In perusing Jonah Keri's preview of the 2012 Braves, I was struck by the Bill James projection for Tyler Pastornicky: .261 batting average, .311 on-base percentage, and a .463 slugging percentage. The first two seemed reasonable, but the third jumped out at me. If I were a Georgia football player, I would not eat any brownies offered by Bill James. Between AA and AAA last year, Pastornicky slugged .414. Previously, he had never slugged higher than .376 at any of his minor league stops. I get that Tyler is entering his age 22 season and we can expect him to add power as he matures, but James's projection contemplates a significant addition of power while moving from the minors to the majors.
James projects a .774 OPS for Pastornicky. To understand how great (and unlikely) that would be, look at the recent history of Braves shortstops:
2011 - Alex Gonzalez - .642
2010 - Alex Gonzalez - .676; Yunel Escobar - .618
2009 - Yunel Escobar - .812
2008 - Yunel Escobar - .766
2007 - Yunel Escobar - .837; Edgar Renteria - .860
2006 - Edgar Renteria - .797
2005 - Rafael Furcal - .777
2004 - Rafael Furcal -.758
2003 - Rafael Furcal -.794
2002 - Rafael Furcal -.710
2001 - Rafael Furcal -.691
2000 - Rafael Furcal -.776; Walt Weiss - .665
1999 - Walt Weiss - .637; Ozzie Guillen - .605; Jose Hernandez - .675
Put in perspective, James is projecting that Pastornicky is going to have almost the same OPS as Rafael Furcal did when he was the 2000 Rookie of the Year. Pastornicky would be a massive upgrade at the plate over Alex Gonzalez, although that's not exactly hard to do.
In case you can't tell from my tone, I don't buy this projection at all. Baseball Prospectus's prediction is more in line with my expectations: .249 batting average, .288 on-base percentage, .334 slugging percentage. My fear/prediction is that we are going to be in the same place at shortstop that we were in center field in 2009, where Jordan Schafer was struggling at the plate (albeit with an undisclosed injury) and the Braves were casting about for potential solutions at a premium defensive position. I hope I'm wrong. If I'm not, then the Braves are going to continue to pay for selling low on Yunel in the deal that brought Pastornicky in the first place. Yunel had better have been a Steve Smith-level cancer in the clubhouse to justify that move.