I highly recommend going over to Fangraphs and checking out this piece, and all of the individual articles it was built from. They ranked each team on each position based on their projections from Steamer and ZIPS along with playing time guesses by the various Fangraphs authors. The article I linked is the composite of all the positions, and it, along with some things that have recently occurred, have made me even a little more optimistic about the season (which starts in only 4 days!).
The rankings for the Royals are mostly fair, but before I discuss where I think they are off I want to talk about the win projection. In the end this system has a projection of 80 wins for the Royals. This is exactly what I predicted in the Kings of Kauffman prediction article earlier this week. You would think having projections systems along with some good writers over at Fangraphs agree with me would lead to a greater confidence in my original prediction, but that is not the case.
There are a couple of things that I disagree with a little, but can’t argue too much with, in that I think projections are a little low on Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. These don’t change my mind though, since I think the optimism on Salvador Perez is probably a little too high. Where this really affected my thinking was in two spots, right field and starting pitching. The right field WAR is calculated with Jeff Francoeur receiving 630 plate appearances at a total WAR of 0.4, and that is almost surely not going to happen. If Francoeur is bad then the platooning being discussed will likely become a reality quickly in some form, either acquisition, David Lough coming up, or Jarrod Dyson playing more in center with Lorenzo Cain moving over to play right. The only other option is that Frenchy does get a full season of PAs, and that will likely only happen if he is producing at a better clip than 0.4 WAR per season. It would surprise me a lot of the Royals don’t get better production out of right than is being predicted by Fangraphs, so that should add a win. Possibly more, but I’ll call it one.
The second part, starting pitching, will likely be an even bigger deal. Here are their projections:
|James Shields||221.0||7.8||2.4||1.0||.311||72.1 %||3.82||3.60||4.4|
|Jeremy Guthrie||180.0||5.3||2.6||1.2||.301||70.1 %||4.54||4.59||1.5|
|Ervin Santana||182.0||6.6||3.1||1.3||.302||70.0 %||4.65||4.60||1.5|
|Wade Davis||162.0||6.9||3.4||1.1||.301||71.9 %||4.37||4.42||1.7|
|Bruce Chen||81.0||6.2||2.7||1.3||.303||70.0 %||4.71||4.62||0.7|
|Luis Mendoza||40.0||5.0||3.3||0.9||.308||68.9 %||4.66||4.54||0.4|
|Will Smith||48.0||5.4||3.2||1.1||.304||68.8 %||4.77||4.55||0.4|
|Danny Duffy||18.0||8.2||4.1||1.1||.307||72.1 %||4.33||4.26||0.2|
|Felipe Paulino||19.0||8.2||3.6||1.0||.316||71.8 %||4.21||3.95||0.3|
They have James Shieldsat 4.4 WAR, which is fair and possibly even a little too high sinc
e 4.5 is his career high even if his ERA and FIP could end up better than what is shown. I would be shocked if Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis all end up in the four and half ERA/FIP range, and that is the first part of my disagreement. Obviously, since they did this things have changed too. Luis Mendoza is now the number five starter, and will not be getting 40IP. He will be an upgrade over Bruce Chen, which is why everyone has been hoping for Mendoza to get the spot and the Royals evidently agree as well. My guess is that this staff will end up with another 2+ wins worth of value at the least. Especially when I look at rotations like the Rockies getting a better projection. Jeff Francis got projected at 2 WAR, and I would rather have anyone in the Royals staff, and Jon Garland got 1.4 WAR in projection in 90 IPs which is just plain crazy. The only way that rotation is better is if guys like Drew Pomeranz bump Garland out of the rotation.
Just adding Mendoza and making it clear that the Francoeur is not going to be given much leash has made this Royals team better than I, and Fangraphs, originally thought a couple of weeks ago. That is probably another 3 or 4 wins, which is starting to push the Royals toward an expectation of contention. If they can move into the mid-80s for wins, then I think we are in for a fun September. Sure, Detroit was projected as the best team in this same article at 94 wins, but Detroit has failed to live up to their hype a couple of times in the past few years. Monday cannot get here fast enough.