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Elegy for ’18 – New York Yankees

The Yankees may not have won the World Series in 2018, but they’re set up for a long run of success.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Until three of the team’s four postseason starters got knocked out early by the eventual-champion Red Sox, the 2018 Yankees had a successful season. Giancarlo Stanton’s first season in New York may have been a disappointment relative to his MVP 2017, and the rotation required some midseason triage, but the team managed their first hundred-win season since 2009. And thankfully, they did not lose in the wild card game and thus highlight the weirdness in baseball design of combining wild cards with an unbalanced schedule.

The Setup

The early part of the 2017 offseason was wrapped up in the grand hunt for Giancarlo Stanton, a player far more interesting than nearly every free agent actually available for signing. After a number of false starts and mystery teams and trade clauses not-waived, the Yankees came out on top in the race for not-Michael. And unusually when picking up a superstar, it was actually better than simply signing a comparable player in free agency, with the Yankees able to shed Starlin Castro’s salary and only lose two prospects (only one, Jorge Guzman, was a top 10 prospect for the Marlins according to our very own Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel).

The obsession with the luxury tax ensnared several of the larger-payroll teams over the 2017-2018 winter, and the Yankees were one of the chief actors in this little mini-play. We can argue endlessly about whether the current luxury tax system is well-designed (it isn’t) or whether it serves as a soft salary cap (it does), but it is the system in place and staying under the threshold for a year in order to “reset” the penalty rate provides a tremendous financial motivation to go cheap in the short-term.

The desire to reset the luxury tax penalty heading into an offseason in which Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and possibly Clayton Kershaw were set to hit free agency was strong, and both of New York’s other significant offseason trades reflected this urge. Chase Headley, a perfectly average third baseman for the Yankees, enough to make him a much better signing than rival Boston’s similar deal with Pablo Sandoval, was sent packing to San Diego in a pure salary dump; the Yankees gave the Padres Bryan Mitchell as compensation for taking Headley’s contract. Any notion that this wasn’t a move designed to trim payroll, that the Padres just really wanted Headley, is undermined by the fact that his new-old team gave him nine starts before sending him to the unemployment line, where Headley spent the rest of 2019.

A three-way trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays netted the Yankees Brandon Drury, who was basically brought in to fill the Headley role of a stopgap until Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar; he was made as expendable as a secondary henchman objecting to the antagonist’s devious plot in a James Bond film by the second week of the season.

The Yankees spent all of $14 million on one-year contracts for CC Sabathia and Neil Walker, a far cry from a decade prior, when they guaranteed more than $800 million in contracts after the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Only 2015-2016, when the team’s biggest signing was Chris Denorfia, was quieter.

The Projection

The ZiPS projection system pegged the Yankees as two games better than the Red Sox, with just under a 60% chance of winning the division. ZiPS expected the AL East division title to essentially be yet another Yankees-Red Sox battle, with only a 4% chance of one of The Others of surprising enough to take the division. ZiPS was confident about the Yankees’ offense, seeing most of the unknown as a matter how quickly Andujar and Torres would have full-time jobs and how effectively the Yankees would continue to yank Jacoby Ellsbury’s playing time. The bullpen was projected to be the best bullpen that ZiPS ever projected. The computer’s main worry was the back of the rotation, which the computer did not see as very deep should something happened to one of Sabathia, Sonny Gray, or Jordan Montgomery.

The Results

Oddly enough for a team that won 100 games, it felt like the Yankees had more than their fair share of disappointments. Some of the fears about the rotation came to pass; Gray’s command was a tire fire in the first half and Montgomery’s season — and most, if not all, of 2019 — ended in June with Tommy John surgery. Neither Domingo German or Luis Cessa proved to be ready for a rotation spot on a win-now team, and the surprising Jonathan Loaisiga was yanked from the rotation with shoulder pain, leaving the team with obvious back-rotation holes going into the trade deadline.

Unlike a team like the Giants, who could never have made a significant midseason addition without going over the luxury tax threshold (they only had a $300,000 cushion at one point), the Yankees left themselves some space to make move that would require them taking on salary. It was enough space that the team was able to add Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ for the stretch run, and pick up Zach Britton from the Orioles to make a deep bullpen even deeper. None of these moves ended up changing the team’s postseason fate, as New York fell short in the contest for the division, but they might have if the team had gone deeper into the playoffs than they actually did.

As projected by ZiPS, the team set a new all-time record for team home runs in a season with 267, though to be honest, that result wasn’t particularly surprising. But even the second-ranked scoring offense in the AL has some plans go awry. Gary Sanchez, who had established himself as a star-level catcher in his first 1 1/2 seasons in the majors, lost a hundred points of batting average, finishing at .186/.291/.406 (he was Rob Deer-like in that he still was worth 1.4 WAR in 89 games). Further marring his season was the charge that he lacked hustle, which, combined with a groin injury, led to weeks of conspiracy theory about his health status.

Stanton also has to be considered at least a mild disappointment, dropping to 38 home runs and a 127 wRC+ from 59 and 159 his final year with the Marlins. Now, it would be greedy to focus too much on this dip — complaining about a 4.2 WAR player is a high class problem to have — but the fact remains that the Yankees did not get as much from their newly acquired star as they would have liked to see. Greg Bird managed to stay healthy for the second-half of the year, but also managed to stay around replacement level, resulting in him mostly losing his job to Luke Voit.

Those disappointments, even when combined with the Brett Gardner starting to show his age, turned out not to really matter. Aaron Hicks can rightly be described as a legitimate All-Star, which still seems a little strange to 2016 Dan, but that’s the world we’re in now. Andujar and Torres finished second and third in the Rookie of the Year voting (I would have flipped them given Andujar’s poor defense). Aaron Judge’s regression toward the mean indicated his mean was pretty damn high.

One interesting note is that ZiPS never actually knocked the Yankees down behind the Red Sox in projections. Even with the eight-game cushion at the end of the season, ZiPS still saw the Yankees as a sliver better than the Red Sox, though you wouldn’t have known it from their four-game playoff series.

What Comes Next?

In the early offseason, the Yankees have played the “Golly gee, I don’t know, the root cellar needs a’fixin’ and I’m not sure we have the money for those big city fancies with grandpa’s water on the knee” card publicly when it comes to the cream of this year’s free agent crop. This is hardly unusual this winter; most of the big spending teams, including the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cubs, have all been mumbling this storyline with only a few variations on the theme. Only the Phillies, with their talk of “stupid money” have really broken ranks.

That’s not to say the team has done nothing, but the moves they’ve made have largely been keeping the band together. Gardner and Sabathia, two primary remaining holdovers from the team’s prior core, will return in 2019 on one-year deals. Happ, who stabilized the back of the rotation in late summer, returns in that role for two more years.

The team also made one of the bigger trades this winter, picking up James Paxton from the rebuilding Seattle Mariners for a package led by Justus Sheffield. With a rotation that now looks like Luis SeverinoMasahiro Tanaka-Paxton-Happ-Sabathia in 2019, I think at least when it comes to the pitching, the Yankees will have a quiet rest of their offseason.

Otherwise, I’m not so sure that the impression the team has given of only dipping their toes into free agency is just posturing. Ten years ago, I’d have cried total bull, but with even large-market teams seeming generally less interested in splashing cash than they have been at any point I can remember as a baseball fan (I’m 40), I’m not really sure right now. Bryce Harper or Manny Machado ought to be a fit, as would someone like Brian Dozier to fill-in at second with Torres presumably at short while Didi Gregorius recovers from surgery, but I just don’t know if the team’s hinted lack of interest is genuine or not.

There’s a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma going on with the Red Sox and Yankees, both teams that ought to be in the top three in MLB in 2019, in that both of them spending $200 million might not advantage either over a scenario in which both spend very little. What actually happens is one of the most interesting questions remaining this winter. The Yankees will be a very good team in 2019, but I’m quite unsure how much they’ll open up their ceiling this offseason.

ZiPS Projection – Giancarlo Stanton

How much will Stanton bounce-back from a weak-ish 2019? How beneficial would it be for him to opt out after 2020? How high can he get in the all-time home run rankings? These are questions, naturally, for the ZiPS-o-matic 5000.

No, I’m not actually calling it that.

ZiPS Projections – Giancarlo Stanton
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .255 .344 .557 564 98 144 27 1 47 121 72 198 4 135 5 4.6
2020 .254 .344 .563 544 96 138 28 1 46 119 72 195 3 137 5 4.5
2021 .251 .343 .550 533 92 134 28 1 43 113 71 187 3 133 5 4.1
2022 .255 .346 .555 517 90 132 27 1 42 111 68 174 3 135 4 4.1
2023 .249 .341 .538 498 84 124 25 1 39 102 66 165 3 130 4 3.6
2024 .245 .335 .510 478 76 117 23 1 34 92 61 152 3 122 3 2.9
2025 .240 .326 .482 454 69 109 21 1 29 81 55 137 3 112 3 2.1
2026 .235 .317 .452 429 60 101 19 1 24 71 48 120 2 103 2 1.3
2027 .230 .306 .421 378 49 87 16 1 18 57 38 96 2 92 2 0.6
2028 .222 .290 .381 257 30 57 9 1 10 34 23 59 1 78 1 -0.1

ZiPS is more negative on Stanton than I had expected. It isn’t thrilled by his step backwards in plate discipline from 2017, now seeing Stanton with a higher chance at going down that “old player skills” career path than establishing a high-enough level for a more graceful decline phase. A lot of players who didn’t age particularly well have crept up in his similarity group, with names like Rudy York, Jack Clark, Jay Buhner, Richie Sexson, and Boog Powell all in the top ten. That gets Stanton up to 637 home runs, but like Pujols, has him petering out before he seriously gets into the Ruth/Aaron/Bonds battle.


Domingo Santana Heads to Seattle

No doubt partially out of a sense of jealousy at watching other teams make trades Friday without making one of his own, Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle Mariners added a veteran, picking up outfielder Domingo Santana from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Ben Gamel and pitcher Noah Zavolas.

After acquiring Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain last offseason, the Brewers faced a bit of a roster crunch when it came to the outfield. On pure merit, it made the most sense for Ryan Braun to see his role shrink coming into the season, but seriously reducing their longtime franchise player’s playing time was something I don’t believe the front office was ever seriously considering. Braun would get some at-bats at first to spell Eric Thames, and between that and various days off and possible injury stints for the quartet, Santana would get playing time and everybody would be happy. And if that didn’t work out, Santana was coming off a .278/.371/.505 age-24 season that could help snag the Brewers a starting pitcher.

Everything worked out quite well for the Brewers, but not so much for Santana. The team was able to juggle the five players in question quite well in the early going, enough to get Santana 24 starts in April, though that was aided by Yelich’s sore oblique that sent him to the ten-day DL. It would be hard to claim that Santana did much with his April playing time, only hitting .237/.321/.269 with no homers. Thames’s thumb injury required the Brewers to have a full-timer at first, and with Jesus Aguilar made the absolute most of the opportunity and the outfield healthy, Santana’s playing time dropped quickly. The return of Thames created another roster crunch and Santana, with an option year available, spent July and August starting for Colorado Springs. He was called up in September, but purely as a reserve and only got a single start for the month.

The Brewers would have had a lot more difficulty trading Santana for a pitcher at this point, so rather than pay him to be a role player, they sent him over to the Mariners for a less expensive role player who can cover center field. Santana’s still relatively young and with three years to go until free agency, he’s more interesting than a pillow contract for a one-year reclamation projection. Even hanging onto Mitch Haniger, Santana likely starts in a corner for Seattle as there’s simply far more promise in his future than that of Jay Bruce.

As Eric Longenhagen noted to me, Zavolas is a former college starter with a low-90s fastball who changes speed well but is missing a solid breaking pitch. Harvard alumni will likely appreciate Zavolas for having thrown a no-hitter against Yale back in April, but he smells a lot like an organizational player to me. He got good results in his debut in the minors, but a 22-year-old ought to be crushing the Northwest League.

From a pure “this is what they project” standpoint, Santana and Gamel come out fairly evenly. I still believe that Santana has some upside remaining, but it will have to involve some kind of improvement in his plate discipline. Santana swung at more bad pitches in 2018 than in 2017, and what’s especially troubling is that unlike some bad-ball swingers, he’s actually quite poor at making contact with the out-of-zone pitches, 14 percentage points worse than the league average in 2018. It feels like there’s a really good player hidden away somewhere in Santana should he adopt a better approach at the plate, but finding that can’t be assured and none of his three previous organizations were able to make him into a better hitter.

