hit the DL). It’s entirely possible that Nick gets to 700 PA again, in which case his value would get a small bump up.

Batting:

Nick’s walk rate has bounced around quite a bit, leading to much consternation on my part. Sure the improved line-up might take some pressure off – making Nick not think he has to do so much himself and result in more patience and walks – but on the flip-side, it makes it less likely he’ll get intentionally walked 9 times. As such, I’m going 10%, which is about his career rate (9.9%) and slightly lower than 2010 or his three-year average (10.3%, 7.9%, 14.2%).

His strike-out rate, on the other hand, has fallen for three straight seasons (19% to 15.3% to 14.8%) with correspondingly increasing contact rates. Unless he changes his approach – which I find somewhat doubtful after talking to him – another better than average rate (say, 15%) is expected.

Markakis’ downward trend in home run power (23, 20, 18, 12) has been concerning, and his home run per flyball rate has collapsed from 13.1% in his rookie season to just 6.1% last year. If pitchers keep staying down and away from him and he’s content to poke those pitches to left-field, then I can’t see a big bounce-back coming. An 8.5% HR/FB rate would be below average, and combined with a slight tilt towards hitting the ball on the grounds would result in only 15 home runs. Looks like our one-time hopes of eventually seeing Nick hit 30+ home runs are not likely to be met.

Nick’s career BABIP of .329 – with a season low of .314 – makes sense given his to-all-fields approach and hitting skill. I’m going with .325 for 2011, which would give Markakis 151 non-home run hits; including 40 doubles (which would be his fifth consecutive season with at least 40) and 2 triples.

So now we’ve got all the components. 166 hits in 563 at bats is a .295 batting average. Add 63 walks (and a couple HBP) for a .370 on-base percentage. Slugging would be .453.

A .295/.370/.453 line would make Markakis around 16 runs above average with the bat in 2011. He’s very likely to be the team’s best hitter, largely due to that OBP.

Fielding:

A lot of Orioles’ fans think Nick should get a Gold Glove (his Fan Scouting runs saved has been +9 each of the last two seasons) , but I don’t really see it (and neither do the other defensive metrics). His career UZR/150 in right-field is +2 runs; DRS/150 is +5 runs; TZ/150 is +4. The last couple years haven’t been as good, and generally he gets good marks for his arm and sure-handedness but less so for his range. And I agree with that; his arm is excellent and he doesn’t make many mistakes, but he doesn’t get to a ton of balls and a lot of his dives (which certainly look impressive) seem like they’d be unnecessary for a truly rangy outfielder. That’s not to say he’s a liability with the glove, but I’m more comfortable calling him about average as opposed to plus.

WAR:

Adding it up, Markakis would be at about 3.0 Wins Above Replacement in 2011, making him the first Oriole to reach that mark in the projection series thus far. He’s a good player, but probably not the star it looked like he’d once become – which is a real shame, since the O’s kind of need him to be that 5+ win guy. Even at this level of production though, Nick should still earn his salaries going forward.

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


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