Archive for 2018 ZiPS Projections

2018 ZiPS Projections – Washington Nationals

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Washington Nationals. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
The Nationals have developed into one of the league’s “super teams” in recent years, having compiled a roster that is rivaled by few others in terms of balance and overall strength. In 2017, for example, both the club’s hitters and pitchers finished seventh or better by WAR. That feat was accomplished by only three other clubs, all of which reached the postseason.

Regard:

Top-10 Team Batter and Pitcher WAR, 2017
Team Batter WAR Batter Rank Pitcher WAR Pitcher Rank Average Rank
Dodgers 30.1 2 24.3 3 2.5
Indians 27.3 4 31.7 1 2.5
Yankees 27.9 3 24.4 2 2.5
Astros 33.0 1 20.8 6 3.5
Nationals 26.1 6 19.8 7 6.5
Cubs 26.7 5 15.9 12 8.5
Cardinals 24.6 8 16.7 10 9.0
D-backs 19.8 14 23.2 5 9.5
Red Sox 17.8 15 23.9 4 9.5
Rays 21.0 13 15.9 13 13.0

With regard to the Nationals’ field-playing cohort, specifically, almost all the principals from the 2017 club return in 2018. Even some of the non-principals return, as well. Bryce Harper (575 PA, 4.9 zWAR) and Anthony Rendon (585, 4.5) are near-MVP types, while Trea Turner (558, 3.4) does quite well here, too. Adam Eaton (583, 3.0), meanwhile, will essentially serve as a new acquisition for Washington after having recorded just 107 plate appearances in his first year with the organization.

Ryan Zimmerman (496, 0.8) is the club’s weakest link per ZiPS, forecast for just a 102 wRC+ after producing a 138 wRC+ mark in 2017. Szymborski’s computer calls for a 38-point drop in BABIP (.335 to .297) and 60-point decline in isolated power (.269 to .209), too.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Chicago Cubs

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Chicago Cubs. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Dan Szymborski’s computer projects only three Cubs — Kris Bryant (670 PA, 5.8 zWAR), Anthony Rizzo (658, 4.9), and Addison Russell (508, 3.0) — to produce three wins or more in 2018, yet all eight of the positions on the depth-chart image below are forecast to reach that mark (within a rounding error, at least).

The cause of that discrepancy is as obvious as the deep, unabating terror in every mortal heart: the Cubs use platoons often and to good effect. Ben Zobrist (478, 1.9), for example, lacks a set role but is likely to complement Javier Baez (507, 1.7) and Jason Heyward (538, 2.3) at second base and right field, respectively. Ian Happ (545, 2.2), meanwhile, will probably share center and left fields with Albert Almora (437, 1.2) and Kyle Schwarber (511, 1.2).

As for weaknesses, no obvious one exists in the starting lineup as it’s presently constructed. That said, neither Almora nor Schwarber seem to be great candidates for a full-time role on a championship club — or, not according to ZiPS, at least. Were Happ to suffer an injury or fail to compensate for his strikeout rates with sufficient power on contact, then the team might be compelled to look for help elsewhere.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – San Diego Padres

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the San Diego Padres. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
San Diego hitters recorded the lowest collective WAR figure in the majors last year, compiling just seven wins as a group, or about 26 fewer than the Houston Astros’ cohort. This offseason, meanwhile, has seen the departure of Yangervis Solarte — who, for whatever his shortcomings, has nevertheless been the club’s most productive position player over the last three years. This would appear to spell trouble for erstwhile managing editor Dave Cameron and his new colleagues.

And yet, not that. A brief examination of the depth-chart image below reveals a Starting Eight that projects as profoundly average. And while that might not be regarded as welcome news for some clubs, it represents a promising development for the young Padres. There isn’t anything in the way of star-level power here — Manuel Margot (585 PA, 3.2 zWAR) and Wil Myers (648, 3.2) both profile more as above-average regulars than clear All-Stars — but there is also little in the way of glaring weakness.

Of some interest is how the team handles second base. Cory Spangenberg (527, 1.3) earns the top forecast of the players likely to receive time there, but Carlos Asuaje (609, 1.2) started about half the club’s games at second last season. Prospect Luis Urias (558, 1.8), meanwhile, has a better WAR forecast than either of them.

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2018 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 half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
A perfectly average group of field players would produce something like 16 wins collectively in a season (that is, two wins times eight starters). The group of D-backs field players on the depth-chart image below is projected for roughly 15 wins collectively in 2018. By one definition, at least, this is basically an average offense.

