Surprisingly, the Yankees' Captain has gone somewhat under the radar this offseason. He struggled through much of the first half of 2011, but after getting his 3000th hit on July 9th, he hit .338/.392/.451 the rest of the way (and a dreadful .257/.321/.329 before that). And it wasn't just BABIP driven (.294 vs. .388), as he doubled his line-drive rate in the latter half of the season. Perhaps the pressure of 3000 played on his mind...
Anyway, this is about looking forward.
A weighted average of the last three years (.5 x 2011, .3 x 2010, .2 x 2009) gives us the following projection for Derek Jeter's 2012: .296/.361/.398, 2 bWAR, 19 SB. Is there anyone who wouldn't take that going into the season? I sure as hell would.
Some other projections go as such:
PECOTA - .285/.349/.382, 18 SB
Bill James - .291/.360/.393, 15 SB
Marcel - .281/.343/.383, 17 SB
Zips - .268/.329/.362, 14 SB (Wow. Zips hates him.)
Averaging the projections gives us .281/.345/.380 and 16 SB. Unfortunately, that seems closer to what I believe Jeter will actually do in 2012 than the aforementioned three-year weighted average. (Should his 2011 second half surge affect the projections?) He'll certainly get his share of PA as the leadoff hitter, a duty he'll share with Brett Gardner.
As for his defense, it will probably be the same below average as always. While Jeter gets rightly criticized for lack of range, he is adept at fielding balls hit at/near him. And I don't mean that facetiously; his strength is "making the plays he's supposed to." He's not going to throw many balls into the stands or let grounders skip by him. That still doesn't make up for his severe lack of range though.
Jeter's been remarkably consistent in terms of playing time. 2011 was the first time in nine seasons that he didn't play 150+ games (that ghastly shoulder separation in Toronto was the last time he hit the DL). He missed more than 20 games with injury issues last year, but one thing you can generally count on with Jeter is health.
The Captain will be a Yankee for at least two more seasons (earning $33M), with an $8M player option for 2014 (with a $3M buyout). I feel like Jeter could really go in either direction this season - All-Star level or replacement level. Which is more likely?