ZiPS Projections – Domingo Santana
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .231 .329 .430 437 58 101 19 1 22 57 60 187 6 109 -2 1.5
2020 .232 .331 .436 427 58 99 19 1 22 57 60 184 5 111 -3 1.6
2021 .223 .327 .430 421 57 94 19 1 22 55 61 187 5 108 -3 1.4

ZiPS Projections – Ben Gamel
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .267 .331 .413 479 65 128 27 8 9 53 44 108 10 96 2 1.3
2020 .261 .327 .411 394 53 103 23 6 8 43 37 91 8 95 2 0.9
2021 .263 .329 .418 373 51 98 22 6 8 41 35 83 7 97 1 0.9
2022 .263 .328 .419 365 49 96 21 6 8 41 34 80 7 97 1 0.9

2019 ZiPS Projections – Philadelphia Phillies

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for more than half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Batters

Even before the end-of-season collapse, Philadelphia’s offense wasn’t its strong suit. The team finished 11th in runs scored, 10th in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging percentage, and didn’t put up a team OPS of .730 over any individual month of the season. Rhys Hoskins was the only member of the offense who was a real significant plus for the team — if we’re not counting the brief stint of Wilson Ramos — but he turned out to be quite dreadful defensively. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but -11 runs in the outfield by UZR and an almost amusing -24 by BIS was far from the adequate-big-guy-in-outfield the team crossed their fingers for, being more akin to Todd Hundley if forced to wear a pegleg. Fitting the disappointing Carlos Santana’s bat in the lineup wasn’t worth that defensive hit.

Hoskins’s projection looks more normal back at first base, and the Phillies’ big acquisitions so far this offseason — the trade for Jean Segura and the signing of Andrew McCutchen — should give the team the legitimate above-average performances they sorely needed without forcing anyone to play grossly out-of-position. But the team’s still missing, as Jack Donaghy said on 30 Rock, the third kind of heat. Unlikes the Braves, who have graduated Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies to the majors in the last couple of years, the Phillies can only get such a boost with the power of splashing cash. Either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado slide into the lineup quite nicely. But the uncertainty of signing them (other teams can make bids, after all; you can’t just go to the Bryce Harper Store and pick up as many as you can pay $350 million) made McCutchen and Segura crucial additions.

Pitchers

Outside of Aaron Nola, a pitcher with whom ZiPS has had a long obsession, ZiPS just isn’t that excited about the team’s rotation. It’s solidly average, yes, but a question mark surrounds most of the non-Nola starting talent. Jake Arrieta in particular takes a big hit in the projections, with ZiPS seeing his nearly 20% decline in strikeouts as a troubling sign. Which, historically, it has been.

On the other hand, the bullpen, despite the lack of eye-popping names a team like the Yankees possesses, projects as a deep, competent group with a lot of extra parts.

Bench and Prospects

In the sense of 2019 reinforcements, among the hitters, ZiPS only sees 2017 first-rounded Adam Haseley as having the potential to contribute to the parent team. Haseley projects as a worse offensive player than Dylan Cozens, but also has more defensive versatility, which might be important for a team not blessed with terribly exciting outfield depth. Speaking of that depth, I can’t blame the computer for not knowing what to make of Aaron Altherr at this point. I’m not sure what to make of him either, what with his Ryan Raburn-esque pattern of alternating overachieving and underachieving seasons. ZiPS has all but written off Mickey Moniak as a prospect.

Sixto Sanchez just missed getting a projection this year due to my dislike of projecting pitchers with no experience in the high minors, but he’s probably still the best bet on the roster for a nice surprise, and I may need to project him by midseason. ZiPS has a cyber-crush on former MLB pitcher’s son Luke Leftwich and while the team’s deep set of relievers means he’ll face an uphill battle for a roster spot, he’s at least a name that other teams should be paying attention to if they need to fill out the back of their bullpens.

One pedantic note for 2019: for the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth chart playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here at site.

Batters – Counting Stats
Player B Age PO G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Rhys Hoskins R 26 1B 150 546 92 137 30 2 34 113 79 155 5 3
Andrew McCutchen R 32 RF 145 533 82 136 27 2 25 80 82 144 11 7
Jean Segura R 29 SS 147 600 86 174 30 4 14 61 31 80 22 10
Odubel Herrera L 27 CF 155 568 72 150 28 4 19 66 42 137 11 4
Cesar Hernandez B 29 2B 155 566 82 148 19 6 11 49 79 133 19 7
Asdrubal Cabrera B 33 SS 139 503 65 135 30 2 21 70 40 107 2 1
Nick Williams L 25 RF 143 500 66 128 23 5 21 75 32 151 5 4
Maikel Franco R 26 3B 141 511 61 133 26 1 23 86 36 86 1 0
Mitch Walding L 26 3B 122 409 54 80 15 3 17 54 55 193 2 2
Adam Haseley L 23 CF 117 464 56 117 16 5 10 47 30 96 6 5
Scott Kingery R 25 SS 140 509 62 121 25 4 12 50 29 134 15 4
Damek Tomscha R 27 3B 116 424 49 102 19 1 11 47 28 93 2 1
Aaron Altherr R 28 RF 114 362 48 79 19 3 14 59 42 127 7 3
Andrew Knapp B 27 C 91 287 35 62 13 2 8 30 35 108 1 1
Jose Bautista R 38 RF 124 395 62 81 19 0 16 54 67 128 4 3
Jorge Alfaro R 26 C 106 385 39 87 16 2 11 42 18 151 2 1
Trevor Plouffe R 33 3B 92 305 38 66 14 1 12 38 35 95 2 1
Dean Anna L 32 2B 115 413 49 98 16 3 3 29 41 67 5 4
Dylan Cozens L 25 RF 122 422 59 85 17 2 23 72 48 206 10 4
Will Middlebrooks R 30 3B 80 276 31 59 11 2 13 38 15 91 1 1
Deivi Grullon R 23 C 98 365 40 85 15 1 16 48 17 107 0 0
Jesmuel Valentin B 25 2B 98 301 36 67 13 3 6 28 30 78 3 1
Roman Quinn R 26 CF 76 274 32 65 10 5 5 25 23 80 21 7
Collin Cowgill R 33 CF 94 292 34 59 11 1 8 28 24 89 3 2
Matt McBride R 34 C 69 231 29 52 14 1 9 30 18 55 1 1
Logan Moore L 28 C 68 220 22 41 7 1 5 19 22 78 0 0
Austin Listi R 25 1B 116 419 52 93 18 2 14 50 42 126 1 0
Danny Ortiz L 29 LF 118 410 46 92 21 2 14 57 19 112 2 2
Phil Gosselin R 30 2B 112 302 34 68 14 2 5 26 23 75 1 2
Ryan Goins L 31 SS 108 312 31 68 14 2 5 31 23 84 3 2
Heiker Meneses R 27 2B 74 241 21 47 6 1 1 12 14 80 4 4
Jiandido Tromp R 25 RF 113 404 43 83 18 3 11 44 28 145 6 5
Arquimedes Gamboa B 21 SS 114 448 45 86 13 4 7 35 41 136 6 3
Jose Pujols R 23 RF 119 439 49 87 13 3 17 51 36 211 2 3
Cornelius Randolph L 22 LF 124 448 48 98 18 2 9 41 42 137 3 4
Jan Hernandez R 24 RF 103 363 41 69 11 2 14 42 26 167 4 3
Mickey Moniak L 21 CF 125 476 45 102 22 4 8 44 23 143 6 8

 

Batters – Rate Stats
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
Rhys Hoskins .251 .351 .500 125 .249 .289 6.3 2 3.4 Eric Karros
Andrew McCutchen .255 .360 .454 117 .199 .305 5.9 -1 2.7 Tim Salmon
Jean Segura .290 .331 .423 101 .133 .316 5.4 -4 2.5 Julio Franco
Odubel Herrera .264 .321 .428 99 .164 .318 5.1 2 2.4 Terrence Long
Cesar Hernandez .261 .355 .375 97 .113 .325 5.0 -3 2.2 Jose Offerman
Asdrubal Cabrera .268 .325 .461 108 .193 .304 5.5 -12 1.7 Rich Aurilia
Nick Williams .256 .308 .448 100 .192 .326 4.9 2 1.3 Chris James
Maikel Franco .260 .309 .450 101 .190 .274 5.1 -7 1.2 Joe Crede
Mitch Walding .196 .297 .372 78 .176 .317 3.7 4 0.9 Tom Quinlan
Adam Haseley .252 .304 .373 81 .121 .299 4.0 1 0.7 Victor Mata
Scott Kingery .238 .283 .373 74 .136 .300 3.9 0 0.7 Rafael Ramirez
Damek Tomscha .241 .301 .368 79 .127 .284 3.9 2 0.7 Brennan King
Aaron Altherr .218 .308 .403 89 .185 .294 4.3 2 0.7 Brian Banks
Andrew Knapp .216 .304 .359 77 .143 .316 3.7 -1 0.5 Tom Wilson
Jose Bautista .205 .328 .375 89 .170 .259 4.1 -2 0.4 Greg Vaughn
Jorge Alfaro .226 .279 .364 71 .138 .341 3.5 0 0.4 Joel Skinner
Trevor Plouffe .216 .299 .387 82 .170 .273 4.0 -2 0.3 Reed Secrist
Dean Anna .237 .315 .312 70 .075 .277 3.4 2 0.3 Don Blasingame
Dylan Cozens .201 .284 .415 85 .213 .321 4.0 0 0.2 Shanie Dugas
Will Middlebrooks .214 .254 .409 74 .196 .267 3.5 2 0.2 Caonabo Cosme
Deivi Grullon .233 .268 .411 79 .178 .285 3.9 -5 0.2 Gilberto Reyes
Jesmuel Valentin .223 .297 .346 72 .123 .281 3.6 0 0.2 Doug Saunders
Roman Quinn .237 .300 .365 78 .128 .317 4.1 -3 0.1 Carlos Gomez
Collin Cowgill .202 .268 .329 59 .127 .262 2.9 4 -0.1 Alan Cockrell
Matt McBride .225 .285 .411 84 .186 .257 4.0 -7 -0.1 Mike Macfarlane
Logan Moore .186 .261 .295 49 .109 .263 2.6 3 -0.2 Tom Nieto
Austin Listi .222 .303 .375 81 .153 .283 4.0 -2 -0.3 Julio Vinas
Danny Ortiz .224 .260 .388 71 .163 .275 3.5 4 -0.4 Ray Ortiz
Phil Gosselin .225 .280 .334 64 .109 .284 3.2 -2 -0.5 Rodney Nye
Ryan Goins .218 .269 .324 58 .106 .283 3.0 -2 -0.5 Kevin Baez
Heiker Meneses .195 .247 .241 32 .046 .288 1.8 3 -1.0 Luke Sable
Jiandido Tromp .205 .261 .347 61 .141 .290 3.0 1 -1.1 Richie Robnett
Arquimedes Gamboa .192 .261 .286 47 .094 .259 2.5 -2 -1.3 Carlos Mendoza
Jose Pujols .198 .259 .358 63 .159 .332 3.0 -2 -1.3 Alan Cockrell
Cornelius Randolph .219 .288 .328 65 .109 .295 3.2 -4 -1.4 Ntema Ndungidi
Jan Hernandez .190 .251 .347 59 .157 .302 2.9 -5 -1.6 Victor Ferrante
Mickey Moniak .214 .251 .328 54 .113 .289 2.6 -4 -1.8 Dominick Ambrosini

 