By another, it’s not at all. Of the club’s eight likely starters, only one — Ketel Marte (599 PA, 1.7 zWAR) — receives a wins forecast that would round to 2.0. Paul Goldschmidt (638, 4.1), Jake Lamb (589, 2.5), and A.J. Pollock (510, 3.4) occupy one mode of this hypothetical distribution graph; the rest of the starting eight (minus Marte), the other.

The weakness for a club constructed thusly is its exposure to risk: an injury to one of the teams leaders can have catastrophic effects. This was the case for the 2016 edition of the D-backs, for example, when A.J. Pollock was unable to make his season debut until late August. The strength for such a club, meanwhile, is the ease of upgrading the roster. In the case of Arizona, finding an alternative to Yasmany Tomas (426, 0.4) in left field might represent the most expedient means to such an upgrade.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Houston Astros

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Houston Astros. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Houston Astros position players recorded the majors’ top adjusted batting line by a considerable margin in 2017 and the largest collective WAR figure, as well. One, employing logic, would anticipate that the return of the entire starting lineup from last year’s team would render the offense a strength for the 2018 edition of the club. The numbers from Dan Szymborski’s computer support that hypothesis.

Jose Altuve (688 PA, 5.7 zWAR) and Carlos Correa (590, 5.7) belong to that class of American League player who would appear on a preseason shortlist for MVP if Mike Trout didn’t already represent the entirety of the preseason shortlist for MVP. Alex Bregman (612, 3.8) and George Springer (616, 4.4), meanwhile, are probably All-Stars. That foursome composes the core of the offense.

As for a weakness among the starting nine, that’s a relative term in the context of this club. Evan Gattis (448, 1.8 zWAR) has the trademark power of a designated hitter but not the trademark other attributes. His projected 108 wRC+ isn’t ideal at DH. But that forecast is also based on his offensive output from years in which he’s made a number of defensive appearances behind the plate. His production figures to improve if he’s not exposed to the slings and arrows of catching.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Detroit Tigers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Detroit Tigers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Detroit’s collection of hitters doesn’t fair particularly well by the projections, nor is this particularly surprising: having finally embraced the notion of a rebuild, the club has spent the last six months divesting itself of all mildly attractive assets. Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton represented three-quarters of the team’s offensive core least year. They’ve all been traded since mid-July.

What remains is rather modest. Miguel Cabrera (526 PA, 2.0 zWAR) and Nick Castellanos (634, 2.3) receive the only projections of two or more wins. Designated hitter Victor Martinez (446, 0.3) is a replacement-level player. All other starters occupy a spot somewhere with that range. This is a below-average group.

That’s not to say there aren’t items of interest. Overall, the team is younger. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario (596, 1.7), acquired from the Cubs in the Justin Wilson trade, earns a nearly league-average forecast. Also, the club appears likely to field one of its best defenses for some time. Leonys Martin (507, 1.7) is projected for +9 runs in center field. Dixon Machado (496, 0.8) is a +4 shortstop playing second base. Miscast as a center fielder, Mikie Mahtook (428, 0.7) is probably an asset in left.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Atlanta Braves

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Atlanta Braves. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Atlanta’s rebuild hasn’t taken the same form as the sort performed by the Astros or Cubs. Indeed, on paper, there’s little evidence of a rebuild at all. Consider, by way of illustration, the end-of-year payroll figures for the club since their last winning season (2013).

Atlanta’s financial obligations in 2017 exceeded the totals of every prior year in franchise history. With the exception of Freddie Freeman (566 PA, 4.2 zWAR), though, none of the club’s largest commitments were expected to make a substantive difference on the field. The club’s record last year suggests that those expectations were well founded.

While the club’s process might have been different, Atlanta’s current roster nevertheless resembles the sort typically possessed by a team on the verge of ascent, populated largely by cost-controlled players with tremendous potential. If Dan Szymborski’s computer is any indication, the 2018 season could represent the one in which much of that potential translates to success. Ender Inciarte (677, 3.4) and Dansby Swanson (589, 2.3) are projected to record more wins than Shelby Miller (for whom they were acquired) has produced in his best season. Ozzie Albies (697, 3.3) and Ronald Acuña (594, 2.8), meanwhile, are forecast for just over six wins as a pair — this, despite having accumulated fewer than 300 major-league plate appearances between them (all belonging to Albies).

