Toronto Blue Jays 2017 outfield projections from Steamer and ZiPS
The Blue Jays’ outfield, like their bullpen, remains an unfinished product entering the new year.
At minimum, one starting-calibre option is expected to be added to fill the voids left by Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista. Below is a look at how the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems forecast their current in-house options. (Disclaimer: Playing time projections are largely unreliable and subject to constant change. Pay them little mind).
Both projection systems see Pillar as the 2015 version of himself at the plate more than the 2016 version, which would be beneficial for the Blue Jays. If Pillar can keep his OPS+ over 90 (it was 81 in 2016), his excellent defence could allow him to put together another season that flirts with 4.0 WAR. Steamer isn’t expecting Pillar’s defensive metrics to grade out as strongly, but Pillar is a bit of an outlier in that field, and projecting defensive metrics season to season is among the least exact of sciences.
RF Steve Pearce Steamer: 425 PA, 18 HR, 58 RBI – .258/.336/.468 (.803 OPS) – 1.4 WAR
Pearce had not yet been signed by the Blue Jays when their ZiPS projections were released, but we’ll include him here as an outfielder for the sake of IF/OF balance (you can expect to see him at 1B/DH, especially earlier in the season).
Between injuries, performance, and platoon splits, Pearce has topped 350 plate appearances just once in his career (2014). Prior to that season, he’d never even touched 200, so the Blue Jays are certainly taking a big step into the unknown if they hand him a near-full time role. Pearce’s breakout 2014 in Baltimore, worth 4.9 WAR, is very unlikely to be repeated, but an OPS north of .800 with ~20 home runs would be a great help to a lineup looking for power.
The projection systems don’t have much love left for Upton Jr., who will be 32 when the season opens. This could be the lingering affect of his two seasons with the Atlanta Braves, however, where his value completely bottomed out. Since then, Upton owns a .712 OPS and he should be able to provide some limited offensive value if used in a platoon or situational role. His defence and base running are also assets that Toronto is lacking elsewhere on their roster. After WARs of 1.6 and 1.2 the past two seasons, expecting a WAR near 0.3 is likely too conservative.
If Ezequiel Carrera sees 505 plate appearances in 2017, something has obviously gone wrong for the Blue Jays. That projection is a product of Toronto’s lack of options and should drop accordingly when another outfielder is added. Carrera does, however, figure to play a large role in one corner of the outfielder with a combination of Upton and Pearce.
His 301 plate appearances from 2016 represent a career high, and if he’s able to repeat that .679 OPS, the Blue Jays should be pleased. Perhaps the most important factor of Carrera’s 2016 were the positive steps he took defensively, moving from a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of -10 in 2015 to +7 last year.
Steamer is kinder to Pompey than ZiPS (though both PA totals are likely well on the optimistic end), but if the young Canadian could give the Blue Jays something close to a .710 OPS with excellent base running and strong defence, they’d be thrilled. His chances this spring remain unclear and it’s difficult to find a direct comparable after his meteoric rise and following plateau, but hey — there’s a chance.