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Over/unders on Royals PECOTA projections

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Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

There is no actual baseball being played anytime soon, but we can at least imagine what players might do with the release of Baseball Prospectus’ 2022 PECOTA projections this week. PECOTA stands for “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm” and was developed by Nate Silver twenty years ago. It has been tweaked and modified over the years, but essentially it projects future past performance based on past performance and what we know about player development.

PECOTA has often been accused of “hating” the Royals, which isn’t true of course. Like our own Hokius, PECOTA is a cold, unfeeling algorithm that is stripped of personal biases. That being said, it can’t capture the human element, and players will all develop differently. So don’t take these too seriously. But PECOTA is right in projecting that MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino will be legit.

Here are some PECOTA projections (using the 50th percentile outcome), are you taking the over or under on these?

Bobby Witt Jr. - .743 OPS

PECOTA projects a line of .249/.311/.432 with 16 home runs and 17 steals in 427 plate appearances for the to prospect. Perhaps you are underwhelmed by that - the comps of Freddy Galvis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Willi Castro won’t get fans very excited.

But also consider that it is not that common for players as young as Witt to take the league by storm in their first season. Since 1995, there have been 48 infielders to put up a .743 OPS in their first season (min. 300 PA) - just 15 did it in their age-22 season or younger.

First-year infielders since 1995, 22 or younger

Player Year Tm Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Player Year Tm Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Fernando Tatis Jr. 2019 SDP 20 372 .317 .379 .590 .969
Keston Hiura 2019 MIL 22 348 .303 .368 .570 .938
Evan Longoria 2008 TBR 22 508 .272 .343 .531 .874
Carlos Correa 2015 HOU 20 432 .279 .345 .512 .857
Luis Arraez 2019 MIN 22 366 .334 .399 .439 .838
Francisco Lindor 2015 CLE 21 438 .313 .353 .482 .835
Gleyber Torres 2018 NYY 21 484 .272 .340 .480 .820
Wander Franco 2021 TBR 20 308 .288 .347 .463 .810
Gordon Beckham 2009 CHW 22 430 .270 .347 .460 .808
Robinson Cano 2005 NYY 22 551 .297 .320 .458 .778
Rafael Furcal 2000 ATL 22 542 .295 .394 .382 .776
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2019 TOR 20 514 .272 .339 .433 .772
Edgar Renteria 1996 FLA 19 471 .309 .358 .399 .757
Starlin Castro 2010 CHC 20 506 .300 .347 .408 .755
Willy Adames 2018 TBR 22 323 .278 .348 .406 .754

And as Craig Brown at Into the Fountains points out, projection systems are weakest at taking minor league numbers and translating them to big league results, because that is one of the most difficult transitions a player will make. If you really want to get excited about Witt, look at his 99th percentile outcome - .273/.346/.542 with 26 home runs. To quote beat writer Alec Lewis, “that will play.”

Poll

Will Bobby Witt Jr. hit over or under a .743 OPS?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Over
    (366 votes)
  • 19%
    Under
    (91 votes)
457 votes total Vote Now

Salvador Perez - 28 home runs

This is so disrespectful to Salvy I feel like talking about Peter Alonso. But we do have to consider what an outlier the 2021 season was for Salvy. He had never hit 30 home runs in a season before, let alone 40. A 28-home run season would have been a career-high before last year.

PECOTA also isn’t going to project huge outliers in its 50 percentile outcomes. Salvy’s 28 home runs would put him 36th among all hitters in their projections, with Fernando Tatis Jr. leading the projections with 38 home runs. Last year nine players hit more than that amount. In his 99th percentile outcome, Salvy smacks 42 home runs, but I’d say that’s pretty far-fetched. Salvy will be 32 in May and you have to consider he may miss some time or just get worn down from all his innings behind the plate, even if MJ Melendez absorbs some of that playing time.

Poll

Will Salvador Perez hit over or under 28 home runs?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Over
    (337 votes)
  • 28%
    Under
    (132 votes)
469 votes total Vote Now

Nicky Lopez - .678 OPS

This will be a very interesting season for Nicky. Does he prove that last year’s adjustments were for real and he can be a very solid regular for years to come, or was it all a bit flukey and pitchers figure him out this year? PECOTA splits the difference, projecting a line of .265/.336/.361, representing a 35 point decline in batting average. Even Nicky’s 99th percentile outcome has him hitting only .286/.361/.404, pretty much in line with his numbers last year.

I will note that PECOTA projects pretty low batting averages across the board - only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. projects to be a .300 hitter. Brandon Crawford shows up as an interesting comp for Nicky, although so does Darwin Barney.

Poll

Will Nicky Lopez hit over or under a .678 OPS?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Over
    (245 votes)
  • 42%
    Under
    (179 votes)
424 votes total Vote Now

Hunter Dozier - .720 OPS

PECOTA doesn’t weigh heavily one-year spikes in performance, but it also doesn’t heavily weigh one-year slumps in performance either. PECOTA projects Dozier to hit .233/.311/.409 with 16 home runs, which would be down from his numbers in 2019, but an improvement over his disastrous 2021 season. Dozier attributed his slump last year to an early injury that threw off his mechanics, but it also looks a bit like 2019 was his outlier season, and the PECOTA projections may be more in line with his true talent level, especially as he gets into his 30s.

Poll

Will Hunter Dozier hit over or under a .720 OPS?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Over
    (142 votes)
  • 66%
    Under
    (283 votes)
425 votes total Vote Now

Brady Singer - 4.12 ERA

This will be a big year for Singer as well - does he take his performance to the next level (possibly with a newly developed third pitch?) or is he pretty much what he is - a solid mid-to-back-of the rotation starter? A 4.12 ERA would be an improvement over his 4.91 ERA last year, but in line with his FIP from both his 2020 and 2021 seasons. PECOTA projects him to be the most valuable Royals pitcher overall at 0.8 WARP, with comparisons to Nate Eovaldi, Michael Fulmer, and Luke Weaver.

Poll

Will Brady Singer post an ERA over or under 4.12?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Over
    (247 votes)
  • 42%
    Under
    (182 votes)
429 votes total Vote Now

Carlos Hernández posts the best ERA out of the second-year pitchers

Okay, this isn’t an over/under, but PECOTA projects pretty similar numbers for second-year pitchers Jackson Kowar, Carlos Hernández, and Daniel Lynch. Hernández is a hair better with a 4.48 ERA, compared to 4.54 for Kowar and 4.85 for Lynch. PECOTA projects a high 4.33 walks-per-nine innings rate for Kowar, and a surprisingly low 7.48 strikeouts-per-nine innings for Lynch. The comps for these three (Mike Wood! A.J. Cole! Dylan Covey!) are not inspiring but again, it is difficult to translate minor league performances.

Poll

Who posts the best ERA out of the second-year pitchers?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Carlos Hernández
    (236 votes)
  • 9%
    Jackson Kowar
    (40 votes)
  • 35%
    Daniel Lynch
    (149 votes)
425 votes total Vote Now

Dylan Coleman - 3.25 ERA

It is difficult to translate minor league performance, yet PECOTA is pretty high on Dylan Coleman despite just five Major League games under his belt. The fireballer is projected to have the lowest ERA on the team for anyone with a significant amount of innings with 10.91 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Between his projected 3.25 ERA, Barlow’s 3.34 ERA, and Josh Staumont’s at 3.99, the Royals could have a pretty solid bullpen core.

Poll

Will Dylan Coleman post an ERA over or under 3.25?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Over
    (193 votes)
  • 48%
    Under
    (184 votes)
377 votes total Vote Now