Pitchers – Counting Stats
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO
Aaron Nola R 26 14 9 3.19 32 32 192.0 170 68 19 48 197
Nick Pivetta R 26 10 11 4.50 31 31 158.0 157 79 25 52 168
Jake Arrieta R 33 10 10 4.32 28 28 152.0 146 73 24 54 135
Vince Velasquez R 27 9 9 4.39 28 27 133.3 129 65 20 50 146
Seranthony Dominguez R 24 7 4 3.03 63 0 65.3 49 22 5 29 86
Zach Eflin R 25 10 10 4.47 27 26 141.0 146 70 21 38 117
Enyel De Los Santos R 23 8 9 4.73 30 25 142.7 145 75 22 59 124
Jerad Eickhoff R 28 7 7 4.69 23 22 121.0 126 63 20 41 111
Ranger Suarez L 23 6 6 4.61 26 25 130.7 137 67 16 51 97
Austin Davis L 26 4 3 3.50 58 0 72.0 65 28 7 26 77
Jose Alvarez L 30 4 3 3.66 71 0 59.0 55 24 5 23 57
Juan Nicasio R 32 4 3 3.46 55 0 54.7 50 21 6 17 63
Hector Neris R 30 4 3 3.61 69 0 67.3 56 27 10 26 90
Luke Leftwich R 25 3 3 3.58 49 0 65.3 59 26 5 30 68
Tommy Hunter R 32 4 3 3.81 58 0 56.7 56 24 6 14 45
James Pazos L 28 3 2 3.68 59 0 51.3 47 21 5 20 52
Pat Neshek R 38 3 2 3.41 45 0 37.0 34 14 5 6 35
Edubray Ramos R 26 4 3 3.77 63 0 59.7 56 25 6 21 60
Aaron Loup L 31 1 1 3.48 58 0 44.0 41 17 4 17 48
Luis Avilan L 29 2 2 3.67 67 0 49.0 44 20 5 20 53
Brandon Leibrandt L 26 5 6 4.74 22 17 89.3 95 47 12 33 69
Trevor Bettencourt R 24 3 2 3.71 31 0 43.7 41 18 5 15 44
Tyler Viza R 24 7 8 4.89 28 17 103.0 109 56 15 41 82
Adam Morgan L 29 1 1 4.01 67 0 49.3 47 22 5 22 50
Victor Arano R 24 2 2 4.13 62 0 61.0 59 28 9 20 59
JoJo Romero L 22 6 7 5.13 18 18 98.3 102 56 17 48 90
Cole Irvin L 25 8 10 5.23 24 23 134.3 151 78 23 47 91
Connor Seabold R 23 6 7 5.31 23 23 120.3 130 71 25 42 106
Pedro Beato R 32 5 5 4.68 58 0 59.7 60 31 9 24 51
Thomas Eshelman R 25 6 9 5.45 25 25 135.3 158 82 28 39 95
Adonis Medina R 22 6 8 5.26 22 21 106.0 112 62 18 51 95
Tyler Gilbert L 25 4 4 4.78 49 0 64.0 68 34 11 20 55
Drew Anderson R 25 5 8 5.45 23 20 104.0 115 63 20 41 83
Edgar Garcia R 22 4 5 5.27 45 5 68.3 70 40 12 36 67
Jeff Singer L 25 3 4 5.36 45 0 50.3 48 30 7 38 50
Yacksel Rios R 26 3 4 5.40 52 2 65.0 67 39 11 35 63
Kyle Dohy L 22 6 9 5.43 47 0 53.0 40 32 7 63 79
Seth McGarry R 25 3 4 5.46 46 0 61.0 60 37 8 47 56
Tom Windle L 27 4 6 5.79 47 0 51.3 54 33 10 32 47
Ranfi Casimiro R 26 5 9 6.43 32 11 85.3 99 61 19 43 65

 

Pitchers – Rate Stats
Player TBF K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA+ ERA- FIP WAR No. 1 Comp
Aaron Nola 787 9.23 2.25 0.89 .292 132 76 3.23 4.5 Tim Hudson
Nick Pivetta 679 9.57 2.96 1.42 .308 97 104 4.18 1.8 Dickie Noles
Jake Arrieta 652 7.99 3.20 1.42 .282 97 103 4.63 1.7 Andy Messersmith
Vince Velasquez 574 9.86 3.38 1.35 .308 99 101 4.13 1.7 Storm Davis
Seranthony Dominguez 275 11.85 3.99 0.69 .293 143 70 3.07 1.6 Tim Spooneybarger
Zach Eflin 602 7.47 2.43 1.34 .297 94 106 4.34 1.4 Larry Christenson
Enyel De Los Santos 629 7.82 3.72 1.39 .295 92 109 4.80 1.2 Al Nipper
Jerad Eickhoff 526 8.26 3.05 1.49 .304 93 108 4.60 1.1 Ed Wojna
Ranger Suarez 577 6.68 3.51 1.10 .298 91 110 4.59 1.1 Mike Miller
Austin Davis 305 9.63 3.25 0.88 .302 120 83 3.48 1.0 Ed Olwine
Jose Alvarez 253 8.69 3.51 0.76 .301 119 84 3.59 0.9 Harry Perkowski
Juan Nicasio 230 10.37 2.80 0.99 .310 122 82 3.31 0.9 Jay Howell
Hector Neris 284 12.03 3.48 1.34 .299 117 86 3.74 0.9 Juan Rincon
Luke Leftwich 284 9.37 4.13 0.69 .303 117 85 3.58 0.9 Turk Farrell
Tommy Hunter 238 7.15 2.22 0.95 .292 114 88 3.79 0.8 Dick Coffman
James Pazos 222 9.12 3.51 0.88 .298 118 85 3.79 0.7 Joe Klink
Pat Neshek 148 8.51 1.46 1.22 .284 128 78 3.50 0.7 Mike Timlin
Edubray Ramos 254 9.05 3.17 0.91 .303 112 90 3.60 0.7 Ehren Wassermann
Aaron Loup 192 9.82 3.48 0.82 .314 125 80 3.65 0.7 Randy Tomlin
Luis Avilan 210 9.73 3.67 0.92 .300 115 87 3.66 0.6 Tippy Martinez
Brandon Leibrandt 394 6.95 3.32 1.21 .302 89 113 4.63 0.6 Andy Hassler
Trevor Bettencourt 186 9.07 3.09 1.03 .300 113 88 3.79 0.5 Mark Worrell
Tyler Viza 457 7.17 3.58 1.31 .300 86 116 4.82 0.5 Dan Smith
Adam Morgan 214 9.12 4.01 0.91 .307 105 95 3.78 0.5 Tippy Martinez
Victor Arano 260 8.70 2.95 1.33 .294 102 98 4.22 0.5 Danny Graves
JoJo Romero 444 8.24 4.39 1.56 .300 85 118 5.21 0.5 Greg Kubes
Cole Irvin 598 6.10 3.15 1.54 .298 83 120 5.25 0.5 John O’Donoghue
Connor Seabold 531 7.93 3.14 1.87 .299 82 122 5.31 0.3 Chris Johnson
Pedro Beato 262 7.69 3.62 1.36 .291 93 108 4.76 0.2 Ed Klieman
Thomas Eshelman 599 6.32 2.59 1.86 .302 80 126 5.46 0.1 Nick Blackburn
Adonis Medina 479 8.07 4.33 1.53 .304 80 125 5.18 0.1 Jeff Fulchino
Tyler Gilbert 279 7.73 2.81 1.55 .302 88 114 4.79 0.0 Chris Key
Drew Anderson 466 7.18 3.55 1.73 .301 77 130 5.41 -0.1 Jon Perlman
Edgar Garcia 310 8.82 4.74 1.58 .304 80 125 5.23 -0.2 Stan Bahnsen
Jeff Singer 237 8.94 6.79 1.25 .295 78 128 5.41 -0.3 Philip Barzilla
Yacksel Rios 297 8.72 4.85 1.52 .304 78 128 5.21 -0.3 Sean Green
Kyle Dohy 263 13.42 10.70 1.19 .300 77 129 5.68 -0.4 Tyler Johnson
Seth McGarry 290 8.26 6.93 1.18 .297 77 130 5.53 -0.5 Lloyd Allen
Tom Windle 239 8.24 5.61 1.75 .299 73 138 5.90 -0.6 Dean Brueggemann
Ranfi Casimiro 397 6.86 4.54 2.00 .302 65 153 6.21 -1.1 Mark Woodyard

Disclaimer: ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2019. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.

Players are listed with their most recent teams, unless I have made a mistake. This is very possible, as a lot of minor-league signings go generally unreported in the offseason.

ZiPS’ projections are based on the American League having a 4.29 ERA and the National League having a 4.15 ERA.

Players who are expected to be out due to injury are still projected. More information is always better than less information, and a computer isn’t the tool that should project the injury status of, for example, a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR.


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 12/17/18

12:02
Epic Mike Francesa : Thoughts on Ramos signing?

12:02
Dan Szymborski: I think it’s decent. Just hope the Mets stay out of Castellanos nonsense.

12:03
Dan Szymborski: And hello!

12:03
Dan Szymborski: Keeping this week to a strict hour; came back from Winter Meetings from a nasty cold and I keep almost dozing off in my chair

12:03
Vladdito: Hi Dan, what do Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak bring back to the Jays (esp if they go to the Giant and Rockies)? Thanks!

12:04
Dan Szymborski: You’ll get a couple of real prospects for the pair. There’s some value there.

Read the rest of this entry »


2019 ZiPS Projections – Arizona Diamondbacks

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for more than half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Batters

Well, the good news is that Paul Goldschmidt’s departure doesn’t turn the offense into a burnt husk of a lineup. Not that it’ll be a good group, of course. But there’s a wide gulf between a mediocre offense and what our planet will look like in a few hundred years, strewn with artifacts from an earlier time as kids dodge packs of feral dogs in the hopes of snagging food from the dumpster near an abandoned bowling alley. On paper, Arizona has a lot of average hitters, and while that’s not so bad a thing if that’s where your offense ends up, it’s not what you want as your Plan A. Simply put, life comes at you fast — I get most of my wisdom from internet memes — and not everyone in the lineup will get 600 plate appearances.

If they manage to stay healthy, this crew has a surprisingly high floor, but a very low ceiling; there’s literally no one in this group I would take as a great candidate to have a breakout season.

Pitchers

This is the more interesting set of predictions for Arizona, as there is upside here. I won’t lie to you and say that Patrick Corbin isn’t a gigantic loss at the front of the rotation. He was one of the hardest pitchers to hit in 2018, and will likely remain so in 2019. But the 2018 Diamondbacks had almost no Taijuan Walker and lost some starts from Robbie Ray as well, both of whom will help soften the loss of Corbin, and of Clay Buchholz. Not that I expect Buchholz to be great in 2019, but he earned real wins for the team in 2018, wins they’ll have to replace.

Like Miles Mikolas last year, ZiPS gives Merrill Kelly, recently of the KBO, a league-average projection after keeping the ball in the park, which is no easy task in Korea; KBO pitchers had a league average of 2.44 homers per game and an ERA of 5.20 in 2018. Kelly is also reportedly throwing harder now than he did when he was a mostly forgotten Rays prospect. I actually had to look at a couple of those rosters to jog my memory; it feels like a lifetime ago.

Bench and Prospects

The bullpen will probably be reasonable, and the computer sees Jon Duplantier and whichever Taylor is the good one as being legitimate, if ordinary, options for 2019 if something goes wrong. Given Arizona’s insistence that they’re not rebuilding, I wouldn’t be surprised if, without some of the pitching depth including Kelly, they would have been more interested in re-signing Patrick Corbin or in letting Zack Greinke play out his deal. In theory, if Arizona could trade Greinke for at least one legitimate offensive prospect who is close to the majors, such a move would be survivable. I would wager the team is disappointed that Pavin Smith didn’t essentially force the Goldschmidt trade; ZiPS is now at the point where it doesn’t see him as being more likely than not to emerge as even a one-win player in the majors.

One pedantic note for 2019: for the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth chart playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here at site.

Batters – Counting Stats
Player B Age PO G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
A.J. Pollock R 31 CF 114 424 68 116 26 4 17 57 33 88 16 4
Ketel Marte B 25 SS 148 534 72 148 30 9 11 58 48 84 10 3
Eduardo Escobar B 30 3B 142 504 65 135 34 5 20 80 40 106 2 3
David Peralta L 31 LF 140 506 68 143 27 5 20 70 42 108 5 2
Nick Ahmed R 29 SS 136 443 54 109 25 5 13 55 32 95 5 5
Ildemaro Vargas R 27 SS 137 555 67 151 29 6 8 54 29 55 9 4
Steven Souza R 30 RF 110 380 54 94 20 3 18 60 48 125 9 3
Jake Lamb L 28 1B 115 402 62 97 21 4 18 70 56 127 4 3
Carson Kelly R 24 C 108 349 44 86 18 1 8 39 39 66 0 1
Jarrod Dyson L 34 CF 90 257 39 62 9 4 2 20 25 41 22 5
Daulton Varsho L 22 C 85 334 39 78 14 2 11 39 24 87 11 4
Andy Young R 25 2B 117 433 55 102 14 4 16 50 28 117 4 2
Alex Avila L 32 C 82 220 22 45 8 0 8 26 44 98 0 0
Christian Walker R 28 1B 128 456 64 113 27 4 20 71 36 139 2 1
Socrates Brito L 26 RF 130 459 58 117 22 6 14 57 30 121 9 3
Kevin Cron R 26 1B 120 463 59 111 24 1 23 72 32 147 1 0
Juniel Querecuto B 26 SS 115 401 42 102 19 4 2 34 27 74 9 4
Domingo Leyba B 23 SS 87 340 40 82 16 3 7 31 29 56 4 2
Daniel Descalso L 32 2B 130 319 45 72 15 3 10 47 50 95 1 1
Reymond Fuentes L 28 CF 72 231 27 58 7 2 3 18 14 58 9 2
Matt Szczur R 29 CF 91 179 24 42 10 1 4 20 19 44 4 2
Jon Jay L 34 RF 131 434 60 115 19 4 3 32 29 84 3 2
Ben DeLuzio R 24 CF 80 307 32 71 12 3 2 20 21 92 26 9
Rob Refsnyder R 28 LF 98 309 39 76 18 2 6 29 32 74 3 2
Jazz Chisholm L 21 SS 115 477 61 102 19 5 20 68 33 199 13 5
Dominic Miroglio R 24 C 95 361 36 87 20 2 4 32 18 63 3 3
Patrick Kivlehan R 29 RF 125 389 49 95 21 3 15 55 26 111 5 3
Anthony Recker R 35 C 71 238 29 51 13 1 9 32 23 82 1 1
Marcus Littlewood B 27 C 71 244 27 50 11 0 7 26 23 76 1 1
John Ryan Murphy R 28 C 92 256 26 55 12 0 8 28 17 71 0 0
Abraham Almonte B 30 CF 79 230 32 54 13 3 5 24 24 58 5 2
Marty Herum R 27 3B 105 406 42 102 19 2 6 38 18 80 3 2
Kelby Tomlinson R 29 SS 117 351 37 87 12 2 1 26 29 78 10 6
Cody Decker R 32 1B 78 233 28 47 11 1 11 33 20 96 0 0
Tyler Ladendorf R 31 SS 54 162 18 36 7 0 1 12 13 34 1 1
Jamie Westbrook R 24 LF 121 452 52 114 21 3 13 53 21 85 4 3
Evan Marzilli L 28 CF 97 323 36 64 12 4 4 24 39 114 8 5
Alberto Rosario R 32 C 52 168 14 38 6 0 1 11 7 33 1 1
Drew Ellis R 23 3B 117 446 51 92 25 1 14 52 40 118 2 7
Yasmany Tomas R 28 LF 114 400 45 101 22 3 16 60 17 122 2 1
Marcus Wilson R 22 CF 115 464 51 100 22 3 10 44 39 159 13 8
Chris Stewart R 37 C 49 134 12 27 4 2 0 8 11 20 0 1
Pavin Smith L 23 1B 116 443 51 104 22 2 7 41 42 77 2 2
Rudy Flores L 28 1B 119 424 49 92 20 1 15 51 33 160 1 2

