Royals fans should not expect their team to be anywhere near the post-season, at least if the roster remains unchanged, according to projections from ZIPS, available today at Fangraphs. ZIPS, developed by ESPN writer Dan Szymborski and considered the gold standard of player projection systems, sees a Royals lineup short on offense with little pitching behind Danny Duffy.
Royals offense projected for 8 WAR in 2018. The 2010 Royals, who went 67-95, put up 10 WAR. https://t.co/kBEULye3yo— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) January 8, 2018
First base, third base, outfield, and DH look like black holes. ZIPS sees regression from Jorge Bonifacio. Alex Gordon could bounce back, according to ZIPS, but still be a very poor hitter. ZIPS does not give much hope for Paulo Orlando or Cheslor Cuthbert being productive hitters.
There are a few bright spots, however. ZIPS projects Whit Merrifield to continue to be a serviceable player, with a line of .281/.317/.421, and the most valuable position player at 3 WAR. Raúl Mondesí’s performance in AAA seems to have more weight than his terrible MLB performance thus far, as ZIPS shows him holding his own with a line of .242/.280/.407 and 1 WAR. Rookies like Nicky Lopez and Cam Gallagher project to be useful pieces.
On the pitching side, newly acquired Trevor Oaks already projects as the second-best pitcher on the staff. ZIPS sees poor numbers for Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy, and doesn’t expect Nate Karns to improve, nor stay healthy. Jake Junis is also due for a regression, according to ZIPS, and no reliever projects to have an ERA lower than Ryan Buchter’s 3.63. Among minor leaguers, ZIPS is optimistic on Pedro Fernandez, Eric Stout, and Rule 5 pick Brad Keller as useful pieces.
The model also projects Royals players who are currently free agents, such as Eric Hosmer, who ZIPS projects to be less than a 3 WAR player, a bad sign for teams looking to give him more than $100 million. ZIPS also looks at historical comps for Royals players, which can be fun. Salvador Perez is compared to Benito Santiago, Mike Moustaaks to Graig Nettles, and Danny Duffy to John Smiley.
ZIPS is computed by looking at past performance, using growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It does not project playing time, but does project injuries based on past history.