Chase Headley projected to be Padres WAR leader

Doug Pensinger

As shocking as it may be (and by shocking, I mean predictable), Chase Headley is predicted to be the best player on the San Diego Padres roster.

Every year, Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory projects Major League teams' success (or failure) for the following season.  The projections are based on computer simulations and past statistics coupled with overall league stats.  He has now been releasing his ZiPS projections on Fangraphs for two years, and you can find the San Diego Padres' projections in their entirety here. Of particular note is the projected WAR leader - Chase Headley.

While the 2013 season was supposed to be his follow-up on his way to super stardom, Headley struggled through injuries and a disappointing season that saw San Diego unexpectedly retaining the 29-year old third baseman into his final arbitration-eligible season.  There is a good possibility that Headley is still traded in the upcoming season, and if the ZiPS projection is any indication, the Padres may be able to get a decent haul.  However, there is still hope for a long-term deal.  Based on Headley's track record and the lack of productive third basemen in the league, San Diego may be willing to open their checkbooks.

According to the ZiPS projection, Headley will get 595 plate appearances, hit 16 home runs, and drive in 69 runs.  These are all conservative estimates likely a result of his poor 2013 season.  However, based on his career numbers, these aren't terribly unlikely.  The question everyone has to ask themselves is whether Headley is the 2012 version of himself or the light-hitting, but productive third baseman he had been the rest of his career.  ZiPS sees it as the latter. Headley is projected to lead the team with 3.9 WAR which is exactly what Chris Denorfia led the team with last season.

Of other interesting notes from the ZiPS projections, the Padres' pitching staff looks like it could be pretty good.  Of the projected starters, Cory Luebke is projected to have the lowest ERA at 3.15.  Of course, he is not likely to get many innings as he returns from injury.  ZiPS projects just 71 1/3 innings in 2014.  Ian Kennedy, on the other hand, should be the team's workhorse.  He is projected to finish with over 190 innings and a 3.49 ERA.  Overall, there is not a single Padres starter (of the main five) projected to have an ERA over 3.66.

Now on to the disclaimers.  Projections are just that.  Don't go selling offf all your things so that you can afford those Padres World Series tickets that are likely to come.  However, I tend to buy into the ZiPS projections more than others.  Given San Diego's track record, I do not see any projection on the list that stick out as completely absurd.

What do you think, oh faithful friar backer?

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