Batters – Rate Stats
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
A.J. Pollock .274 .330 .474 105 .200 .310 6.0 3 2.5 Jackie Brandt
Ketel Marte .277 .337 .429 97 .152 .312 5.5 -1 2.4 Bill Russell
Eduardo Escobar .268 .324 .474 103 .206 .304 5.6 2 2.3 Tim Wallach
David Peralta .283 .341 .474 108 .192 .325 6.1 1 2.1 Del Unser
Nick Ahmed .246 .297 .413 81 .167 .287 4.3 11 1.9 Ronnie Merrill
Ildemaro Vargas .272 .310 .389 80 .117 .291 4.5 4 1.6 Yuniesky Betancourt
Steven Souza .247 .339 .458 104 .211 .321 5.6 0 1.5 Terrell Lowery
Jake Lamb .241 .335 .448 101 .206 .307 5.3 3 1.3 Ben Broussard
Carson Kelly .246 .328 .372 81 .126 .284 4.3 3 1.3 Hector Villanueva
Jarrod Dyson .241 .317 .331 69 .089 .280 4.2 8 1.0 Dave Roberts
Daulton Varsho .234 .292 .386 74 .153 .284 4.1 4 1.0 Matt Sinatro
Andy Young .236 .306 .397 80 .162 .287 4.3 0 0.8 Vince Harrison
Alex Avila .205 .338 .350 79 .145 .325 4.0 -1 0.7 Jamie Quirk
Christian Walker .248 .307 .456 94 .208 .313 5.0 -1 0.6 Keith Williams
Socrates Brito .255 .300 .420 84 .166 .318 4.6 2 0.5 Chad Mottola
Kevin Cron .240 .292 .445 87 .205 .300 4.6 2 0.4 Adell Davenport
Juniel Querecuto .254 .304 .337 66 .082 .308 3.7 3 0.4 Bobby DeJardin
Domingo Leyba .241 .304 .368 73 .126 .271 4.0 -2 0.3 Jeff McKnight
Daniel Descalso .226 .331 .386 85 .160 .290 4.4 -5 0.3 Shanie Dugas
Reymond Fuentes .251 .297 .338 64 .087 .324 3.9 2 0.1 Peter Bergeron
Matt Szczur .235 .313 .369 76 .134 .290 4.1 -1 0.1 Derek Nicholson
Jon Jay .265 .330 .348 76 .083 .323 4.2 2 0.1 Dick Porter
Ben DeLuzio .231 .287 .309 55 .078 .324 3.4 5 0.1 Virgilio Silverio
Rob Refsnyder .246 .322 .375 80 .129 .306 4.3 0 0.1 Mike Colangelo
Jazz Chisholm .214 .266 .400 69 .187 .318 3.7 -3 0.0 Jose Lopez
Dominic Miroglio .241 .293 .341 64 .100 .282 3.5 -1 0.0 Guillermo Garcia
Patrick Kivlehan .244 .299 .429 86 .185 .304 4.6 -4 -0.1 Keith Williams
Anthony Recker .214 .292 .391 75 .176 .286 3.9 -6 -0.1 Ron Karkovice
Marcus Littlewood .205 .271 .336 56 .131 .267 3.1 0 -0.1 Matt Garrick
John Ryan Murphy .215 .264 .355 58 .141 .266 3.2 0 -0.2 Tom Nieto
Abraham Almonte .235 .307 .383 78 .148 .293 4.2 -5 -0.2 Paul Householder
Marty Herum .251 .285 .352 64 .101 .300 3.6 1 -0.3 Tom Veryzer
Kelby Tomlinson .248 .307 .302 59 .054 .316 3.3 -1 -0.3 Joey Hammond
Cody Decker .202 .267 .399 70 .197 .286 3.6 1 -0.3 Dustan Mohr
Tyler Ladendorf .222 .287 .284 49 .062 .276 2.8 0 -0.4 Chris Petersen
Jamie Westbrook .252 .293 .398 77 .146 .285 4.2 -2 -0.4 Mike Peeples
Evan Marzilli .198 .289 .297 53 .099 .293 2.8 3 -0.4 Jeff Duncan
Alberto Rosario .226 .260 .280 40 .054 .276 2.5 1 -0.4 Charlie Greene
Drew Ellis .206 .277 .361 64 .155 .248 3.1 1 -0.5 Adam Fox
Yasmany Tomas .253 .283 .443 84 .190 .324 4.5 -7 -0.5 Jerald Clark
Marcus Wilson .216 .278 .341 59 .125 .305 3.2 1 -0.6 Edgardo Baez
Chris Stewart .201 .265 .261 38 .060 .237 2.2 -2 -0.7 Rick Ferrell
Pavin Smith .235 .303 .341 67 .106 .270 3.6 -1 -1.0 Ryan McGuire
Rudy Flores .217 .282 .375 68 .158 .309 3.6 -5 -1.4 Steve Neal

Pitchers – Counting Stats
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO
Zack Greinke R 35 14 9 3.69 29 29 180.3 167 74 26 40 167
Robbie Ray L 27 9 6 3.86 29 29 149.3 126 64 20 72 194
Zack Godley R 29 12 10 4.13 29 28 159.0 153 73 18 68 160
Merrill Kelly R 30 11 10 4.57 28 28 169.3 180 86 24 56 141
Clay Buchholz R 34 6 5 4.22 21 19 108.7 110 51 13 34 84
Luke Weaver R 25 9 8 4.66 29 25 133.3 142 69 20 45 118
Taijuan Walker R 26 7 6 4.60 21 21 115.3 119 59 18 39 96
Jon Duplantier R 24 5 4 4.17 21 20 90.7 87 42 9 45 86
Taylor Widener R 24 8 8 4.59 29 29 113.7 107 58 10 76 104
Archie Bradley R 26 5 3 3.72 75 0 72.7 65 30 8 26 78
Jake Buchanan R 29 8 8 4.94 25 22 129.3 155 71 13 47 71
Joel Payamps R 25 9 9 4.88 31 19 125.3 137 68 20 38 99
Matt Andriese R 29 6 6 4.63 34 14 101.0 107 52 17 28 91
Andrew Chafin L 29 4 2 3.44 72 0 55.0 47 21 4 25 56
Silvino Bracho R 26 4 2 3.60 59 0 65.0 55 26 9 23 83
Taylor Clarke R 26 10 10 4.99 26 26 133.3 145 74 22 47 108
Jimmie Sherfy R 27 4 2 3.65 54 0 56.7 48 23 6 28 67
Yoan Lopez R 26 5 3 3.82 53 0 63.7 54 27 7 31 80
Jake Diekman L 32 2 1 3.62 63 0 49.7 40 20 4 28 60
Brad Ziegler R 39 4 3 3.86 63 0 56.0 58 24 4 20 37
Yoshihisa Hirano R 35 4 3 4.08 62 0 53.0 51 24 6 21 47
Kevin Ginkel R 25 4 3 4.01 51 0 60.7 55 27 6 30 67
Shelby Miller R 28 6 6 4.93 17 16 84.0 90 46 13 31 75
Riley Smith R 24 6 7 5.17 25 23 127.0 143 73 19 55 90
T.J. McFarland L 30 3 2 4.28 46 0 61.0 66 29 5 21 34
Justin Donatella R 24 7 8 5.20 26 23 114.3 127 66 16 53 77
Emilio Vargas R 22 7 9 5.24 25 24 122.0 129 71 19 65 110
Nick Green R 24 5 6 5.46 17 17 83.0 93 50 9 53 52
Matt Koch R 28 6 7 5.25 27 21 116.7 140 68 22 30 67
Jake Barrett R 27 3 2 4.37 53 0 57.7 53 28 7 32 62
Barry Enright R 33 5 5 5.15 15 15 80.3 96 46 11 19 48
Stefan Crichton R 27 4 3 4.64 34 1 54.3 57 28 7 23 44
Randall Delgado R 29 3 3 4.50 43 2 52.0 52 26 7 23 45
Joey Krehbiel R 26 3 3 4.55 51 0 57.3 52 29 8 34 67
Brad Boxberger R 31 5 5 4.82 54 0 46.7 41 25 8 30 60
Bradin Hagens R 30 4 5 5.37 25 9 67.0 74 40 10 33 46
Bud Jeter R 27 3 3 4.73 40 0 45.7 46 24 5 25 40
Michael Blazek R 30 2 3 5.10 41 4 60.0 65 34 8 33 50
Alex Young L 25 6 8 5.61 27 21 118.7 136 74 21 50 85
Cody Decker R 32 0 0 8.10 4 0 3.3 5 3 1 1 0
Bo Takahashi R 22 6 8 5.72 23 23 111.7 126 71 24 43 91
Kris Medlen R 33 3 5 6.06 14 13 65.3 77 44 15 26 49
Neftali Feliz R 31 4 5 5.82 39 8 72.7 75 47 13 46 62
Braden Shipley R 27 6 8 5.74 30 16 111.3 129 71 21 47 75
Jared Miller L 25 2 3 5.73 48 0 55.0 50 35 7 55 64
Troy Scribner R 27 4 6 6.28 21 17 86.0 93 60 20 53 82
Ryan Atkinson R 26 6 10 6.05 27 21 99.7 105 67 20 68 99

