Eight and a Half Observations Using ZiPS Projections

So, you may have heard that ZiPS projections are now available for 2014. You may also be wondering if said projections reveal information pertinent to your fantasy drafts. Well, let me tell you.

The approach I took was not particularly scientific or anything. I sorted a list of player projections by various categories, starting with wOBA and moving on to other leverageable categories. I then scanned for players appearing where I did not expect them.

The wOBA Surprise
Jose Abreu

I must admit that I keep forgetting about Abreu in my draft plans, but ZiPS clearly remembers him. Steamer and Oliver have also been updated with a projection for Abreu and the expectations are uniformly great. There appears to be an expectation for 25-35 home run power with a handful of stolen bases. The projections make him smell like a five category first baseman (which differs from a true five category player).¬†FantasyPros panel of experts suggest a $12 price, and Yahoo has an O-Rank of 140 worth $6. Based on the projected stats, we’re looking at a $25 output. Even if he falls well short, he’ll pay off. He could be the steal of the draft. It’s worth pointing out that my two real drafts to date have valued him at $13 (Ottoneu) and $27 (Yahoo).

It might be advantageous to nominate him early. In that Yahoo draft, he was the best player left on the draft board by a wide margin and several owners had a ton of money available. If you nominate him while options like Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman are still on the board, you might be able to keep down the number of owners participating.

Young Mashers
Javier Baez
George Springer
Maikel Franco

ZiPS is liberal with the playing time projections for prospects, which leads to expectations of a 29 home run season from Joey Gallo. ZiPS is probably alone in projecting more than a cup of coffee for Gallo. Some youngsters are more likely to get the opportunity than others.

Springer is the front line pick from this group since he could start for the Astros. Last season, he posted 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases across two levels. He strikes out a lot, which is why nobody is projecting him to be the second coming of Mike Trout. ZiPS projects over 50 HR+SB to go with a .237 batting average. I’ve heard him compared to vintage Mike Cameron, and that smells appropriate.

Baez is not dissimilar to Springer. He popped 37 home runs and swiped 20 bases last season. He also comes with strikeout issues, but his shortstop eligibility mitigates that problem. Unlike Springer, Baez appears blocked for the 2014 season while the Cubs decide what’s happening with Starlin Castro. If Castro continues to struggle at the plate, Baez could see a mid-season promotion.

Franco’s profile is quite a bit different from the other two. Despite owning what scouts describe as an exploitable swing, he made a ton of contact last season. In fact, Franco’s age 20 season reads a lot like Pablo Sandoval‘s age 21 season. Franco popped 31 home runs with low walk and strikeout rates. He’s nominally blocked by sort-of-prospect Cody Asche, but Asche doesn’t have the job on lockdown. The Phillies want to compete in 2014, and Franco could be part of solving that puzzle. ZiPS projects 24 home runs.

Stolen Base Threats
Gregory Polanco
Reymond Fuentes

Again with Springer. It can only be a good thing that he appears on both the home run and stolen base lists, but a dark corner of my mind is telling me to remember the PECOTA projection on Matt Wieters.

Polanco is somebody I’ve written about recently. I like him more in future seasons when his power may be more fully actualized. In 2014, he should at least support fantasy owners with steals and batting average help if Jose Tabata and Travis Snider lose the job.

I’ve poo-pooed Fuentes this offseason while others have talked him up. With Maybin possibly hitting the skids, there could be some real playing time available, which was my chief complaint. My other issue is that his bat is too light for his walk rate to remain high. Obviously, if your league is deeper than the standard fare, then he begins to look more and more attractive.

FIP Heroes
Danny Farquhar
Masahiro Tanaka

Farquhar’s tenure as the M’s closer was short-lived. The club signed Fernando Rodney, relegating Farquhar back to setup duties. I’m more confident in Rodney than most, and I expect that only injury will give Farquhar save opportunities in 2014. ZiPS projects a top 20 FIP supported by big strikeout numbers and a tolerable walk rate.

I recently named Tanaka as one of three players I would not be buying. If I was using only ZiPS he would be near the top of my target list. ZiPS projects him to be the seventh best starting pitcher, behind Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, and Stephen Strasburg. You may be mentally listing other pitchers who you expect to outperform Tanaka and so am I (for example, Yu Darvish). ZiPS projects a 8.81 K/9 and 1.65 BB/9. If that winds up to be accurate, then Tanaka will be a monster. Obviously, I’m taking the under.

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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

7 Responses to “Eight and a Half Observations Using ZiPS Projections”

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  1. Andrew says:

    This is a little off topic, my apologies, but I’ve got FG+ and I’m having a hard time finding the auction values board. I’m going to the 2014 Steamer projections leaderboard and not seeing it as a column. Thanks in advance for answering my dumb question.

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  2. JonesLandon says:

    Yep. Should work perfectly.

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  3. garett68 says:

    I am starting an Ottoneu League. It is an auction draft, fangraph points, $99, full keeper league on march 23 at 8pm. the league details are here: http://ottoneu.fangraphs.com/435/home

    Email me @ garettmarcum@gmail.com for any questions.

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  4. Adam says:

    Thanks. This is an interesting breakdown. You mentioned Yahoo O-Ranks regarding Abreu. Does anyone know where these can be easily downloaded/copied into a spreadsheet?

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