As Craig Edwards noted towards the end of last week, Atlanta might actually be well positioned right now to address their weaknesses by way of free agency. For the current roster, that would probably mean finding replacements for Nick Markakis (623, 0.5) in the outfield and the combination of Johan Camargo (468, 0.6) and Rio Ruiz (579, 1.2) at third.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Cleveland Indians

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Cleveland Indians. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Among those clubs one might reasonably designate as a “super team” — which, for sake of ease, we might simply define as any team projected for 90 or more wins at the moment — Cleveland possesses the lowest current payroll.

Regard:

Projected Wins and Payroll for “Super Teams”
Team Payroll Pay Rank Wins Wins Rank
Astros $130.5 13 98 1
Dodgers $181.1 3 94 2
Indians $122.8 15 93 3
Cubs $142.1 8 92 4
Red Sox $191.1 1 91 t5
Nationals $170.4 5 91 t5
Yankees $157.9 7 91 t5
Payroll data care of spotrac.

The constraints both of the market and ownership’s willingness to spend might ultimately render it difficult for Cleveland to sustain their current run of excellence. For 2018, however, the Indians are well positioned not only to compete but contend.

Francisco Lindor (696 PA, 5.8 zWAR), of course, remains the centerpiece of the club’s field-playing corps. He’s forecast not only for a batting line nearly 20% better than league average but also +10 fielding runs at shortstop. Jose Ramirez (643, 4.7) is nearly Lindor’s equal, supplying the same type of value, if not necessarily the same degree of it.

After that pair, the roster is composed largely of players in the average range. ZiPS calls for Edwin Encarnacion (577, 2.9) to continue hitting sufficiently well to compensate for his defensive shortcomings. The greatest weakness, meanwhile, appears to be right field, where even a platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall (421, 0.3) and Brandon Guyer (294, 1.0) fails to eclipse the one-win mark by much.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Tampa Bay Rays

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Tampa Bay Rays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Most major-league clubs probably feature multiple players whom one could reasonably designate as the Face of the Franchise. Until recently, that was not the case with the Tampa Bay Rays. Basically ever since his debut in 2008, Evan Longoria has been synonymous with the club — due in no small part, one assumes, to the concurrence of his best years with the best years of the team. Traded to the Giants on December 20, he’s expected to produce roughly three wins for San Francisco.

How the club will attempt to replace those wins remains uncertain at the moment. Christian Arroyo (409 PA, 0.6 zWAR), Matt Duffy (444, 1.3), Daniel Robertson (406, 1.0), Ryan Schimpf (459, 0.5), and Joey Wendle (563, 1.0) are all candidates for the second- and third-base nexus in Tampa Bay, each flawed in his way. I’ve included Duffy, Robertson, and Wendle on the depth-chart image below simply because they receive the top projections from Dan Szymborski’s computer.

The author noted elsewhere recently that Byron Buxton recorded the highest WAR (3.5) of any player in 2017 who also produced a below-average batting line. By virtue of his 2015 season, however, Kevin Kiermaier (474, 3.3) has the top mark by that same criteria of any player since 1997. He’s projected to produce a precisely league-average batting line in 2018 while also saving 14 runs in center field.

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2018 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 half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Boston Red Sox. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Perhaps more strongly than any club examined to date in this series, the 2018 iteration of the Boston Red Sox resembles its immediate predecessor. For the most part, that’s to the club’s benefit. Last year’s team was projected to receive three or more wins from five different positions, for a total of roughly 19 WAR. This year’s team is also projected to receive three or more wins from five different positions, for a total of roughly 18 WAR. Considering that an average collection of hitters produces 18 wins total in a given season, one is forced to conclude that Boston’s core is strong.

The addition of third baseman Rafael Devers (611 PA, 2.6 zWAR) is quite helpful in this regard. Third base has represented a bit of a black hole in recent years for Boston. Will Middlebrooks (2013-14), Pablo Sandoval (2015, -17), and Travis Shaw (2016) have been the Opening Day starters at third for the Red Sox over that last five years. None have crossed the two-win threshold during that span.

The roster’s weaknesses, meanwhile, remain at the weaker end of the defensive spectrum. Neither first baseman Mitch Moreland (503, 0.9) nor Hanley Ramirez (524, 1.1) profile as anything much better than a platoon type.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Los Angeles Angels

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Angels. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
During each of the last two offseasons, Jeff Sullivan has written a post about baseball’s best outfield. In each case, said outfield has belonged to the Los Angeles Angels — not, that is, because of a particularly notable breadth of talent, but rather due to the presence of Mike Trout (653 PA, 7.9 zWAR) on the roster. The 12-win mark typically represents the threshold those Angel outfields have transcended. The combination of Trout, Kole Calhoun (629, 2.4), and Justin Upton (607, 2.6) is forecast for 12.9 wins.

