The Absurdly Preliminary 2023 ZiPS Projected Standings

These 2023 projections are guaranteed to be awful, wrong in many ways ranging from tragic to comic. But despite being absolutely premature and littered with horrible misses, projected standings at this point are actually quite useful, and useful is the best description any kind of predictive model can strive for. Standings at this point are a poor predictor of the 2023 season — and even the eventual 2023 projections themselves — but what they are able to do is give a “state of the union” estimate for each team. These standings represent the best estimates ZiPS can make at this point about where a team sits in the league’s pecking order, based solely on the players currently under contract with the team. It’s hard to get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re starting.

The methodology I’m using here is the same one I use in the regular season, and as such, it isn’t identical to the one we use in our Projected Standings. So how does ZiPS calculate the upcoming season? Stored within ZiPS are the first through 99th percentile projections for each player. I start by making a generalized depth chart, using our Depth Charts as an initial starting point. Since these are my curated projections, I make changes based on my personal feelings about who will receive playing time, as filtered through arbitrary whimsy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates a million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion — the computational algorithms, that is (no one is dressing up in a tuxedo and playing baccarat like James Bond).

After that is done, ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized distribution of injury risk, which change the baseline PAs/IPs selected for each player. Of note here is that higher-percentile projections already have more playing time baked in than lower-percentile projections before this step. ZiPS then automatically “fills in” playing time from the next players on the list (proportionally) to get to a full slate of plate appearances and innings.

The result is a million different rosters for each team and an associated winning percentage for each of those million teams. After applying the new strength of schedule calculations based on the other 29 teams, I end up with the standings for each of the million seasons. This is actually much less complex than it sounds.

These projected standings do take the strength of schedule into consideration, which will be a bit more uniform now that the league has rebalanced the schedule. These standings reflect everything through yesterday’s Hunter Renfroe trade. We’ll start with the AL East:

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – AL East
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Toronto Blue Jays 88 74 .543 32.5% 36.6% 69.1% 6.6%
Tampa Bay Rays 88 74 .543 32.6% 36.7% 69.3% 6.6%
New York Yankees 85 77 3 .525 20.4% 35.6% 56.0% 4.0%
Boston Red Sox 82 80 6 .506 11.0% 28.5% 39.5% 2.0%
Baltimore Orioles 78 84 10 .481 3.6% 15.4% 19.0% 0.6%

You shouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees crash back to earth here, based on the simple fact that the dude worth 11.4 WAR for them this past season — hint, it’s not Tim Locastro — is currently unsigned. The Yankees may not bring Aaron Judge back, but it would be absolutely shocking if they didn’t do something to replace the wins they would lose with his departure. Now, he’s the big loss, but Jameson Taillon and Matt Carpenter matter, too, though it isn’t likely that Carpenter will match his 2022 performance anyway.

Relative to the Yankees, the big losses for the Rays (Corey Kluber, Kevin Kiermaier) and Jays (pretty much just Ross Stripling) are relatively mild. Not having Xander Bogaerts hurts the Red Sox quite a bit, but ZiPS already liked Boston better than their 2022 record and a few of the guys on the edge of the roster (Ceddanne Rafaela, Enmanuel Valdez) have fairly solid projections. One can see here the strong position the Orioles are in if they chose to be aggressive this offseason; they’ve had enough happy player development surprises that they can legitimately say they start the offseason in the same galaxy as the rest of the division.

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – AL Central
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Cleveland Guardians 82 80 .506 42.0% 8.4% 50.4% 2.7%
Minnesota Twins 81 81 1 .500 31.9% 8.7% 40.7% 1.8%
Chicago White Sox 76 86 6 .469 14.7% 6.0% 20.7% 0.6%
Kansas City Royals 74 88 8 .457 8.1% 3.7% 11.7% 0.2%
Detroit Tigers 70 92 12 .432 3.3% 1.5% 4.8% 0.1%

This may look depressing, but it also reflects the fact that everyone in the division is getting a tougher schedule in 2023. Cleveland is fairly unscathed, with the drop-off in wins reflecting a drop-off in the overall projections for the roster. Many of Chicago’s projections are notably south of where they were in 2022, and there are still at least two fairly serious holes in the starting lineup that the team better be more serious about filling this year.

