Was 2020 an aberration or a trend ?
ZIPS Projections for the Diamondbacks came out yesterday. As most of you know, Dan Szymborski publishes these every year at fangraphs.com rolling them out team by team before the final version is published in Spring. Eventually ZIPS are combined together with Steamer Projections to form the basis for Fangraphs Depth Chart projections. Fangraphs staff create their own depth chart and playing time projections and then apply the average of ZIPS and Steamer rates to that playing time projection. The Depth Chart projections are then updated daily and form the basis of of Fangraphs Standings projection.
ZIPS has some fun and interesting features that Steamer does not. First and foremost , Dan writes an article running down the roster for each team. He is usually insightful and sometimes quite funny. (Although most of the humor comes through on his twitter feed these days ) This year’s article is very good reading and I’d strongly suggest following that link at the top of this article. I believe he hits on the main challenges facing the team as he discusses the “two paths to avoiding .500-team purgatory.”
The second feature is a more detailed writeup up his methodology HERE . Again, strongly suggest to read that so at least you know what’s going on. A lot of questions can be answered before posting an ill informed comment about what these projections are or aren’t . 😉
And finally, the always entertaining, but somewhat mystifying “No. 1 Comp” is a must see feature. Even if it’s not overly meaningful and sometimes down right odd, it’s still pretty cool to look at. Last year Zac Gallen’s #1 comp was Greg Maddux. Not the peak Maddux, mind you, but a projected version of him for similar stage of career. This year Gallen is down graded to Danny Cox. Ketel Marte’s #1 comp this year is Mark Kotsay. oof. Madison Bumgarner looks like Brian Anderson for this upcoming season. Mike Hazen will hope for more than that for $19M
Below is a sneak preview of what Fangraphs Depth Charts will look like in the spring. These are the averages between ZIPS and Steamer. However I am only showing some very basic rate stats, without playing time , counting stats or WAR projections. This is presented just to give you a rough idea. I’ll come back to more detailed projections tied to payroll later in the off season when the roster is 95% complete and I can dial in playing time a bit.
40 MAN ROSTER POSITION PLAYERS
This is ranked by OPS and not overly inspiring. Marte looks pretty decent, especially if he hits like that while playing above average defense at 2b. But it’s a far cry from his 2019 breakout. No other player is projected to be above .800, which is not surprising, but still not encouraging. At least Pavin Smith and Daulton Varsho are projected to hold their own.
NON ROSTER POSITION PLAYERS
Seth Beer by far has the best projected chance to hit decently in MLB among non roster players in the system, but he doesn’t have a defensive position and it’s looking like no DH in the NL this year. So there could be a lot less Beer at the ballpark than we might have hoped for. Alek Thomas is highlighted as he could see MLB action in the 2nd half of the year if he has a hot minor league first half and/or injuries deplete the MLB roster. Drew Ellis projects to continue to struggle with batting average and OBP, but the team is thin at 3b, so he’s highlighted as well. It remains to be seen if Domingo Leyba finds a utility role with the team coming back from his PED suspension.
40 MAN ROSTER ROTATION CANDIDATES
These are ranked by ERA. The five guys most likely to be in the opening day rotation at this point are highlighted in light green, and the other pitchers are showing as S/R or Starter Reliever.
Pitcher projections have a much higher error bar than hitter projections, so take with the proverbial grain of salt. It’s also worth mentioning that ERA and FIP projections are usually quite close. However some pitchers will show a tendency to either out perform or under perform their peripherals (FIP). Luke Weaver tends to under perform his peripherals and this is reflected here. Madison Bumgarner tended to out perform his peripherals, and this is also reflected in the numbers below, but to a lesser degree than he typically did when pitching his peak in a pitchers park in San Francisco.
The Takeaway for me here is that the two worst projected ERA come from two of the five projected to be in the opening day rotation and we don’t know how quickly Merrill Kelly will recover. So it’s highly likely we will see at least a couple of the half dozen swing man candidates get some starts early in the season. There is depth here, but it doesn’t project to be a strong rotation on paper.
40 MAN ROSTER BULLPEN CANDIDATES
This list is why you keep hearing from Mike Hazen and reading around this site and on others that the D-backs are most likely to look for upgrades in the bullpen. Personally I’d like to see them convert a rotation candidate or two to the bullpen. My fetish for converting Luke Weaver to closer is well known. Add in Jon Duplantier perhaps and convert him to late inning reliever and suddenly you have a bullpen capable of dominating in the late innings.
Stefan Crichton was excellent last year and among a weak cast of relievers he projects well. Keury Mella could be a good candidate to beat his projections in 2021. Left handed relief continues to be a big hole for the team. It’s disappointing that Mike Hazen hasn’t been able to address this as yet. Does anyone see someone they like on left handed reliever free agent list ? I hear Andrew Chafin is available.
Be sure to let us know in the comments which players you feel most strongly about taking the over or under in these projections.