Trout’s excellence isn’t much of a surprise, of course. Much more mysterious is the near future of Shohei Ohtani (355, 0.9). ZiPS calls for the Japanese wunderkind to record a league-average batting line in his first year stateside. Combined with standard corner-outfield defense (Szymborski projects Ohtani in right field), the result is just less than a win in just more than a half-season’s worth of plate appearances. The strength of Ohtani’s forecast is his .333 BABIP, the highest mark assessed to anyone on the club. The weakness? His 31.0% strikeout rate, itself nearly the highest. Ohtani, meanwhile, is projected for a relatively modest .186 isolated-power figure. Overall, it’s less promising than his pitching forecast.

None of this, of course, addresses offseason acquisition Zack Cozart (467, 2.7) or other offseason acquisition Ian Kinsler (584, 3.0). Nor will it. Address them, that is.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – San Francisco Giants

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the San Francisco Giants. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
“Baseball’s biggest disappointment,” is how Jeff Sullivan characterized the 2017 Giants back at the end of September. And not without reason: the club produced the league’s worst record relative to the preseason projections, a development expressed in graphic form just below.

On the one hand, that’s bad for the 2017 Giants. On the other, though, it’s probably good for the 2018 version of the club. The Giants are likely due — due perhaps more than any other team — for positive regression. Even if San Francisco were to field precisely the same roster this next season, that same precise roster would almost certainly outperform its disappointing predecessor.

The ZiPS projections appear to support this hypothesis. Here, for example, are the forecasts for San Francisco’s top-four returning hitters:

Positive Regression for Top Giants Hitters
Player 2017 PA 2017 WAR 2018 zPA 2018 zWAR PA Diff WAR Diff
Buster Posey 568 4.3 534 4.9 -34 0.6
Brandon Crawford 570 2.0 567 3.5 -3 1.5
Brandon Belt 451 2.3 503 3.3 52 1.0
Joe Panik 573 2.0 571 3.0 -2 1.0
Average 541 2.7 544 3.7 3 1.0
Headings marked with -z- represent ZiPS projections for 2018.

The core returning members of the Giants’ offense — Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Buster Posey — are projected, on average, to produce an additional win each in 2018. That’s in roughly the same number of plate appearances as 2017, as well, meaning that ZiPS is calling for all four simply to play better this season.

This isn’t to say the club’s field-playing cohort is without flaw. No outfielder, for example, is projected even to produce an average season. Nevertheless, a combination of positive regression and Evan Longoria (645 PA, 3.1 zWAR) ought to facilitate easy improvement over last year’s performance.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Seattle Mariners

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Seattle Mariners. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
When the Mariners took Kyle Seager (638 PA, 4.4 zWAR) in the third round of the 2009 draft, one could have been excused for assuming that the club had acquired him largely to play the role of Dustin Ackley’s Friend. While both players had served as starters on three consecutive College World Series teams at North Carolina, it was Ackley who was considered the real prospect, going second overall to Seattle in the same draft. Indeed, Seager was ranked by Baseball America just 30th among Mariners prospects during that next offseason — a reflection of industry opinion. Eight-plus years later, however, Ackley has become a journeyman, while Seager has become, if not the face of the franchise, then at least its metronome.

Complementing Seager on the current iteration of the Mariners is Robinson Cano (614, 2.9) and a collection largely of average talent. Indeed, ZiPS calls for five hitters — Nelson Cruz (574, 2.2), Dee Gordon (663, 2.3), Mitch Haniger (517, 2.1), Jean Segura (634, 2.1), and Mike Zunino (474, 2.1) — to produce a WAR figure within a half-win of 2.0 on either side. Recent acquisition and prospective first baseman Ryon Healy (619, -0.1) represents the weak link of the starting lineup according to Dan Szymborski’s computer.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Kansas City Royals

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Kansas City Royals. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
One will notice, upon a cursory examination of the projections below, that five of the Royals’ position players are forecast to produce roughly two or more wins in 2018. A closer inspection of the names attached to those figures, however, reveals that three of them — Lorenzo Cain (579 PA, 3.1 zWAR), Eric Hosmer (654, 1.9), and Mike Moustakas (559, 2.5) — appear here not because they’re currently employed by the Royals, but rather because they were formerly employed by the Royals, have been granted free agency, and simply remain unsigned as of January 8th.

