Projecting Chase Headley

My last article looked at Kevin Correia’s projection for 2010. As an approximately 4.00-ERA starter, and the #3 starter on this staff, Correia is the epitome of a solid but unspectacular major league pitcher.

I thought I’d look at the Padres’ position player version of solid but unspectacular, third baseman Chase Headley.

Headley’s .263/.340/.400 career line is about as average as it gets, and he plays a position (third base) that is right smack in the middle of the defensive spectrum.

It’s easy to think of Headley as a fully-formed baseball player, and it’s thus tempting to say he’s just a .260/.340/.400ish hitter from here on out. But it’s easy to forget he turns just 26 in May, so he likely has 1-3 years of development left in him. Furthermore, he’ll be an everyday third baseman for the first time in his career, and he’s been quoted that he’s more comfortable as a third baseman (not sure if that’ll actually make a statistical difference, but it can’t hurt).

From 2008, Headley improved his walk (8.2-10.1%) and strikeout (31.4-24.5%) rates considerably, a sign that he’s getting a better approach at the plate. He swung at more pitches in the zone (62.0-69.8%) and fewer out of the zone (26.3-21.8%), which suggests that he matured as a hitter. He also improved his contact rate considerably (72.7-77.6%). I’d expect his walk and strikeout rates to continue to move in positive directions.

The big red flag in Headley’s stats was a horrific drop in line drive rate last year (24.7-16.5%). This led to a big drop in BABIP as well (.364-.325). The decrease in hard-hit balls basically offset the increase in contact, so Headley’s batting average was in the .260s both years.

I’d expect a rebound there, but I doubt he gets all the way to 24% again; if he does, he’ll be a very good player. However, I’ll hedge my bets and say he gets to about 20%, which would likely keep his BABIP in the .330 range. That would put him around .275 in batting average.

As many players do at age 26, I’d expect Headley to hit a few more balls over the fence, particularly because it’s only his second full season. 20 homers might happen; I’d bet more on the 15-19 range.

I think it’ll all lead to a .275/.365/.425ish line, with average defense at third. He could chip in 10 steals.

Roughly, that’s about a 2 1/2 win player over the course of a full season–certainly a decent starter, but not a cornerstone.

Tags: Chase Headley Padres

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