We’re not even a full month into the offseason, yet Dan Szymborski has had his supercomputer working overtime for weeks already to produce the 2018 ZiPS projections for each and every player and MLB team. Lucky for us, the Cincinnati Reds were the first team to have their numbers crunched, and their official projections were published at FanGraphs earlier on Tuesday.
To say that there’s a wealth of information in there to sift through would be like saying you had “a little bit to eat” on Thanksgiving. There are mountains of data, projections, qualifications, and comparisons in there to digest, with the system doing its damnedest to identify outlying data and provide the smallest amount of deviation in expectations for every player of note in Cincinnati’s system to date (including the likes of Zack Cozart and Scott Feldman, since all free agents get listed with their previous teams of record).
Peruse through the projections, please. There’s a lot in there that can be viewed as promising, which is a good thing for a team as young and unproven as what the Reds can likely expect to field this season. Know this, though: what you’ll see is quite similar to what we’ve seen play out for real over the previous three seasons - namely, a pretty potent set of position players on hand paired with a pitching staff consisting mostly of unprovens and never-will-be’s.
A few tidbits deserve a bit of highlighting, of course.
- Joey Votto is projected to still be Joey Votto, for the most part. ZiPS has consistently held firm that the greatest left-handed hitter in Cincinnati’s franchise history will be quite good year after year, and this projection is no different. However, since Votto has consistently posted absurdly high BABIP numbers throughout his career, ZiPS’ sticking to more reasonable luck numbers has always seemed to slightly underrate him based on how his previous numbers look. That’s the case again here, though he’s still projected to be a rock solid 5 zWAR performer.
- ZiPS isn’t as high on Jesse Winker’s power breakout as many of us here at RR are. Projected to slug just .401 with a 99 wRC+, ZiPS alone won’t be the over-the-top convincing argument to give Winker a full-time role over the likes of Scott Schebler or Adam Duvall (both of whom check in with similar 100 and 99 wRC+ projections, as well).
- ZiPS sees Scooter Gennett not as the game’s next great slugger, but rather as a guy quite similar to what he’s been in total over the course of his career. His .531 slugging percentage spike in 2017 raised his career mark to .446, and the .448 projected slugging percentage sits in-line with that number. That’s good for a 1 zWAR 2018, though his comp at this point does happen to be a late-bloomin 2B from a recent era you’ll likely remember - Jeff Kent.
- Speaking of comps, star prospect Nick Senzel gets the Adrian Beltre comp, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Along with that glowing comp comes ZiPS suggesting Senzel’s already ready to cut it at the big league level, with a 102 projected wRC+ for the will-be rookie who’s only still a half-season removed from A-ball play.
- Another guy who went from “only had a half-season of experience above A-ball to cracking MLB by storm” is Luis Castillo, who that could’ve been said about this time last year. After his stellar rookie campaign, ZiPS sees him as a 3 zWAR starter and the anchor of a rotation that’s otherwise completely up in the air. And, as comps go, Hall of Famer Don Drysdale’s a pretty damn fine one to have.
- Part of why that rotation’s up in the air? Anthony DeSclafani’s laundry list of health issues. The elbow concerns that shelved him for the entire 2017 season are likely why he projects as just a part-timer and 1 zWAR contributor, but obviously a fully healthy Disco would be a great bet to exceed those numbers. (Also obvious: betting on a fully healthy Disco would’ve lost you a wad of coin for two years running at this point.)
- Alfredo Rodriguez projects to be a -2.1 zWAR player should he receive a full tilt of playing time in 2018. Dear god, let’s hope that never happens, but let’s also make a note of how bad of a signing on the whole that looks in the eyes of a computer algorithm at this point.
- Finally, the group of Amir Garrett, Homer Bailey, Rookie Davis, Robert Stephenson, and Cody Reed all got knocked around horrendously for much of last year, and ZiPS sees every single one of them as being just as awful in 2017. Given how strong Bob Steve finished his season once returning to the rotation - 42.2 IP of 2.74 ERA ball - I thought he might actually see a decent projection for 2018, but his 142 ERA- (68 ERA+) is actually bad enough to make this slice of pizza I’m eating taste like yellow mustard.