Indeed, of the players currently under contract with the club, only Whit Merrifield (648, 2.5) and Salvador Perez (525, 2.6) are projected to record more than two wins next season. Perhaps more remarkably, ZiPS calls for only a single other hitter, Alex Gordon (498, 1.4), to cross even the one-win threshold. Five of the club’s most likely starting nine, meanwhile, feature WAR projections that round to zero. As presently constructed, this team appears almost to be an experiment designed to test the validity of “replacement level” as a concept.

Of some interest here, in a way that isn’t wholly relevant to the Royals, is ZiPS’ assessment of Eric Hosmer. On Friday, Craig Edwards endeavored to give Scott Boras the benefit of the doubt in the latter’s appraisal of Hosmer’s value. With a number of caveats and conditions, he was nearly able to support Boras’s claims with logic, but even that optimistic calculus was based on the assumption that Hosmer is at least a three-win player right now. Dan Szymborski’s model suggests that isn’t the case.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – New York Yankees

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the New York Yankees. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
The Yankees’ roster, as presently constructed, is unusual. The prospective starting lineup features, on the one hand, two of this past season’s legitimately best players. It includes at least three others, however, who are projected for one or fewer wins in 2018. It doesn’t seem as though Brian Cashman et al. have specifically set out to assemble a stars-and-scrubs roster. That seems to have been the result so far, though.

The core of the offense, clearly, is formed by Aaron Judge (621 PA, 4.7 zWAR) and Giancarlo Stanton (593, 6.4). Dan Szymborski’s computer calls for that pair to record just over 11 wins together — as in, that’s the mean projected outcome, tempered by regression and aging and whatever. By comparison, consider: less than a third of clubs in 2017 featured teammates who produced observed combined win totals of 11 or greater. Four whole teams, in fact, failed to cross the 11-win threshold this past season. Judge and Stanton, in other words, represent a strong foundation for the offense.

What remains to be seen is how the club builds on that foundation. Greg Bird (372 PA, 1.1 zWAR), Ronald Torreyes (395, 0.1), and Miguel Andujar (576, 1.2) are, for now, the most likely Opening Day starters at first, second, and third base, respectively. They’re forecast for fewer than three wins between them. Bird’s modest wins projection is the result, in part, of a modest playing-time projection — not surprising for a player who’s recorded only 200 or so professional plate appearances over the last two seasons. As for Andujar and Torreyes, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to find them relegated to a bench role before the offseason is complete.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Minnesota Twins

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Minnesota Twins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
The Twins’ surprising 2017 campaign, which included a place in the Wild Card game, was a product in no small part of the club’s most promising young players translating their immense talents into on-field success. Byron Buxton (projected for 538 PA and 3.2 zWAR in 2018), Eddie Rosario (578, 1.6), and Miguel Sano (531, 2.7) combined for 8.3 WAR as a group. ZiPS calls for the triumvirate to fall short of that mark in 2018 but to still approach the eight-win threshold — all at basically no cost to the team.

Buxton remains a source of great interest, of course. After a series of fits and starts, he managed to hit well enough this past season to allow his other skills to carry him. In 2017, he recorded the highest WAR (3.5) of any player who also produced a below-average batting line (90 wRC+, in this case). Dan Szymborski’s computer suggests he could once again earn that strange distinction, projecting Buxton for a 90 wRC+ and 3.2 WAR.

Finally, it should be noted that ZiPS projects plate-appearance totals using only the data from a player’s observed track record and is agnostic to news of injury, etc. Accordingly, there has been no attempt here to account for how allegations of sexual assault might affect Miguel Sano’s playing time. Which is good because, whatever the virtues of Szymborski’s model, contending with fraught and difficult and nuanced social conversations isn’t (and needn’t be) among them.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Chicago White 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 half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Chicago White Sox. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
To get a sense of where the White Sox currently reside along the win curve, consider this: nine days ago, the ZiPS projections for the Miami Marlins — a team actively attempting to divest itself of talent — appeared at this site. The players most likely to occupy a starting role for that team received a total of roughly 16 projected wins from Dan Szymborski’s computer. Chicago’s starters, meanwhile, earn just 11 WAR or so between them — this even though, because of the DH slot, the White Sox actually feature an additional field player in their hypothetical Opening Day lineup. It’s possible, in other words, that the White Sox’ positional core is only two-thirds as strong as the Marlins’. That isn’t what one would characterize as an “ideal” prognosis.

