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Community Projection: Travis Ishikawa

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Before the 2008 season started, I would have put money that the any of the following players would get more at-bats in a San Francisco Giants uniform than Travis Ishikawa would:

Lance Niekro
Phil Niekro
Phil Nevin
Neve Campbell
Campbell G. Soupmonger, IV

Ishikawa was finished as a prospect. Done. He had a .314 on-base percentage between Connecticut and San Jose in 2007, which followed a .313 on-base percentage for Connecticut in 2006. This all came after a 2005 season in which Ishikawa hit .282/.387/.531 as a 21-year-old for San Jose. He was a pretty spiffy prospect for us back then before the…unpleasantness.

Ishikawa started 2008 just as miserably, hitting .205/.312/.289 in the cold Connecticut air. Suggested playlist: Engelbert Humperdinck’s "Release Me." Ishikawa was considered a second-round talent entering the 2002 draft, but his commitment to Oregon State scared teams away. The Giants drafted Ishikawa in the late rounds and paid him close to a million dollars to buy out his commitment. That’s a strategy that I’ve always wanted the Giants to do more often – it’s how the Red Sox landed Lars Andersen, for example – so it was a shame that the Ishikawa experiment failed. Oh, well, back to the dr…

And then something clicked. Ishikawa hit .330/.425/.479 for his AA team in May and .351/.409/.684 in June. By the time he was promoted to the majors, Ishikawa hit .310/.370/.737 in 171 AAA at-bats, including a ridiculous .463/.510/1.171 line in August. He did okay in the majors when he was called up. Nothing spectacular, and maybe the contact numbers weren’t that encouraging, but he didn’t embarrass himself.

Now Ishikawa is the opening day starter, which is something that would have been inconceivable ten months ago. How much stock should we put in 300 minor league at-bats? Collectively, they’re the only argument for Ishikawa even being in the majors. But, man, did Ishikawa have a run last year. He did it for the right organization at the right time – if someone tells Roberto Petagine about this, Ishikawa will probably get a dead possum in the mail.

How in the heck do you make a projection for someone like Ishikawa? CHONE has him as a .248/.322/.432 hitter, and Bill James has him at .271/.340/.476. Before you get too excited, though, note that James’s system would probably have a similar projection for Kirk Rueter. ZiPS has Ishikawa down for .242/.300/.431, and PECOTA comes up with .246/.320/.440. Reasonable projections, all.

I’m going to err on the side of fanboy, though, and go with something closer to PECOTA’s 60th-percentile projection. A week ago, I probably would have agreed with ZiPS’s .242/.300/.431, but, what the heck, it’s spring.

Travis Ishikawa

AB: 420
HR: 17
AVG: .258
OBP: .337
SLG: .459
Starting 1B in 2010: Yes