Christmas has come early for the Monkey because today I get to layout the projections for my "favorite" Angels player, the one, the only J.B. Shuck!
I promise to try and be nice. I will probably fail at keeping my promise, but it's the thought that counts, right? Buckle up, people. Here we go.
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only "meh")
What happened in 2013?
You want to know what happened in 2013? The Angels went to shit and J.B. Shuck, a non-roster invitee, somehow ended up getting 478 plate appearances. 478!!!!! That is just too many for such a limited player. I know that comes off as me hating on Shuck, but please understand, my issues is just that Shuck somehow managed to get so much playing time and that by virtue of lucking into so many at-bats, people think that he should continue to get so many at-bats.
The numbers show pretty clearly that Shuck is not the player you think he is. That is my other big problem with him, or rather the imaginary player many think he is. Yes, I know, Shuck hit .293, but he did that on a .325 BABIP, which is borderline unsustainable. That was the one thing he brought to the table on offense and it kind of worked in 2013, but without that he doesn't offer much else. Even on defense, he proved to be pretty lousy, once again betraying the narrative that he is a scrappy little guy that does all the little things right.
The only thing he does right is put the bat on the ball. That is it. End of list. FIN.
What do the projections think he will do in 2014?
Just look at those bar charts, it sure looks like regression to the mean is about to hit Shuck like a Mack truck.
As I alluded to in the previous section, much of Shuck's success in 2013 was predicated on him having a .325 BABIP, but the highest BABIP projected for him in 2014 is .308. That takes a big wet bite out of his production because he already has no power and none of the projection systems expect is walk rate to go up by very much. Even in the scenarios where his average goes down the least, he still barely musters a league average OBP. If league average on-base skills, no power, underutilized speed and poor defense is all he has to offer, that's kind of a problem.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
Oh, do I agree. I agree very much. The only way I see Shuck repeating or besting his 2013 season is if he goes back to walking at a double-digit rate like he did in the minors. That would make him a legitimate on-base threat. However, I have a hard time seeing that happening. Shuck's plate discipline is fine, but he has two things working against him. The first is that he has no power. When the worst thing that can happen to a pitcher is that the guy will slap a single through the hole, there is no disincentive to throw the ball over the plate.
The other problem is normally not a problem. Shuck has a very good ability to make contact. When he swung at balls in the strike zone last year, he made contact 96.2% of the time. He wasn't nearly as good out of the zone, but it goes to show that when Shuck swings, he usually puts the ball in play. That makes it pretty hard to get deep enough into counts to draw a walk. In turn, that makes it hard to have a quality OBP without hitting for a high average.
The rest of my projection for him is obviously harsh, but that is less an indictment on Shuck himself and more a comment on the role he will be playing. That role, hopefully, will be a small one. He won't be able to get consistent playing time if everyone stays healthy, which makes it hard to perform to the best of one's abilities. I envision him being utilized as for spot starts in the corner outfield and as a pinch-runner.
What are the known unknowns?
Really the only known unknown is playing time. Just this week, Josh Hamilton strained his calf, which suddenly puts Shuck in position to be in the Opening Day lineup, assuming that he makes the team. The latter part of that is probably a safe assumption. Shuck doesn't actually bring a lot to the table, but he is a guy the Angels know and that counts for something. Plus he has the advantage over his competition that he has pretty even platoon splits. He may not hit very well, but he hits equally as not well against both lefties and righties. Unless the Angels want to carry two bench outfielders like Collin Cowgill and Brennan Boesch, that should give Shuck a big leg up on the competition.
The next part of the question is would the Angels really allow Shuck to play so much again in 2014? Shuck is tolerable in a bench role, but it is hard to see how the Halos could think that they are a contending team if Shuck is going to get 300+ plate appearances. Of course, it isn't like they have a lot of better options to throw at the problem if Josh Hamilton or someone spends a month on the DL. I guess what I'm saying is that everyone better stay healthy or we are going to get a lot more Shuck than we ever hoped for.