Pitchers – Rate Stats
Player TBF K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA+ ERA- FIP WAR No. 1 Comp
Zack Greinke 738 8.33 2.00 1.30 .281 119 84 3.89 3.6 Dennis Martinez
Robbie Ray 643 11.69 4.34 1.21 .302 114 88 3.86 2.7 Shawn Estes
Zack Godley 696 9.06 3.85 1.02 .306 106 94 4.06 2.5 Mike Krukow
Merrill Kelly 741 7.49 2.98 1.28 .305 99 101 4.48 2.2 Kyle Lohse
Clay Buchholz 466 6.96 2.82 1.08 .293 108 93 4.21 1.8 Bob Lemon
Luke Weaver 583 7.97 3.04 1.35 .310 98 103 4.48 1.5 Josh Fogg
Taijuan Walker 503 7.49 3.04 1.40 .294 99 101 4.71 1.4 Mike Trujillo
Jon Duplantier 403 8.54 4.47 0.89 .302 106 95 4.20 1.4 Mike Torrez
Taylor Widener 524 8.23 6.02 0.79 .298 96 104 4.68 1.2 Dick Ruthven
Archie Bradley 307 9.66 3.22 0.99 .297 118 84 3.63 1.2 Mike Cather
Jake Buchanan 587 4.94 3.27 0.90 .317 92 109 4.63 1.1 Joe Genewich
Joel Payamps 549 7.11 2.73 1.44 .304 93 108 4.72 1.1 Tim Dillard
Matt Andriese 434 8.11 2.50 1.51 .305 98 102 4.46 1.1 A.J. Sager
Andrew Chafin 234 9.16 4.09 0.65 .291 128 78 3.48 1.0 Sid Monge
Silvino Bracho 273 11.49 3.18 1.25 .299 122 82 3.64 1.0 Robb Nen
Taylor Clarke 589 7.29 3.17 1.49 .304 88 114 4.89 0.9 Cha-Seung Baek
Jimmie Sherfy 245 10.64 4.45 0.95 .298 120 83 3.80 0.8 Brian Wilson
Yoan Lopez 275 11.31 4.38 0.99 .305 115 87 3.67 0.8 Bobby Jenks
Jake Diekman 217 10.87 5.07 0.72 .295 121 82 3.65 0.8 Marshall Bridges
Brad Ziegler 245 5.95 3.21 0.64 .298 114 88 3.99 0.8 Dutch Leonard
Yoshihisa Hirano 230 7.98 3.57 1.02 .294 111 90 4.21 0.7 Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Kevin Ginkel 266 9.94 4.45 0.89 .306 110 91 3.86 0.7 Clay Bryant
Shelby Miller 369 8.04 3.32 1.39 .310 89 112 4.55 0.6 Jay Tibbs
Riley Smith 577 6.38 3.90 1.35 .306 85 118 5.17 0.6 Ed Wojna
T.J. McFarland 266 5.02 3.10 0.74 .298 106 94 4.18 0.5 Dave Tomlin
Justin Donatella 521 6.06 4.17 1.26 .302 85 118 5.20 0.5 Jim Clancy
Emilio Vargas 559 8.11 4.80 1.40 .308 84 119 5.17 0.5 Ben Hendrickson
Nick Green 396 5.64 5.75 0.98 .307 83 120 5.51 0.4 Jake Joseph
Matt Koch 517 5.17 2.31 1.70 .302 84 119 5.40 0.4 Greg Wooten
Jake Barrett 257 9.68 4.99 1.09 .301 101 99 4.40 0.4 George Smith
Barry Enright 353 5.38 2.13 1.23 .314 85 117 4.59 0.4 Jason Johnson
Stefan Crichton 242 7.29 3.81 1.16 .303 98 102 4.64 0.4 Scott Munter
Randall Delgado 228 7.79 3.98 1.21 .296 98 102 4.55 0.3 Ed Farmer
Joey Krehbiel 257 10.52 5.34 1.26 .303 97 103 4.56 0.3 Kevin Barry
Brad Boxberger 209 11.57 5.79 1.54 .300 94 106 4.80 0.2 David Lee
Bradin Hagens 306 6.18 4.43 1.34 .299 85 118 5.33 0.2 Claude Willoughby
Bud Jeter 208 7.88 4.93 0.99 .304 93 108 4.66 0.1 Casey Daigle
Michael Blazek 276 7.50 4.95 1.20 .311 86 116 4.97 0.1 Jerry Johnson
Alex Young 540 6.45 3.79 1.59 .305 78 128 5.46 0.0 Wes Whisler
Cody Decker 16 0.00 2.70 2.70 .286 54 184 7.95 -0.1 Mike Sullivan
Bo Takahashi 503 7.33 3.47 1.93 .302 77 130 5.66 -0.1 Rich Yett
Kris Medlen 297 6.75 3.58 2.07 .304 75 133 5.97 -0.2 R.A. Dickey
Neftali Feliz 337 7.68 5.70 1.61 .291 78 128 5.79 -0.2 Jim Dougherty
Braden Shipley 506 6.06 3.80 1.70 .302 77 130 5.66 -0.2 Jim Walkup
Jared Miller 270 10.47 9.00 1.15 .305 79 126 5.64 -0.3 Gary Wayne
Troy Scribner 403 8.58 5.55 2.09 .300 72 138 6.29 -0.5 Fernando Rijo
Ryan Atkinson 471 8.94 6.14 1.81 .306 73 138 6.00 -0.5 Steve Sparks

Disclaimer: ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2019. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.

Players are listed with their most recent teams, unless I have made a mistake. This is very possible, as a lot of minor-league signings go generally unreported in the offseason.

ZiPS’ projections are based on the American League having a 4.29 ERA and the National League having a 4.15 ERA.

Players who are expected to be out due to injury are still projected. More information is always better than less information, and a computer isn’t the tool that should project the injury status of, for example, a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR.


Projecting the Rule 5 Draftees

With the end of the Winter Meetings comes the Rule 5 draft, where every team dreams about acquiring Johan Santana for a token sum of cash and often ends up with…less, or possibly nobody at all.

The highlights from the list of players taken in Rule 5 drafts, or its predecessor-drafts, is mighty impressive. On the sunny side, you have two Hall of Famers (Hack Wilson, Roberto Clemente), a couple of players who should have gotten more Hall of Fame attention (Johan Santana, Darrell Evans), and more than two dozen All-Stars. But that isn’t the likely result and getting those types of players involved a GM who didn’t understand the rules (Syd Thrift/Bobby Bonilla), predating of minor league affiliations (Wilson), or an older “bonus baby” rule that is no longer in effect (Clemente). Teams do pay attention to this kind of thing, so you see more teams protecting young, low-level players with upside rather than older, minor-league journeymen who may give a team a larger short-term boost.

But value can still be found. Brad Keller has a 3.08 ERA in multiple roles for the Royals and any of the playoff teams would have been happy to have him on their roster. Odubel Herrera, Delino DeShields Jr., Joe Biagini, Justin Bour, and Tommy Kahnle are all fairly recent picks and all have had some success in the majors. Here are the ZiPS projections for the players taken in this year’s Rule 5 draft; we’ll have full scouting reports on them soon.

ZiPS Projections – Rule 5 Batters
Player PO Team BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
Richie Martin SS BAL .233 .295 .327 450 46 105 17 5 5 33 32 110 14 70 4 0.6
Connor Joe 1B CIN .219 .307 .350 366 45 80 17 2 9 39 44 110 1 74 -1 -0.6
Drew Jackson SS BAL .209 .289 .327 407 51 85 16 1 10 36 37 137 18 65 2 0.4
Drew Ferguson CF SF .244 .329 .359 348 45 85 18 2 6 31 39 101 9 87 -2 0.9

The Orioles aren’t playing for 2019 of course, but I’m not sure that Jonathan Villar is actually the preferable candidate to be starting even if they were. Martin has a reputation as a glove man and the rudimentary, craptacular defensive measurements available for minor leaguers generally agree with this, while Villar is extremely stretched as a shortstop and isn’t part of Baltimore’s future. Martin did hit .300/.368/.439 for double-A Midland, but ZiPS is still going to need to see him to be sold. It would be a shame if in a rebuilding year, the O’s carried both Martin and Drew Jackson, and didn’t let either get full-time at-bats. Both are more interesting than Steve Wilkerson, who the Orioles can actually send down to the minors.

Connor Joe, who you may have seen erroneously listed as a catcher, still has some versatility, with experience at third, second, and first base, as well as in the outfield, though he’s not a plus defensive player at any of those positions. He may stick as a 25th-man in Cincinnati, a team that is short on experienced role players and would likely prefer players like Nick Senzel or Shed Long to play full-time when they’re called up. Drew Ferguson gets the best projection of the hitters and is a welcome as an additional spring training option given San Francisco’s paper-thin outfield, which will probably begin the year with three of Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, and Mike Gerber if the season started tomorrow.

ZiPS Projections – Rule 5 Pitchers
Player Tm W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WAR $H FIP
Sam McWilliams KC 6 8 4.75 23 20 108.3 123 57 12 42 71 88 0.8 .312 4.61
Jordan Romano TEX 4 6 5.38 14 14 68.0 71 41 11 32 52 77 -0.1 .294 5.29
Riley Ferrell MIA 2 2 4.52 29 0 34.3 31 17 3 23 35 89 0.0 .297 4.55
Reed Garrett DET 3 3 4.43 46 0 50.0 52 25 5 24 40 99 0.4 .309 4.34
Chris Ellis KC 5 6 5.64 20 15 81.7 92 51 14 41 64 82 0.3 .310 5.50
Travis Bergen SF 3 3 4.15 29 0 28.3 27 13 3 13 27 98 0.2 .304 4.00
Elvis Luciano TOR 3 4 5.19 10 9 45.7 51 26 5 24 24 82 0.2 .302 5.33
Kyle Dowdy NYN 4 6 5.24 14 10 58.3 63 34 10 25 45 76 -0.3 .301 5.26
Nick Green ARI 5 6 5.46 17 17 83.0 93 50 9 53 52 83 0.4 .311 5.48
Brandon Brennan SEA 3 3 4.15 39 0 56.7 56 26 4 27 46 99 0.4 .302 4.13

The Royals picked up Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis, the latter by way of the Texas Rangers. Ellis’ projection as a starter is not good, but as a fastball-slider pitcher, he’s long been expected to end up in relief if he ever makes it to the majors, and if that happens with the Royals, he’ll likely be the last pitcher on the roster. If Josh Staumont’s control ever improves, I think Ellis would find himself on the bubble fairly quickly. McWilliams has a more starter-friendly repertoire of pitches — Eric will surely have more on this — and he gets what amounts to a fairly impressive projection, relatively-speaking. I don’t want to predict that he’ll be Brad Keller, but the Royals may use him as a swingman in 2019.

Texas is doing more of a rebuild-lite than a full teardown, but the back of their bullpen might be able to squeeze in Romano; I don’t expect that the team will seriously look at him as a starter in 2019. Three of the four pitchers are genereally already used as relievers in the minors: Reed Garrett, Travis Bergen, and Brandon Brennen all project to be above-replacement level, though safely below-average (average ERA+ for a reliever tends to be somewhere around 108). Garrett throws a good deal harder than he did back in the days when he was a sorta starting prospect, but I think his lack of exploitable platoon splits gives him less of an obvious role in the majors right now than the other relievers. Bergen is the most interesting pitcher to me in that he missed most of the three seasons going into 2018 due to injuries, so his dominating 2018 in the minors is essentially all we have. He’s not a hard thrower and the limited data means his outcome is volatile, but you want volatile in a Rule 5er in most cases, given that the mean projections are never going to be exciting. Plus: left-handed!

Elvis Luciano is a rarity among this group, a throwback to other very young pitchers snagged from the low minors. He’ll be 19 in February, throws hard, and there’s enough projection there that the Blue Jays may be happy to just keep him and play with more-or-less a 24-man roster. This plan is subject to change if Toronto is actually good, something I think they will not be. Given his complete lack of upper minors, even that limited projection is likely crazy-optimistic.


Angels Add Bour, Complicate First Base Situation

As reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Angels have agreed to a one-year contract with free agent first baseman Justin Bour, pending the usual physical. Financial terms have not yet been disclosed.

The particulars of the deal are likely the least important part of the signing. While certain teams would no doubt accept the dare, it’s very difficult to fumble too badly on any one-year contract that doesn’t have enough absurdity to fill…uh…some kind of scientific vial or flask that can hold abstract ideas? Back to the drawing board with that one. In most situations, the money isn’t enough to matter in the big picture, and if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to cancel it before next year like it’s some health magazine you subscribed to as part of a New Year’s resolution because you thought you were actually going to go to the gym.

Bour has seen his value plummet at a rate usually associated with a position player nearing 40 or a pitcher who has surgery for a mystery shoulder ailment. A year ago, he was coming off of a .289/.366/.536, 25 home run, 143 OPS+ season. Now that wasn’t over a full season’s play (an oblique injury cost him about a month of the season), but it was still enough for 2.4 WAR over 108 games for the Marlins. An average player has real value and Bour came with the feature most prized by baseball executives: he was cost-controlled.

After receiving $3.4 million (instead of the Marlins’ preferred $3.0 million) in arbitration, Bour looked to have at least some trade value, given that he could not become a free agent until after the 2020 season. First baseman, especially middling ones, are at a historical low point in terms of their value, but the Marlins would have likely received something for Bour had they traded him along with the entire outfield after the 2017 season.

2018 ended up being a more-or-less healthy season for Bour, but also one of many steps backwards. While he was more selective at the plate – swinging at fewer pitches, which resulted in a career-high 73 walks – he saw worse results when actually hitting the ball. Walks are nice and all, but one of the key benefits of plate discipline is to that on average you’re hitting more advantageous balls and, at least theoretically, doing more with those pitches. Bour’s exit velocity was the worst of his career; Statcast’s xSLG measure thought his profile should have only resulted in a .419 SLG, rather than his anemic .404. Nor does ZiPS provide any solace, seeing his hit profile as only deserving of a .281 BABIP versus his .270 actual (down from a .310 zBABIP in 2017 vs. his .322 actual).

Further complicating Bour’s value is the fact he has fairly steep platoon splits and only has a .220/.303/.335 slash in the majors against left-handed pitching. Philosophically, one would prefer an average player to have exploitable platoon splits in this matter, but in practice, it’s generally difficult to pull off a true first baseman platoon in an age of 13-man pitching staffs and in this case, the first baseman not having any positional flexibility otherwise.

But strangely enough, the Angels may be the best fit for Bour, assuming they could not land a better option. Albert Pujols is now a year past 600 homers (and unlikely to reach 700) and collected his 3000th hit. Now, the celebratory reasons for continuing to play him full-time are as weak as the performance-based ones. After number 3000, the Angels showed no real inclination to begin reducing Pujols’ playing time; he played in 117 of the team’s 133 games (all starts) by the time bone spurs ended his season.

With a new manager in Brad Ausmus, this could finally change. Even though I think the team should be at the point of simply releasing the future Hall of Famer, I’m not sure the team is actually there yet, and a time share in which Bour is the primary first baseman and Pujols plays against occasional tough lefties — even with me being far from convinced that this version of Pujols is any more valuable against southpaws — is better than simply letting Pujols have the job for yet another year. There’s a non-zero chance that Bour is just there to be a pinch-hitter for Pujols or Ohtani, but I can’t imagine he would sign this early in the offseason – at a time in his career where he still has a good shot at re-establishing some value – if he believed he would just be used as a pinch-hitter.

This Bouring little move won’t get the Angels to the playoffs, but it can cheaply shore up one of their weak spots in the lineup, and hopefully also demonstrate a real change in an organization that hasn’t always been as merciless at dealing with their weaknesses as they should have been. The Angels still have the cash after this move to get a difference-maker.

2019 ZiPS Projection – Justin Bour
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .236 .327 .444 381 45 90 14 1 21 69 52 113 1 111 -2 1.1

Elegy for ’18 – Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuña is a big part of Atlanta’s bright present and future.
(Photo: Ian D’Andrea)

The Braves winning the NL East wasn’t really that big a surprise, as the questions surrounding the team generally centered on “when” rather than “if.” Perhaps a year ahead of schedule, 2018 saw some of the team’s prospect dividend started paying off richly.

The Setup

Tanking may be what the cool kids do when they rebuild these days, but back in 2014, it wasn’t quite as de rigueur as it is now. Atlanta was unusually aggressive about trading their players with value, even those who were still young, must notably Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons, who were traded after their age-24 and age-25 seasons respectively.

But they didn’t trade all of them. Staying in Atlanta was Freddie Freeman, who signed an eight-year, $135 million contract before the 2014 season, a deal that looks like it’ll be excellent right until the very end, which is a relative rarity for nine-figure deals with players on the easy end of the defensive spectrum.

Also remaining was Julio Teheran, who the Braves signed to a very reasonable six-year, $32.4 million contract with an option that would keep him in Atlanta through 2020. The team’s unofficial stance was that Teheran would anchor the rotation throughout the rebuilding process, though I also felt he might have been traded if his post-2014 performances had been more impressive.

In terms of competing in 2018, I’m still of the mind that this past season’s success caught the organization somewhat by surprise. If they had thought they were positioned to win 90 games, Atlanta’s biggest offseason signing probably wouldn’t have been Anibal Sanchez. Even the team’s trade involving big-in-2011 names, which sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, and cash, was mostly about competitive balance tax implications. Gonzalez and Kazmir didn’t play a single game for the Braves; McCarthy was basically replacement level and retired by the end of the season; only Culberson was really left to contribute much to the team.

The Projection

While ZiPS was a big believer in both the Braves and Phillies in the long-term, the computer generally saw 2018 as a “too soon” kind of thing. ZiPS projected them well enough that I listed the Braves (and the Phillies) in the top two in a piece on stealth contenders in 2018. (The less said about the last two teams, the better!) ZiPS projected them for a 79-83 record in the final, official projection going into 2018, with a 1-in-7 chance of making the playoffs.

The Results

The team didn’t come out of the gate roaring, but they took most of their early series, and eventually took the divisional lead for the first time in early May after winning two out of three against the Phillies and sweeping the rapidly fading Mets. The team traded first with the Phillies over the next few months, never falling to second by more than a few games, before seizing first place for good in August.

Oddly enough, the Braves initially got to first without their eventual NL Rookie of the Year and best prospect, phenom Ronald Acuña, who was recalled at the end of April. Instead, it was some of the surprisingly good veterans, like Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki, and Ryan Flaherty, with wRC+s of 144, 136, and 126 respectively, leading the charge when they caught first place.

Markakis went on to make his first All-Star Game at age 34, long after anyone had considered him anything but a stopgap option in the outfield. It was not to last, with Markakis hitting .258/.332/.369 with only four homers after the midseason break. But the addition of Acuña to the roster more than compensated for the drop off; he was just as good as adding a Manny Machado or a Bryce Harper.

ZiPS already saw Acuña as a three-win player coming into 2018, hitting a perfectly respectable .269/.321/.425, a damn good line for a 20-year-old who would also be fully capable of playing centerfield if not for the existence of Ender Inciarte.

He was better than that. Reminiscent of Trout getting ZiPS best ever rookie projection and still eviscerating it by July, Acuña’s cromulent projected 101 wRC+ was mocked and beaten by the actual 143 he put up. For a time in July, when Acuña had slumped to a .249/.304/.438 line and missed significant time with a leg injury, it looked like Washington’s explosive Juan Soto would capture the Rookie of the Year award. But Acuña hit .322/.403/.625 while Atlanta put away the rest of the NL East and he won the award in a walk, taking 27 of the 30 first-place votes.

The postseason didn’t go quite as well for the Braves; the team was shutout in the first two games in Dodger Stadium by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw. After the bullpen failed to hold the line in Game 4, a two-run single by David Freese in the sixth and a three-run homer by Manny Machado in the seventh ended Atlanta’s season.

What Comes Next?

While it would have been fun to knock off the reigning NL champions in the NLDS, this also wasn’t a team fighting against a closing window; rather they were still in the process of opening one.

The inability to sign international prospects and the declared free agency of Kevin Maitan and others as a result of the Braves playing with fire vis-à-vis the international signing rules was an enormous loss. But hiring Alex Anthopoulos to run the team was still a silver lining.

Anthopoulos, since joining the Braves in November 2017, has focused on staying the course and even if it wasn’t one he personally set, he’s served as a terrific caretaker of Atlanta’s rebuild, electing not to carelessly fritter away long-term value to improve the Braves in the moment.

That’s not to say the team stood-pat in 2018. They did make significant moves, most notably picking up Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day from the Baltimore Orioles, pickups that weren’t just about 2018. And they did it without giving up any of the crown jewels.

People are sometimes too quick to trade prospects who aren’t a great roster fit. Even if you don’t have an immediate slot for a Luiz Gohara or a Mike Soroka full-time, trading them now costs you the ability to trade them for a player who might be even more crucial later.

This winter, the Braves are blessed with both financial and roster flexibility, and are arguably one of the teams least constrained by various issues. They’ve already made their first move, bringing in Josh Donaldson for 2019, a move that is both win-now and will not block Austin Riley long-term. Atlanta doesn’t appear to be in on Bryce Harper, but they have the ability to go after just about anyone else. And with a team on the rise, they could be a real lure for free agents (as they were for Donaldson).

ZiPS Projection – Ronald Acuña

We’ve already spent a lot of digital ink on the merits of Atlanta’s young outfielder, so let’s just dump some projections on you; it’s almost fanservice at this point.

ZiPS Projection – Ronald Acuña
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .276 .344 .511 550 88 152 29 5 30 81 54 165 25 126 5 4.0
2020 .284 .354 .543 536 90 152 31 6 32 84 56 157 21 136 5 4.6
2021 .287 .359 .557 537 93 154 31 6 34 89 58 153 22 141 5 5.1
2022 .285 .360 .563 533 94 152 31 6 35 89 60 154 22 143 4 5.1
2023 .284 .361 .558 529 92 150 31 6 34 87 61 153 21 142 4 5.0
2024 .280 .359 .548 522 91 146 29 6 33 85 62 153 20 139 4 4.7
2025 .277 .358 .543 512 89 142 28 6 32 83 62 152 19 138 3 4.5

2019 ZiPS Projections – Boston Red Sox

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for more than half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Boston Red Sox.

Batters

Obviously, the top of the offense is extremely strong, with reigning MVP Mookie Betts and one of the most dangerous hitters today, J.D. Martinez, who can be forgiven for being relatively one-dimensional when that one dimension involves a 170 wRC+ and an OPS over 1.000. But there were some cracks in the back-end in 2018, with Eduardo Núñez a stretch as a full-time second baseman and Mitch Moreland inevitably cooling off after a hot start to finish with the Usual Mitch Moreland Stats. The team brought in Steve Pearce and Ian Kinsler to dampen these issues. Pearce’s tenure was much more successful, but he also remains a role player heading into his late-30s, albeit a very good one. I remain hopeful about Rafael Devers’ future given that most players his age are still in the minors, but you can’t just wave away the fact that he regressed significantly both at the plate and in the field in 2018. Boston’s three-headed catcher-beast contributed defensively, and did a better job framing than dirty cops in a Brian De Palma movie, but you’d still like their bats to improve to a more normal version of terrible than we saw last season.

The good news is that when your highs are high and your lows are low, it’s easier to make a significant addition than it is if you have a team that’s fairly average from top to bottom. J.T. Realmuto would be just about the perfect fit for the team if the Marlins were motivated to make a reasonable trade. I suspect the Red Sox will be content with Moreland and Pearce at first as they more pressing needs on the roster. And Pearce probably was the best first baseman available in free agency, unless you’ve received some weird news from the future about how 2019 was the The Summer of Duda.

Pitchers

There’s not a lot to complain about in the rotation, so long as everyone is healthy. All five starters are projected to have ERAs better than league-average, and ZiPS, like Steamer, is cautiously optimistic about Nathan Eovaldi’s future, even though 200 innings shouldn’t be the default expectation for a pitcher with his injury history. Some depth would be nice, but Steven Wright is likely a perfectly capable emergency option and the bullpen, as constituted, is probably a below-average group. Even a diminished Craig Kimbrel is a tough reliever to lose. ZiPS thinks a lot of the no-name relievers can be adequate, especially Colten Brewer, a hard cutter/curve hurler picked up from the Padres a few weeks ago.

Bench and Prospects

The problem with the Red Sox farm system is that while it’s far from empty, trades and successful graduations have depleted the upper minors considerably, to the point that if the team is looking for a mid-season reinforcement, they’re more likely to call up a prospect rather than trade them for a more veteran solution. Sam Travis now has a .713 OPS in nearly a thousand Triple-A plate appearances; ZiPS has almost written him completely off as a prospect at this point. And there are no starting pitching prospects that are all that interesting for 2019. That Rusney Castillo has one of the best projections of the players currently at Triple A at .269/.304/.370 is a pretty good example of just how thin the high minors currently are. The big exception here is Michael Chavis, who ZiPS sees developing into an average third baseman with power upside, though not intriguing enough to be a better option than Devers in 2019, or a good enough hitter in the short-term to make Moreland and Pearce uncomfortable.

One pedantic note for 2019: for the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth chart playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here at site.

