Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs has released his ZIPS projections for 2016, starting with the Royals. ZIPS are arguably the gold standard of baseball projection systems. You can read a bit about the different projection systems here.
ZiPS, like many of the other projection systems, uses weighted averages of the previous four seasons, but uses a PECOTA-like comparison system to help create an age adjustment. With a database that now extends back into the early 1970s, it aims to compare Ben Revere types to Ben Revere and Adam Dunn types to Adam Dunn, using techniques that fall under the umbrella of cluster analysis.
Dan does not project playing time, other than to project how healthy a player might be. So although the ZIPS projections gives Whit Merrifield 531 plate appearances, don't expect Ned Yost to make Whit his starting second baseman. ZIPS also does not project off-season moves. So the Royals roster reflects nearly everyone who was in the Royals organization this season that has a small chance to make the big leagues next year.
A few observations:
- ZIPS projects quite a bit of regression from Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas, which shouldn't be surprising considering they all had career years last year. The power department seems to be where ZIPS projects them to regress the most.
- Cain still projects to be the best position player with 3.6 WAR. Salvador Perez is second.
- Aside from Jarrod Dyson, Reymond Fuentes has the best projection by a non-starter with 1.5 WAR.
- Christian Colon projects for 1.2 WAR. Omar Infante projects to be replacement level at 0.1 WAR.
- ZIPS projects a line of .211/.236/.343 for Bubba Starling and .209/.238/.352 for Raul Mondesi.
- Balbino Fuenmayor also doesn't project well at .241/.265/.386, probably because he was in the Independent Leagues not long ago.
- Some of the top comps are interesting - Roberto Kelly for Lorenzo Cain, Joe Crede for Mike Moustakas, Dave Roberts for Jarrod Dyson. Casey Kotchman is NOT Eric Hosmer's comp, it is instead Whitey Lockman, a WW II-era first baseman for the Giants.
- Johnny Cueto projects to be the top pitcher with 3.8 WAR, followed by Yordano Ventura at 2.8. That WAR would be a career high for Ventura.
- ZIPS projects 125 innings for Danny Duffy, mostly as a starter with a 3.82 ERA.
- ZIPS has finally caught up to Wade Davis, projecting him for 11.5 strikeouts per-nine-innings, although major regression in ERA to 2.32.
- Alec Mills, a 23-year old in A ball last year, projects the best out of any minor leaguer with 0.8 WAR and a 4.28 ERA due to his incredible strikeout and walk rates. Kyle Zimmer projects as a 0.2 WAR pitcher with a 4.82 ERA.
You still have to play the games and the Royals defied projections last year, but ZIPS should give us some idea of what to expect for next season, and it seems clear Dayton Moore has a lot of work to do this winter.