Projections are tools, and like most tools, they're not perfect. No matter how many sources of information you use, no matter how advanced the data, there always will be some players with specific situations that a computer projection system will have trouble with. So one of the challenges I like to take on every year is to figure out where the computer is wrong and try to beat it. And in a world in which analytics rule, from teams to fantasy to gambling, trying to beat the algorithms becomes even more tempting.
So in my attempt to beat the projections, here are my favorite picks to do so for 2018. For each player, I'm providing their baseline ZiPS projection for 2018 as well.
Aging can be weird sometimes. For example, who would have thought seven or eight years ago that when we got to 2018, Albert Pujols would be the mediocre one-dimensional slugger while Nelson Cruz, only six months younger, would be coming off his fourth consecutive four-WAR season? People thought David Ortiz would age terribly, a prophecy that looked fulfilled when Ortiz struggled in 2009, but he came back and played at a star level for nearly a decade.
Projection systems tend to be fairly adept at dealing with the clear-cut injuries, such as a pitcher missing a year from Tommy John surgery. But in the case of Miguel Cabrera, he mostly played through two herniated discs in his back with the unsurprising negative effect on his overall stats. But how much of that was a normal decline phase and how much of it was the back problem? That may be an unanswerable question, but given Cabrera's history as one of baseball's biggest offensive forces, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt until his back flares up again.
I still wouldn't want to have the back end of his contract and injuries can always ruin this, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cabrera get back to a .300/.380/.550 season, enough to get up to 4.0 WAR and a return to All-Star status.