I knowingly damaged my reputation as a blogger yesterday when I posted, for the world to see, my outrageous prediction of 100R, 252B-153B-15HR-30SB for Austin Jackson. It doesn’t matter is I used the word “IF” or said he could do it now or in two years, I said he could do it and I typed the numbers out in a 2012 prediction series and I stand behind them.
I happen to think A Jax is a pretty good ballplayer. His sophomore campaign saw him off the base paths a few more times than his career numbers indicate he is capable of. He’s also going to be batting in front of Brennan Boesch the whole year (allegedly), a guy that a lot of national writers are picking as a potential breakout player for this season.
Since making the team out of spring training in 2010 (the same year as Jackson) Boesch has been a bit of an unknown commodity in the Detroit lineup. Never a true prospect, he popped out of nowhere in 2009 when in AA Erie he hit 28 homers and had 93 RBI. He’s got a gorgeous swing from the left side of the plate and he has the body of a power hitter. But in the two years he’s been in the big leagues he’s been a borderline player that “could” breakout and has a ton of “potential”
The bottom line is this: Brennan Boesch is going into his age 27 season and will bat in front of Miguel Cabrera for the bulk of the year. A fastball hitter, who will see a ton of fastballs, you can see why he is a popular player in the realms of potential breakout players.
What he needs to work on
The former 3rd round pick out of Santa Monica, CA has averaged just under 500 plate appearances in both years with Detroit. Last year he increased his HR and OBP while playing in 18 fewer games due to an injury to his right thumb in early August (he was on pace to play nearly 150 games, which would have seen him shatter pretty much every other stat from his rookie campaign as well).
Besides staying healthy, Boesch’s one glaring flaw is his on base percentage. His .341 clip was respectable last year, but a bit of an outlier in terms of his past performances. In 2010 it was .320. In 2009 in AA it was .318. In 2008 in high A it was .310, and in 2007, in low A, it was .297.
That’s a bit of a concerning pattern for someone batting in the two hole, a place you would normally anticipate having a few more walks out of.
What he needs to do to improve
For starters, he needs to lay of the long looping curveball that has taunted him on so many occasions. If he can be more patient with the off speed stuff, his walk rate could slowly improve. But as someone who hasn’t shown any indication that he can lay off those types of pitches, I’ll remain pessimistic about his OBP being higher than .325 in 2012.
Last year against right handers, Boesch had 363 plate appearances and 15 of his 16 home runs. However his 21 walks resulted in a .331 on base percentage. Against lefties, and remember Boesch is a left handed batter, he had 109 plate appearances and 14 walks, which resulted in a .376 on base percentage.
The year before, his numbers were very similar. In 390 plate appearances against right handers, he had 29 walks for a .303 on base percentage. He came to the plate 108 times against lefties, walked 11 times and had a .377 on base percentage.
For some reason Boesch does better against lefties. You attribute that to focus or intensity, or whatever you want, but if he can somehow apply that same approach against righties and become a more rounded hitter, then his value will increase exponentially.
What he will do
PECOTA sees Boesch with a .315 on base percentage this year. They see over 15 homers and 70 RBI, over 65 runs and him being slightly above replacement level. Those aren’t exactly the stats you want to see from your number two hitter.
The 30 HR 100 RBI narrative a few people have pegged him for is a bit astronomical for his past performances.
Bill James projections have him at 17 HR in 409 at bats, RotoChamps have him at 17 as well, but in 475 at bats. Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory has him at 17 HR in 484 at bats.
So, yeah, I’ll be surprised if he clears 20 homers and 80 RBI, but the key to him having a successful year comes back to his on base percentage.
If he can even raise his OBP against right handed pitchers, his chance for breakout improves tenfold. I’d like to see him get on more than 35% of the time, and while he is in a good position to do it, I will remain on the “wait and see” side of the fence before I jump over the rails and onto the breakout bandwagon.
Walkoff Woodward Bubblegum Card Prediction: