The problem is that while some of his numbers have been incredibly consistent in recent years, others have jumped around quite a bit, making him a seemingly impossible guy to project.
Is that really the case, though?
- Games Played
Phillips has averaged 151 games played over the last five years, only coming short of that number once (147 in 2012). Never make the mistake of discounting the dependability of games played. It’s not quite like shortstop where top guys like Tory Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes are all well acquainted with the DL, but at a thin position like 2B, a strong sense that you’ll get something around 150 games is a very good thing.
The unfortunate part of this is that there’s really no way to project when it’s going to change. Phillips will be 33 in June so it’s not like anyone would be stunned if he missed some time. It’s one of those things that you need to call a positive until it proves to not be the case. Right now, there’s no reason to project Phillips at anything under 150 or so games.
- Home Runs
Nobody will mistake Brandon Phillips for Robinson Cano, but he certainly brings plenty of pop to the plate. Actually, we’ll soon find out that there are a lot of questions around Phillips, but not only is power not one of them, but he’s been pretty precise.
Brandon Phillips: 2010-2013 HR Totals
A little consistency from veterans is nice, as they don’t tend to have the high ceilings that some of the younger guys do. From a power-scarce position like 2B, that’s a nice thing to count on — unless we’re talking about Dan Uggla.
It would be a little too easy to project another 18 home run season, but somewhere in the 15-20 range is pretty reasonable, isn’t it?
Okay, no doubt that RBI totals are a little hard to project. It would appear even more so since in those four consecutive seasons of 18 homers, his RBI totals were 59 in 2010, 82 in 2011, 77 in 2012, and 103 in 2013. A deviation of 59-103 is pretty immense.
But according to MLB Depth Charts, Phillips is again looking to clean up for the Reds, batting right in front of Joey Votto. The cleanup spot in a good order at a good park is a good spot for RBI production.
Now, projecting 103 would be incredibly optimistic and I’m not going there. But the average RBI total over the last four seasons comes in at just over 80, right in the 2011 and 2012 zone. I feel pretty good about that, and that’s a fine total for a 2B.
- Batting Average
If you’re a big fan of Brandon Phillips, you may point to the fact that he batted .300 in 2011 and .281 in 2012. Those seasons just weren’t that long ago and those are hardly bad averages, especially for a second baseman with power. That’s all nice, but looking at those averages and Phillips’ Fangraphs page, I can’t help but notice a few trends that are anything but good.
The steadily decreasing line-drive rates that were never that extraordinary to begin with along with the increase in strikeouts in 2013 suggest that the .261 average is more fitting. The .261 batting average might be a little low, but those numbers indicate that the .281 average was a lucky and the .300 average is even luckier. I wouldn’t bank on anything higher than .270 and realistically, I’d probably project him closer to .260 again.
- Stolen Bases
Another one that was once a strong suit, but it kind of works as a trade-off for RBI above. Moving to the middle of the order will make his RBI totals in a good lineup more bankable, but he’s not going to be called upon to do a lot of running.
So, while a drop from 16 steals in 2010, 14 in 2011, and 15 in 2012 to 5 in 2013 would appear to be a bit of a freak occurrence, it’s really not. When you weigh his place in the batting order with the fact that Phillips will be 33 this summer, it’s hard to project many steals for Phillips.
Maybe 5 is a little low, but I wouldn’t count on even 10 from him in 2014.
Much like RBI, runs are an especially challenging category to project. Unless Phillips goes yard, he’s depending on someone else to drive him in. Sure, his ability to get around the bases depends a lot on his skills as a base-runner but ultimately, someone has to drive him in. Groundbreaking stuff, I know, but I’m sure you can all follow that.
You also never like seeing a stat decrease steadily every year in a four-year window, and that is the case with Phillips and runs, scoring 100 times in 2010, 94 in 2011, 86 in 2012, and 80 in 2013.
So, why is this questionable and not a flat out negative?
Well, fellow Crackerjack Writer Will Meadows went over how steady a power hitter Jay Bruce is and while Ryan Ludwick is in a bit of a decline, his return will give Brandon Phillips another quality hitter behind him.
So while the decrease has been steady, it’s not exactly reliable to continue again in 2014, especially if he’s still on the Reds. But, what if he’s not?
- His status on the Reds
Will Brandon Phillips be a member of the Reds next year? If so, will he be there all year? According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees rejected a Phillips for Brett Gardner deal back in December. While hardly a rumor, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com suggested that a Yankees trade for Phillips may make sense in light of Alex Rodriguez being suspended for all of 2014.
Now, Phillips has had some pretty dramatic home/road splits in individual years over the last four seasons but believe it or not, they come pretty close to evening out. So, the idea of a possible trade away from Cincinnati’s hitter-favorable ballpark and lineup — which has been talked about for much of the off-season — isn’t terrifying, but it raises some questions about some of the projections.
Still, when someone has an incredibly consistent thing going, you never want to see that shaken up. How much better is it really going to get for him if he’s moved to another team?
It may not be much worse, either, but while the idea isn’t terrifying, it’s not inviting either.
I normally like to come up with my own projections at this time of the year. But when I saw what Crackerjack Contributor Tanner Bell of Smart Fantasy Baseball came up with for Brandon Phillips for 2014.
Brandon Phillips 2014 Fantasy Projections
With the possible of exception of a few extra homers, these particular projections look pretty good. Then again, 18 is a pretty good projection for Phillips. When I’m scouting Phillips as a potential member of my fantasy teams, these are the numbers I’ll ride with. I suggest you do something similar.