ZiPS sees the Twins rotation as increasingly deep, but without any huge upside, and Carlos Correa will almost certainly be in another team’s uniform come Opening Day. The Royals and Tigers have a lot of fairly serious problems, so I doubt anyone is shocked to see them at the bottom here, though ZiPS does think KC can cobble together a halfway decent offense if they can resist doing the odd things they seemingly like to do (Ryan O’Hearn has the 38th-best projected WAR for a position player in their organization).

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – AL West
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Houston Astros 90 72 .556 52.0% 27.1% 79.1% 9.8%
Seattle Mariners 84 78 6 .519 19.5% 31.6% 51.1% 3.4%
Los Angeles Angels 84 78 6 .519 19.0% 31.3% 50.3% 3.3%
Texas Rangers 80 82 10 .494 7.6% 21.0% 28.5% 1.2%
Oakland A’s 74 88 16 .457 1.9% 8.0% 9.9% 0.2%

IT’S ANGELS TIME! OK, not really. The Angels have the benefit here of having most of the team’s performance tied up in just a few players, with nobody crucial headed to free agency. Renfroe is actually helpful for an organization that has proven bad at surrounding its stars with secondary talent, but there’s a lot to do if the Angels are going to even maintain this place in the standings. Similar to the Yankees with Judge, the Astros aren’t likely to just shrug and stand pat if Justin Verlander doesn’t return.

I expect a busy offseason for the Mariners, with a definite focus on second base and corner outfield, and the Rangers have already been able to retain their best free agent-to-be, Martin Perez, for the 2023 season. And the A’s, well, they didn’t have anyone good enough to lose, which is something! Things may get worse before they get better, however, as there’s no guarantee that either Sean Murphy or Ramón Laureano starts the season with Oakland.

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – NL East
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Atlanta Braves 96 66 .593 77.6% 16.8% 94.4% 18.5%
New York Mets 84 78 12 .519 9.9% 37.2% 47.0% 2.5%
Philadelphia Phillies 84 78 12 .519 9.3% 37.2% 46.5% 2.4%
Miami Marlins 79 83 17 .488 3.2% 21.0% 24.2% 0.8%
Washington Nationals 67 95 29 .414 0.0% 1.1% 1.1% 0.0%

Here we see the results of Alex Anthopoulos ruthlessly ensuring that Atlanta’s entire core stays put for a very long time. Dansby Swanson is a big loss, but when you see the projection for Vaughn Grissom, you’ll understand why the Braves dominate this very preliminary run of the NL East standings. The Mets appear certain to drop a lot of cash this winter, but again, they need to, with Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Nimmo, and, well, much of the bullpen all heading to the open market. It isn’t difficult to understand why the Mets locked up Edwin Díaz so quickly.

The Phillies certainly need a starting pitcher, and ZiPS is less than enthralled with the situation at second base and definitely isn’t on Team Brandon Marsh. Still, a bounce back from Nick Castellanos remains likely. Bryce Harper’s return from elbow surgery is, of course, one of the real X factors that’s hard to fully consider here. The Marlins are in a similar position as they were last year, with a highly interesting young pitching staff and an absolutely atrocious offense that they can’t even commit “weekend dad” levels of attention to fixing. As for Washington, let’s just say that their second-best projected offensive player was someone who I wasn’t completely sure I had heard of before.

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – NL Central
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
St. Louis Cardinals 91 71 .562 68.0% 15.3% 83.4% 10.0%
Milwaukee Brewers 85 77 6 .525 27.0% 27.1% 54.1% 3.4%
Chicago Cubs 74 88 17 .457 2.7% 6.5% 9.2% 0.2%
Cincinnati Reds 72 90 19 .444 1.4% 3.8% 5.2% 0.1%
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 92 21 .432 0.9% 2.5% 3.4% 0.0%

ZiPS tends to be the most positive projection system when it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals, and 2023 looks like no exception. The Cards (catcher, a starting pitcher) and Brewers (two outfielders) have similar levels of neediness, and this preliminary projection basically preserves their relative 2022 standing. The Cubs are making noise about spending this winter, but they need a couple of starting pitchers, a first baseman, most of a bullpen, and a DH to really threaten the top two teams in the Central. There are a lot of Reds who ZiPS sees as having significant upside (Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Noelvi Marte), but the system doesn’t see 2023 being their breakout campaigns. The projections actually see the Pirates having a halfway decent offense — and Endy Rodriguez has a terrific projection — but the rotation still projects rather poorly, as ZiPS remains frightened of Mitch Keller’s plate discipline data.

