After much anticipation, Baseball Prospectus released the 2012 edition of their PECOTA projections yesterday. Fans might be surprised with the rather pessimistic projections for the Phillies going into the season. With three players finishing with 3 WARP or better (four if you round Chase Utley up from 2.9), only one projects to do so in 2012 (Utley, 4.6). Five hitters project to be above the .260 true average (TAv) median, but only two are significantly above that mark (Utley, .299; Hunter Pence, .287). We have seen the Phillies transition from an offensive juggernaut in 2007 to a pitching-and-defense focused team starting in 2010, and that will continue to be the case going into this season.
The most surprising projection, though, involves Domonic Brown. Once a top prospect, his future with the Phillies is shrouded in question marks, but PECOTA foresees him posting a .271 TAv and 1.4 WARP. While that is not amazing, it is better than all of the other options the Phillies have in left field. John Mayberry isn’t far behind at .270 TAv and 1.4 WARP as well.
The other left field options are Laynce Nix (.263, 0.3), Ty Wigginton (.257, -0.1), and Juan Pierre (.237, -0.2). Nix hits right-handed pitching significantly better than left-handed pitching, while Wigginton and Pierre don’t show much of a platoon split. The jury is still out on Brown, but in his 280 career MLB plate appearances, he has shown as vast a platoon split as Nix despite being lauded for his ability to handle left-handed pitching in the Minors.
Is it worth keeping Brown in the Minors just to learn how to play left field better — he has nothing more to gain from hitting sub-standard pitching in Triple-A — at the expense of reducing Brown’s trade value and losing his production in left field? Brown is unarguably better than Nix in all facets of the game, and exponentially better than Wigginton and Pierre would be in the same role. Even if the Phillies platooned Brown with Mayberry, their production in left field would be better than it has been since Raul Ibanez in the first half of the 2009 season.
Ruben Amaro said that, unless Brown had an amazing spring training, the left fielder would start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Brown situation has been a subject of much debate, but it is evident that the Phillies would be much better off breaking camp with Brown in left field, even in a platoon.