Batters – Counting Stats
Player B Age PO G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Mookie Betts R 26 RF 148 591 114 177 43 4 28 94 75 91 29 6
J.D. Martinez R 31 DH 140 529 88 153 32 2 36 106 59 151 4 1
Xander Bogaerts R 26 SS 150 584 91 166 37 3 20 91 56 117 11 2
Andrew Benintendi L 24 LF 153 582 95 165 38 6 18 91 70 110 21 5
Jackie Bradley Jr. L 29 CF 138 479 73 118 28 4 17 68 49 133 12 2
Rafael Devers L 22 3B 140 525 75 139 30 1 27 84 44 135 6 3
Ian Kinsler R 37 2B 115 448 64 113 25 1 11 46 38 64 13 6
Dustin Pedroia R 35 2B 96 384 47 104 17 0 7 44 38 51 3 3
Eduardo Nunez B 32 3B 128 479 57 134 27 2 10 54 19 69 14 5
Michael Chavis R 23 3B 94 363 49 88 22 1 17 54 24 117 3 1
Mitch Moreland L 33 1B 124 409 50 98 23 1 16 64 42 109 1 0
Brock Holt! L 31 2B 109 335 40 89 18 2 6 43 38 77 7 7
Rusney Castillo R 31 CF 111 435 48 117 24 1 6 42 19 81 9 5
Steve Pearce R 36 LF 77 239 32 61 13 1 10 36 25 51 0 1
Tzu-Wei Lin L 25 SS 111 386 44 95 17 4 5 32 30 90 7 6
Bobby Dalbec R 24 3B 116 435 56 87 23 2 21 62 42 212 3 3
Hanley Ramirez R 35 1B 102 386 49 97 18 0 16 61 38 88 5 2
Christian Vazquez R 28 C 89 293 34 75 15 1 4 25 16 54 5 1
Sandy Leon B 30 C 91 285 33 63 13 1 6 30 20 79 1 0
Brandon Phillips R 38 2B 92 355 46 93 20 0 7 36 16 59 4 4
Dan Butler R 32 C 66 217 23 48 12 0 3 21 21 54 0 0
Mike Miller R 29 SS 98 332 35 83 15 1 3 26 23 59 8 5
Tony Renda R 28 2B 92 338 38 87 20 2 4 31 20 54 9 3
Blake Swihart B 27 C 73 220 28 49 10 1 3 20 19 67 4 1
Jantzen Witte R 29 3B 102 371 41 87 22 2 7 38 29 102 4 3
Adam Lind L 35 1B 92 291 35 73 14 0 10 44 25 66 0 1
Ivan De Jesus R 32 2B 107 352 34 87 16 2 3 31 25 82 2 3
Marco Hernandez L 26 2B 72 246 27 62 11 2 5 23 9 65 2 2
Chad de la Guerra L 26 2B 99 385 43 82 16 2 10 39 27 131 5 2
Sam Travis R 25 1B 113 402 46 98 20 1 8 38 31 104 4 3
Austin Rei R 25 C 87 302 31 57 15 1 5 26 26 109 1 3
Juan Centeno L 29 C 74 252 24 63 12 1 3 24 13 46 0 1
Jeremy Barfield R 30 LF 65 233 28 48 9 0 9 28 18 83 0 0
Mike Ohlman R 28 C 79 268 31 53 10 0 9 30 29 112 1 0
Josh Ockimey L 23 1B 123 447 55 98 21 1 16 55 53 182 1 2
C.J. Chatham R 24 SS 113 437 42 105 17 3 5 36 18 110 7 5
Mike Olt R 30 3B 84 291 33 57 13 0 10 32 30 118 0 0
Cole Sturgeon L 27 RF 110 405 39 94 17 2 6 35 23 105 9 4
Kyle Wren L 28 LF 109 385 41 88 13 4 3 33 34 98 14 6
Aneury Tavarez L 27 RF 102 382 39 86 16 3 7 32 23 110 9 5
Tyler Hill R 23 RF 127 472 53 112 20 2 4 37 37 87 22 11
Victor Acosta R 23 RF 111 399 39 96 25 2 6 38 20 62 4 5
Brett Netzer L 23 2B 120 477 42 108 24 2 2 36 26 137 3 10
Tate Matheny R 25 CF 111 419 41 86 17 3 3 31 28 161 11 9

Batters – Rate Stats
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
Mookie Betts .299 .379 .528 138 .228 .316 8.0 17 6.7 Al Kaline
J.D. Martinez .289 .361 .561 140 .272 .342 7.7 0 4.0 Tony Perez
Xander Bogaerts .284 .351 .461 114 .176 .327 6.2 -2 3.8 Alan Trammell
Andrew Benintendi .284 .360 .462 117 .179 .324 6.5 2 3.4 John Kruk
Jackie Bradley Jr. .246 .326 .428 99 .182 .307 5.2 5 2.5 Lloyd Moseby
Rafael Devers .265 .320 .480 109 .215 .309 5.6 -6 1.9 Fernando Tatis
Ian Kinsler .252 .317 .386 86 .134 .273 4.4 8 1.8 Ray Durham
Dustin Pedroia .271 .336 .370 88 .099 .298 4.5 3 1.3 Mark Loretta
Eduardo Nunez .280 .310 .407 89 .127 .310 4.8 0 1.1 Julian Javier
Michael Chavis .242 .299 .449 95 .207 .310 4.8 -1 1.1 Mark Reynolds
Mitch Moreland .240 .314 .418 93 .178 .289 4.7 4 0.9 Kevin Barker
Brock Holt! .266 .349 .385 96 .119 .329 4.7 -5 0.7 Pete Runnels
Rusney Castillo .269 .304 .370 78 .101 .319 4.1 1 0.5 Ken Berry
Steve Pearce .255 .336 .444 105 .188 .287 5.3 -3 0.5 Dusty Baker
Tzu-Wei Lin .246 .301 .350 73 .104 .309 3.6 2 0.5 Scott Leius
Bobby Dalbec .200 .280 .407 80 .207 .327 3.8 0 0.5 Jared Sandberg
Hanley Ramirez .251 .325 .422 97 .171 .287 5.0 -2 0.4 Cliff Floyd
Christian Vazquez .256 .300 .355 74 .099 .302 4.0 -1 0.4 Angelo Encarnacion
Sandy Leon .221 .277 .337 63 .116 .285 3.3 4 0.4 Chad Moeller
Brandon Phillips .262 .302 .377 79 .115 .298 4.0 -2 0.2 Frank White
Dan Butler .221 .296 .318 64 .097 .281 3.3 -1 0.0 Keith McDonald
Mike Miller .250 .302 .328 68 .078 .296 3.5 -1 0.0 Ever Magallanes
Tony Renda .257 .305 .364 77 .107 .296 4.1 -4 0.0 William Bergolla
Blake Swihart .223 .286 .318 61 .095 .307 3.3 -1 -0.1 Tony DeFrancesco
Jantzen Witte .235 .297 .361 74 .127 .305 3.7 -4 -0.2 Rodney Nye
Adam Lind .251 .307 .402 87 .151 .293 4.4 -3 -0.3 Glenn Adams
Ivan De Jesus .247 .306 .330 70 .082 .315 3.5 -3 -0.3 Marty Perez
Marco Hernandez .252 .280 .374 72 .122 .324 3.7 -5 -0.5 Juan Melo
Chad de la Guerra .213 .270 .343 62 .130 .295 3.2 0 -0.5 Chris Saunders
Sam Travis .244 .301 .358 75 .114 .310 3.8 0 -0.5 Juan Tejeda
Austin Rei .189 .272 .295 51 .106 .277 2.5 0 -0.5 Brian Moon
Juan Centeno .250 .290 .341 67 .091 .296 3.5 -6 -0.5 Ken Huckaby
Jeremy Barfield .206 .270 .361 66 .155 .277 3.3 -1 -0.5 Jeremy Ware
Mike Ohlman .198 .277 .336 62 .138 .299 3.2 -6 -0.6 Henry Mercedes
Josh Ockimey .219 .302 .378 80 .159 .329 3.9 -3 -0.6 Nate Rolison
C.J. Chatham .240 .273 .327 59 .087 .311 3.1 -1 -0.6 Eddie Zosky
Mike Olt .196 .274 .344 63 .148 .288 3.2 -4 -0.7 Jose Santos
Cole Sturgeon .232 .277 .328 61 .096 .299 3.2 3 -0.8 Greg Thomson
Kyle Wren .229 .292 .306 60 .078 .299 3.2 2 -0.8 Jason Maas
Aneury Tavarez .225 .273 .338 62 .113 .298 3.2 2 -0.9 Greg Thomson
Tyler Hill .237 .303 .314 65 .076 .283 3.4 0 -1.0 Stephen Kirkpatrick
Victor Acosta .241 .281 .358 69 .118 .272 3.4 -2 -1.0 Rod Bair
Brett Netzer .226 .270 .298 51 .071 .314 2.4 4 -1.2 Demetrish Jenkins
Tate Matheny .205 .258 .282 44 .076 .325 2.3 -2 -1.9 Kevin Batiste

Pitchers – Counting Stats
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO
Chris Sale L 30 15 5 2.62 29 29 182.0 144 53 16 34 225
David Price L 33 13 8 3.78 28 28 164.3 158 69 20 42 157
Eduardo Rodriguez L 26 10 7 3.99 29 26 144.3 134 64 18 49 153
Rick Porcello R 30 13 10 4.36 30 30 175.3 186 85 27 40 158
Nathan Eovaldi R 29 8 5 3.98 23 22 110.7 118 49 14 26 96
Craig Kimbrel R 31 4 2 2.68 60 0 57.0 36 17 5 26 89
Matthew Kent L 26 7 6 4.79 27 27 150.3 179 80 17 45 91
Drew Pomeranz L 30 8 7 4.60 28 21 115.3 115 59 15 54 103
Chandler Shepherd R 26 8 8 4.79 23 23 124.0 144 66 17 31 81
Matt Barnes R 29 5 3 3.54 62 0 61.0 51 24 6 30 80
Joe Kelly R 31 4 2 3.58 65 0 60.3 54 24 4 29 60
Dedgar Jimenez L 23 9 9 4.92 25 24 130.0 146 71 16 52 88
Steven Wright R 34 4 4 4.46 21 11 82.7 85 41 11 32 59
Hector Velazquez R 30 4 4 4.58 34 14 96.3 108 49 13 32 64
Justin Haley R 28 7 7 4.88 25 21 107.0 121 58 14 37 75
Heath Hembree R 30 3 2 3.84 61 0 58.7 54 25 8 22 67
Ryan Brasier R 31 5 3 3.79 57 0 57.0 56 24 6 15 45
Carson Smith R 29 2 1 3.00 33 0 30.0 25 10 2 11 34
Mike Shawaryn R 24 9 9 5.18 26 25 133.7 148 77 23 47 104
Colten Brewer R 26 4 3 3.86 49 0 58.3 55 25 5 23 58
Marcus Walden R 30 4 3 4.36 29 8 66.0 69 32 5 28 45
William Cuevas R 28 8 9 5.14 28 22 126.0 139 72 19 52 96
Travis Lakins R 25 4 3 4.62 29 11 62.3 66 32 7 29 50
Brandon Workman R 30 5 4 4.30 54 0 60.7 61 29 8 22 54
Bobby Poyner L 26 1 1 4.33 50 0 62.3 66 30 9 16 52
Fernando Rodriguez Jr. R 35 3 3 4.70 31 4 51.7 50 27 7 22 49
Robby Scott L 29 3 3 4.47 53 0 52.3 50 26 7 23 51
Darwinzon Hernandez L 22 6 6 5.31 26 22 95.0 92 56 10 74 89
Bryan Mata R 20 5 5 5.27 18 18 68.3 71 40 4 59 46
Mark Montgomery R 28 4 4 4.57 46 0 45.3 45 23 6 21 43
Denyi Reyes R 22 8 9 5.49 19 19 101.7 118 62 18 34 59
Josh Taylor L 26 4 4 4.63 55 0 58.3 61 30 6 29 48
Trevor Kelley R 25 2 2 4.80 40 0 54.3 60 29 6 20 36
Matthew Gorst R 24 4 4 4.97 40 0 63.3 71 35 10 22 42
Tyler Thornburg R 30 3 3 4.86 48 0 46.3 45 25 7 23 41
Domingo Tapia R 27 4 5 5.12 44 5 65.0 73 37 8 31 43
Tanner Houck R 23 8 10 5.84 22 22 103.3 115 67 15 68 75
Teddy Stankiewicz R 25 8 10 5.95 25 21 134.7 168 89 28 42 82