2023 ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Los Angeles Dodgers 91 71 .562 50.9% 31.0% 82.0% 10.0%
San Diego Padres 87 75 4 .537 24.7% 37.9% 62.6% 4.7%
San Francisco Giants 83 79 8 .512 13.0% 31.3% 44.4% 2.3%
Arizona Diamondbacks 83 79 8 .512 11.2% 29.7% 41.0% 2.0%
Colorado Rockies 68 94 23 .420 0.1% 1.4% 1.5% 0.0%

The Dodgers have a lot of work to do this offseason, but they started off as an absurdly good team, leaving them at the top of the projected division. I doubt they’ll enter the season with Ryan Pepiot in the rotation. San Diego retained Nick Martinez and Robert Suarez, and having a full season of Juan Soto and (hopefully) most of a year of Fernando Tatis Jr. is quite the boost. I do think they ought to be in the market for a first base upgrade, keeping Jake Cronenworth at second and allowing Ha-Seong Kim’s eventual role be determined by what the Friars do with Tatis.

When it comes to the Giants, ZiPS is increasingly a fan of Kyle Harrison, which helps to mute some of the loss of Carlos Rodón. Probably the most surprising team in these standings is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have a cornucopia of players that ZiPS just really likes (Corbin Carroll, Brandon Pfaadt, Drey Jameson, and Ryne Nelson in particular). In truth, the projections for Arizona were so positive on the whole that I actually went back and double-checked every park factor and calculation specific to the Diamondbacks and their minor league affiliates.

The Colorado Rockies are a baseball team. They will play a number of baseball games in 2023 and win at least a handful of them. ZiPS projects the Rockies to be better than only the Nationals, but I expect the Nats have a better idea of exactly where their team is than the Rockies do. If I were a Rockies fan, I’d have voted to legalize psychedelic mushrooms, too.

Next up: The start of the team-by-team projections, beginning with the Boston Red Sox.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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kipsoothmember
1 year ago

As a White Sox fan, yikes.

MRDXolmember
1 year ago

a strongly ‘oy vey’ projection

Max Power
1 year ago

Don’t worry, they still have between \$0M and \$10M in payroll space and 1 top-100 prospect, plus a couple others in the 100-200 range that could be traded to help the roster. Another 15 wins to add to this projection seem pretty straightforward.

1 year ago

They need two corner outfielders and a second baseman. I do think some of this projection is because Yoan Moncada was a mess but I don’t think he will be that bad again. And the pitching still goes pretty deep so it’s really hard to imagine that they are anywhere near the Royals next year, even in this state.

AshnodsCouponmember
1 year ago

Also gotta remember that the rest of the Central teams (especially Twins) have payroll space and prospect capital to improve if they want to, and the Sox don’t.

Last edited 1 year ago by AshnodsCoupon
soddingjunkmail
1 year ago

Also gotta remember that the rest of the Central teams (especially Twins) have payroll space

You forgot the “except Cleveland” at the end of that. It would be moderately stunning if they spent money of any significance.

fjtorres
1 year ago

Define “significance”.

If the ChiSox are truly limited to \$10M max (seriously?), Cleveland will outspend them in add-ons. Not by much but their minimum payroll boost looks to be in the \$15-25M. Not that they’re likely to hit 9 figures but they will spend modestly.

Last edited 1 year ago by fjtorres
soddingjunkmail
1 year ago

> Define “significance”

Loosely, money spent outside of planned raises and inexpensive (think 2yrs, \$13M or 1yr, \$4.5M) roster hole plugging that every team does.

fjtorres
1 year ago

Which is what the Chisox are supposed to do on \$10M.
If that number is real they aren’t doing any spending of “significance” either.

Not when they need a 2B, at least one OF, maybe a C and P.
Which is why I doubt the \$10M number. Where the Chisox lie, your kind of “significance” starts at \$40. And at that number Cleveland won’t play. So what *does* Chicago have to spend?

And do note that the numbers coming out of cleveland are above and beyond raises and extensions. You may not think it significant but for Dolan to spend 8 figures in FA is.

My own expectation (Vazquez) would be \$8-14M. I don’t see them trading for Murphy. Not for thr names floated and not if they’re keeping Naylor.
Any trades would be to move Rosario or one of Plesac/Civale.

What I do see them doing in FA is what Francona loves: platoons at 1B, Dh, and CF. That they can do for \$25M and trades.

MikeSmember
1 year ago