Who Should Start at SS? / Jordy Mercer’s 2014 Projection

Will Jordy Mercer‘s bat provide more value than Clint Barmes‘ glove in 2014? That is the question to which I will be attempting to provide a reasonably estimated answer over the next two days. I will start with a projection for Jordy Mercer.

At age 26, Mercer’s most comparable hitters are A.J. Pollock of the Diamondbacks, Devin Mesoraco of the Reds, Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs, and Pete Whisenant, who played for the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, and Redlegs from 1952 through 1961. Of those four, only Schierholtz is relevant to Mercer’s age-27, 2014 season. Pollack and Mesoraco have not yet reached the age of 27. And Whisenant only had 98 plate appearances at 27, in which he posted a .706 OPS – in the ancient baseball history of 1957.

Here are Shierholtz’s and Mercer’s numbers at ages 25-26:

Shierholtz  /  Mercer

PA:  560  /  433

BB%:  6.4%  /  6.0%

K%:  17.1%  /  17.6%

HR:  8  /  9

Average: .256  /  .273

On-Base Percentage:  .306  /  .325

Slugging Percentage:  .385  /  .425

OPS:  .691  /  .750

BABIP:  .296  /  .317

(You may be asking how a player with a .691 OPS can be one of the most comparable hitters to a player with a .750 OPS. And it’s a good, reasonable question that I should be required to answer. Here goes:

When determining player comparables, I only look at BB%, K%, HR%, Plate Appeaarances and Age because I believe those are the statistics which are most predictive of future performance. I do not consider BABIP or the player’s batting line.)

Mercer will be 27 in 2014, so, I find it interesting to take a look at Schierholtz’s age-27 numbers, but it is such a small amount of information that I am not using it in my Mercer Projection.

In 2011, at age-27, Nate Schierholtz hit .278/.326/.430 — .756 OPS, with 9 home runs in 362 plate appearances. His walk rate was 5.8% and he struck out in 16.9% of his plate appearances. His BABIP was .315. Again, that is a small amount of information upon which to base a projection. But . . . getting that from Jordy Mercer in 2014 would be a big advantage for the Pirates – if his defense holds up.

Mercer hit .285/.336./435 — .771 OPS in 2013. That’s pretty darn good for a major league shortstop. But the Pirates don’t need him to do quite that well again and I am not projecting that he will. Here is my calculation of what Mercer should reasonably be expected to do in 2014:

PA:  400

BB%: 6.0%

K%: 17.5%

HR: 8

Average: .265

On-Base Percentage: .322

Slugging Percentage: .400

OPS: .722

BABIP: .307 – that’s a regression drop from his far-above average 2013 BABIP of .330. He might end up being a high BABIP hitter, but it’s too early in his career to project that.

Based on average base-running, slightly below average defense (which may be generous), and the  hitting numbers posted above, I project that Mercer will be 1.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2014.

I don’t how those projected numbers look to others. But I see it as good production for a starting major league shortstop. The MLB average batting line for the position last season was .254/.308/.372 — .680 OPS. So, I’m projecting Mercer to have an OPS that is 42 points above average for his position.

Steamer projects Mercer for a .705 OPS. Oliver has him at .723.

But the question remains; does Mercer’s projection for 2014 predict more value at SS than Clint Barmes will provide? . . . Stayed tuned . . . Barmes’ projection will be posted tomorrow . . . because I haven’t done it yet, this post is already at 561 words. . . and, well, I want you to come back again.


Note: I just can’t work up any interest at all in the A-Rod absurdity. I’d just like him to go away.


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