First baseman Jose Abreu (667 PA, 2.6 zWAR) unsurprisingly receives the club’s top projection. Since his arrival in 2014, he’s been the club’s best player, rivaled only by the departed Adam Eaton during that same interval.

White Sox’ Top-Five Players by WAR, 2014-17
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Off Def WAR
Jose Abreu 2660 .301 .359 .524 139 107.2 -58.2 14.5
Adam Eaton 1933 .290 .362 .422 118 52.9 7.6 13.1
Todd Frazier 1001 .220 .311 .454 104 5.8 2.9 4.3
Avisail Garcia 1805 .275 .330 .419 104 5.8 -30.1 3.5
Alexei Ramirez 1279 .261 .295 .383 87 -22.1 6.9 2.9

Notably, it wasn’t Abreu, but rather Avisail Garcia (565, 1.4), who led the club in wins this past season. ZiPS forecasts significant regression for Garcia in 2018, however: indeed, even with the benefit of a projected .339 BABIP, his batting average is expected to drop 50 points. Are you familiar with Yolmer Sanchez? A lot of people in the world aren’t. He finished third on the club in WAR this past season, though. ZiPS calls for him to do that again.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Milwaukee Brewers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
The Brewers entered the 2017 campaign, in theory, as a rebuilding club. Between 2015 and -16, the organization had traded Khris Davis, Mike Fiers, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jean Segura, all of whom had served as regulars for the team. In their place emerged a collection largely of unproven, if promising, talent — but not one, it seemed, designed to compete in a division that also featured the defending world champions.

What happened instead is Milwaukee led the NL Central into late July and missed a Wild Card slot by a mere game. The club’s position players ranked 17th in the league by WAR, which seemed improbable after the exodus of talent.

The successful 2017 team, however, doesn’t necessarily represent a baseline for the 2018 one. While one might expect the projections for the next iteration of the Brewers to reflect a club prepared to take another leap forward, that’s not what one finds here. Only two players, Domingo Santana (566 PA, 2.3 zWAR) and Travis Shaw (573, 2.7), are forecast by Dan Szymborski’s computer to transcend the two-win threshold. Meanwhile, both of the club’s starting middle infielders, Orlando Arcia (599, 1.4) and Jonathan Villar (526, 1.0), profile as something more like useful part-time players than first-division regulars.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Los Angeles Dodgers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Dodger field players recorded the second-most WAR collectively in the majors this past season, and all but one (Chase Utley) of the club’s top-13 players from 2017 remains under contract for 2018. Unsurprisingly, the projections below are almost uniformly strong.

Both first baseman Cody Bellinger (607 PA, 4.4 zWAR) and shortstop Corey Seager (666, 5.7) remain subject to a Young Driver Surcharge when patronizing any of this country’s major rental-car providers. When not busy securing dependable transportation at a competitive rate, however, they occupy their time creating runs as professional ballplayers. ZiPS calls for that pair to produce roughly 10 wins just between the two of them in 2018.

If one is intent on identifying a weakness — or at least an uncertainty — within the depth chart, then left field appears to be the best candidate. Joc Pederson (475, 2.4) was optioned to Triple-A in mid-August and absent from much of the postseason, raising some questions about his job security with the present iteration of the club. Even he is forecast to produce wins at an above-average rate, however.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Miami Marlins

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Miami Marlins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Whatever the weaknesses of the 2017 Marlins, the club’s field-playing contingent wasn’t among them. Miami hitters produced 26 wins collectively this past season, the seventh-best mark in the majors — in close proximity to the figures recorded by Cubs and Nationals hitters, for example. It was an impressive group, especially relative to its youth.

It’s unlikely to be so impressive in 2018. Three of this past season’s top-five players — Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and MVP-winner Giancarlo Stanton — have already been traded this offseason, all in deals designed by the new front office to prioritize future and not present value (if they’re designed to prioritize on-field value, at all). The result is a much diminished squad.

J.T. Realmuto (563 PA, 2.8 zWAR) and Christian Yelich (681, 4.2) are the only two above-average players on the current edition of the club according to ZiPS. They remain employed by the Marlins for now, although neither player is certain to appear on the Opening Day roster. In their absence, Justin Bour (431, 1.6) and Starlin Castro (564, 1.8) would represent the most recognizable names.

Third baseman Brian Anderson (565, 1.8) receives a promising forecast from Dan Szymborski’s computer. If he breaks camp with the team, he has a chance of becoming its best player. Mostly, though, there are a lot of pieces here without very certain roles.

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