Pitchers – Rate Stats
Player TBF K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA+ ERA- FIP WAR No. 1 Comp
Chris Sale 727 11.13 1.68 0.79 .292 168 59 2.61 5.9 Johan Santana
David Price 689 8.60 2.30 1.10 .298 117 86 3.72 3.3 Frank Viola
Eduardo Rodriguez 611 9.54 3.06 1.12 .301 110 91 3.77 2.5 Chris Nabholz
Rick Porcello 748 8.11 2.05 1.39 .309 101 99 4.19 2.3 Moose Haas
Nathan Eovaldi 470 7.81 2.11 1.14 .313 111 90 3.82 1.9 Carl Pavano
Craig Kimbrel 233 14.05 4.11 0.79 .282 159 63 2.69 1.7 Greg Harris
Matthew Kent 672 5.45 2.69 1.02 .318 92 109 4.49 1.3 Jeff Johnson
Drew Pomeranz 510 8.04 4.21 1.17 .299 96 104 4.54 1.2 Rich Robertson
Chandler Shepherd 543 5.88 2.25 1.23 .311 92 109 4.52 1.1 Lary Sorensen
Matt Barnes 262 11.80 4.43 0.89 .313 124 80 3.38 1.1 Ryne Duren
Joe Kelly 263 8.95 4.33 0.60 .299 123 81 3.61 1.0 Jim Hughes
Dedgar Jimenez 585 6.09 3.60 1.11 .308 90 112 4.76 1.0 Wes Whisler
Steven Wright 363 6.42 3.48 1.20 .288 99 101 4.76 1.0 Diego Segui
Hector Velazquez 427 5.98 2.99 1.21 .304 96 104 4.76 0.9 Dallas Green
Justin Haley 477 6.31 3.11 1.18 .310 90 111 4.65 0.8 Bill Swift
Heath Hembree 249 10.28 3.38 1.23 .305 115 87 3.81 0.8 Jay Powell
Ryan Brasier 240 7.11 2.37 0.95 .291 116 86 3.83 0.8 Kent Tekulve
Carson Smith 126 10.20 3.30 0.60 .299 147 68 3.05 0.7 Danny Kolb
Mike Shawaryn 594 7.00 3.16 1.55 .303 85 118 5.07 0.6 Andy Taulbee
Colten Brewer 252 8.95 3.55 0.77 .307 111 90 3.61 0.6 Jose Rodriguez
Marcus Walden 293 6.14 3.82 0.68 .302 98 102 4.18 0.6 Ed Klieman
William Cuevas 566 6.86 3.71 1.36 .306 86 117 4.99 0.6 Jeremy Guthrie
Travis Lakins 281 7.22 4.19 1.01 .309 95 105 4.59 0.6 Tim Byron
Brandon Workman 263 8.01 3.26 1.19 .299 102 98 4.27 0.5 Kenny Greer
Bobby Poyner 267 7.51 2.31 1.30 .305 102 98 4.27 0.5 Chris Key
Fernando Rodriguez Jr. 225 8.54 3.83 1.22 .297 94 107 4.41 0.3 Don Aase
Robby Scott 230 8.77 3.96 1.20 .297 99 101 4.49 0.3 Scott Wiegandt
Darwinzon Hernandez 450 8.43 7.01 0.95 .303 83 120 5.17 0.3 Bryan Clark
Bryan Mata 335 6.06 7.77 0.53 .303 84 120 5.37 0.3 Rick Berg
Mark Montgomery 201 8.54 4.17 1.19 .302 97 104 4.50 0.2 Greg Bauer
Denyi Reyes 458 5.22 3.01 1.59 .296 80 125 5.56 0.2 Bob Tewksbury
Josh Taylor 264 7.41 4.47 0.93 .309 92 108 4.49 0.2 Philip Barzilla
Trevor Kelley 242 5.96 3.31 0.99 .305 92 109 4.53 0.1 Bob Miller
Matthew Gorst 282 5.97 3.13 1.42 .299 89 113 5.11 0.0 Rich DeLosSantos
Tyler Thornburg 206 7.96 4.47 1.36 .286 88 114 4.96 0.0 Craig McMurtry
Domingo Tapia 298 5.95 4.29 1.11 .307 83 120 5.04 0.0 Barry Hertzler
Tanner Houck 491 6.53 5.92 1.31 .306 76 132 5.73 -0.2 Randy Nosek
Teddy Stankiewicz 611 5.48 2.81 1.87 .310 74 135 5.75 -0.5 Cameron Reimers

Disclaimer: ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2019. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.

Players are listed with their most recent teams, unless I have made a mistake. This is very possible, as a lot of minor-league signings go generally unreported in the offseason.

ZiPS’ projections are based on the American League having a 4.29 ERA and the National League having a 4.15 ERA.

Players who are expected to be out due to injury are still projected. More information is always better than less information, and a computer isn’t the tool that should project the injury status of, for example, a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR.


Elegy for ’18 – Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado was one of two MVP-candidate hitters on an otherwise sluggish Colorado offense.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

The Colorado Rockies beat the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card game and almost toppled the reigning NL champion Dodgers in the West, but fell to the awesome power of Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin. Colorado was a solid team in 2018, but remained a bundle of confusing inconsistencies. Unlike many good Rockies teams, they figured out how to field a rotation that was little fazed by Planet Coors, only to have a shallow, unsteady offense prove to be their downfall.

The Setup

Coming off an 87-75 season, the team’s first winning season in seven years and first playoff appearance in eight, and with a few glaring holes, the opportunity existed for the Rockies to make an aggressive push to challenge the NL elites over the 2017-2018 offseason.

Instead, the team spent $106 million on three free agent relievers – Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and the returning Jake McGee. The bullpen was actually a strength for the team in 2017, finishing sixth in the majors in WAR among relievers; their 3.94 FIP was quite impressive for a team that played half their games at Coors Field. If you don’t buy into WAR for relievers, that 3.94 FIP was good enough for the team to rank sixth in the majors in FIP- and seventh in ERA-.

Now, it was reasonable to make bullpen additions, especially after 2017 All-Star Greg Holland, who ended up doing a poor job evaluating the market for his services, departed in free agency. It may have been necessary to make an addition even if they had kept Holland, of course, given his 6.38 second-half ERA (I wouldn’t fault the Rockies for Holland’s 2018 in this scenario, Jeff Bridich not being a Time Lord as far as I know).

What was unreasonable was what the Rockies did about the significant holes they had outside of the bullpen.

Namely? Next-to-nothing.

The team’s 90 OPS+ in 2017 was the 10th-worst in modern baseball history among teams that made the playoffs, though it has since been knocked down to 11th by the 2018 Rockies. Their 87-75 record, while a positive given the team’s recent history, felt a bit disappointing considering it took six above-average starters (German Marquel, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray, and Tyler Anderson), a top-tier bullpen, and two legitimate MVP candidates on the offense just to get that point.

There’s a fair argument to be made that OPS+ and similar measures can underrate the Rockies. One longstanding explanation has been the Coors Field hangover theory, which has been demonstrated with mixed results over the last decade, and generally holds that Rockies hitters are hurt somewhat by the difference between Coors Field and the parks closer to sea level. The problem for the Rockies’ offense is that this effect has a limit; there isn’t enough wiggle room to make them anywhere near a 105 OPS+ team or something.

And furthermore, if Rockies hitters face a special disadvantage from playing at Coors that simply makes hitters worse overall in terms of their value, it doesn’t excuse the front office’s role in that underperformance; it means that they have to overengineer things when putting together an offense. It’s an aggravating factor for a crime of apathy, not a mitigating one.

The front office made exactly one move to improve the offense, bringing in Chris Iannetta, who hit .254/.354/.511 for the Diamondbacks in 2017; he’d turn 35 near the start of the 2018 season. And that was it.

Whether due to ignorance or incompetence, the front office ignored the fact that their 1B/LF/RF offensive triad were all at the bottom of the league in 2017. Despite the noise about giving Ryan McMahon and David Dahl real shots in spring training, Ian Desmond and the injured Gerardo Parra were given their jobs back on a silver platter, along with Carlos Gonzalez, who re-signed with the team in the middle of spring training.

The Projection

The ZiPS projections had the Rockies at 82-80 coming into the season, facing significant trouble behind the Dodgers from the Diamondbacks (a good call for 5/6th of the season) and the Giants (oops). ZiPS was very optimistic about the pitching staff, with Jon Gray, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Tyler Anderson, a returning Chad Bettis, and even Jeff Hoffman all projected for an ERA+ of at least 96 for the season. But ZiPS only saw 1.0 combined WAR from the Trio of Sadness at 1B/LF/RF, and another blazing hot 0.7 WAR from Iannetta.

The Results

For a nine-win miss, ZiPS didn’t do too badly with the Rockies, getting the team’s essential contours right but missing on the magnitude of just how good the starting pitchers were. From a projected solid-and-deep mix of no. 2 and 3 starters came two stars in German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, the latter of whom was a legitimate Cy Young ballot contender (depending on your philosophy on FIP vs. ERA and related adjusted measures when it comes to evaluating past contributions).

The Rockies should get a ton of credit for their rotation, piecing together a group that received relatively little trouble from pitching half of their games in Coors Field, a feat that has frequently eluded the team over their existence. They’ve built good bullpens before — the mid 90s Rockies had a terrific group — but starting pitching was always a particular bedevilment.

Colorado Pitching Rotations, 1993-2018
Season ERA FIP WAR ERA-
2009 4.10 3.97 16.8 89
2018 4.17 4.07 15.0 90
2017 4.59 4.56 11.7 91
2010 4.21 3.83 16.3 92
2007 4.58 4.71 11.8 96
2006 4.72 4.50 14.9 96
2000 5.59 5.31 11.4 98
2016 4.79 4.39 11.6 99
1995 5.19 4.92 8.3 101
2013 4.57 4.11 11.0 104
2001 5.48 5.14 9.8 105
1997 5.48 5.25 7.4 106
1998 5.62 4.99 10.7 107
2011 4.73 4.46 8.4 108
2002 5.24 5.27 5.4 108
1996 5.68 5.42 6.1 109
2008 5.14 4.49 12.0 110
1994 5.30 4.72 6.4 111
1999 6.19 5.61 7.6 111
2003 5.57 5.16 7.2 113
2014 4.89 4.54 5.9 114
2005 5.30 4.83 8.2 114
2004 5.54 5.19 7.1 114
2015 5.27 4.87 4.3 117
1993 5.49 4.81 5.6 119
2012 5.81 5.14 2.6 126

Surprisingly, the bullpen turned out to be a bit of a disaster over the first half of the season. Davis wasn’t horrific, just mediocre, but Shaw and McGee were nearly unmitigated disasters; the three signed relievers combining to make $31 million in return for 171.1 innings of 5.41 ERA ball, which is…not…good. The second half of the season turned out to be sunnier and the addition of Seung-hwan Oh was one of the better trade pickups in baseball.

The offense was a rerun of the 2017 season. Once again, the team had two MVP candidates (with Charlie Blackmon swapped out for Trevor Story) and little production from the key offensive positions. The aforementioned Trio of Sadness, projected at 1.0 WAR, combined for 1.0 WAR, though with the odd wrinkly that they only got that high because of Carlos Gonzalez’s positive defense by UZR. David Dahl grudgingly got playing time at points when healthy, and Ryan McMahon was mostly relegated to the bench. Raimel Tapia appeared in 25 games but only started two of them, generally being used only as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.

Given a chance at a mulligan to address the offensive at the trade deadline, the Rockies made the big addition of…Matt Holliday, who received little interest in the offseason and spent his age-38 season out of professional baseball. Holliday did hit, but gave back almost as much value in defense, finishing at 0.1 WAR in his brief return. It’s notable how easily Holliday was handed playing time compared to the team’s young players, getting 65 plate appearances in his five weeks with little of the resistance McMahon or Tapia faced.

Despite the front office hinderance, the Rockies’ rotation and stars got them to 90 wins, a game shy of toppling the Dodgers in the division, and the playoffs, before an embarrassing NLDS sweep by the Brewers, only scoring two runs in three games.

What Comes Next

What’s frustrating about the Rockies is just how many of the tools they have for a great team, rather than a merely good one that wins 85-90 games for a few years. The player development part of the front office has done a terrific job, with almost the entire rotation coming from within; the lone exception is German Marquez, who was obtained from the Rays in the Corey Dickerson trade. The team’s three MVP-candidate position players the last two years (Blackmon, Arenado, and Story) are also farm system products. In the pen, Scott Oberg was homegrown and while Adam Ottavino wasn’t a Colorado product, the Rockies were the team that turned him into a top reliever after being a mediocre starting pitcher prospect claimed off waivers.

And the team has more talent coming. Brendan Rodgers should seize a job in the infield fairly quickly, and Tapia and McMahon, while not technically qualifying as prospects, really should be given their limited opportunities to shine thus far.

It’s at the major league level, however, the team is just not currently run all that well. But there’s still time; despite the problems, they did make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and the team still has opportunities to add real difference-makers in offense. Why shouldn’t the Rockies be a player for Bryce Harper? I’d argue there’s no team in baseball that needs him more.

And changing how the team is run wouldn’t require a giant teardown and rebuild. It just requires properly evaluating the team’s offensive weaknesses, realizing that Ian Desmond is a sunk cost who should either be a role player or making the league minimum with another team after his release, and treating the team’s offensive prospects as potential contributors who can add value rather that as inconveniences for mediocre veterans. Keep the team, nix the front office.

ZiPS Projection – Nolan Arenado

One problem on the horizon for Colorado is the impending free agency of Nolan Arenado, the prize of their high-performing prospect pipeline. He’s Troy Tulowitzki without the injuries, a player still on the sunny side of 30 who could very possibly have Hall of Fame career, especially if the BBWAA becomes better at evaluating mid-spectrum players.

ZiPS Projections – Nolan Arenado
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2019 .289 .356 .552 589 100 170 39 4 36 118 63 118 2 123 9 4.5
2020 .288 .356 .552 562 94 162 39 5 33 111 60 110 2 123 8 4.2
2021 .288 .355 .550 545 90 157 37 5 32 107 57 104 2 122 7 4.0
2022 .286 .352 .537 525 84 150 35 5 29 99 54 98 2 119 7 3.6
2023 .279 .344 .512 502 77 140 32 5 25 90 50 91 2 111 6 2.8
2024 .274 .336 .487 478 70 131 28 4 22 81 45 82 2 103 5 2.1

ZiPS suggests a five-year, $143 million extension for Arenado if signed today. While he’s likely not the type of player who should be signed to an eight-to-ten-year extension, as he’s not hitting the free agent market at as young an age as Manny Machado or Bryce Harper are, he’s a player the Rockies can’t easily replace, and has deserved his MVP consideration the last two seasons.