Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the Steamer projections for the Royals, and earlier today, Fangraphs posted their ZiPS projections for the 2014 Royals. ZiPS is a projection system created by Dan Szymborski that, like other projection systems, takes into account a player’s history, aging curves, and other factors when projecting a player. ZiPS does not take into account potential platoons, nor do they project performances at predicted levels of playing time in the majors, since you’ll notice many prospects are included in the above link. Obviously there is a lot of information to sort through, but I wanted to take some time on a few things that stuck out to me.
– First, ZiPS expects the newly acquired Norichika Aoki to regress this season. In each of his first two seasons, Aoki has posted an OBP of at least .355, but ZiPS is projecting a .336 OBP in 2014. To an extent, I can certainly understand the projection. Aoki isn’t exactly a spring chicken at 32 years old, so it stands to reason he could see a bit of a slide back. However, this regression seems a bit heavy to me. If Aoki only has a .309 wOBA batting leadoff this year, the Royals are likely in trouble.
– Billy Butler is projected to bounce back a little in the power department, while regressing some in his on-base numbers. I’m probably a little more optimistic in what I expect from Butler this season, but his projection of 2.5 WAR seems fair. Also, his best comp for this year is Mike Sweeney, which I find so incredibly perfect.
– ZiPS doesn’t love Omar Infante much, and only projects a .302 wOBA with 1.7 WAR. Much like Aoki, the Royals will have to get more than that if Infante is in the top of the order.
– Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, is projected to put up career-best numbers in slugging percentage and wOBA (.416 & .313, respectively). As I mentioned earlier, this does not take into account a platoon that Dayton Moore says isn’t happening, despite the logic behind it.
– On the pitching side of things, ZiPS projects James Shields to put up another 4 WAR season, while also bouncing back in the strikeout and walk departments.
– Behind Shields, however, the starting rotation doesn’t look too promising. No other starter is projected to have more than 1.7 WAR, with only Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy providing roughly league-average run prevention.
– Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas both have a projected FIP- north of 115, which makes sense considering both pitchers’ repertoires. But, ZiPS doesn’t think either one will be able to keep opposing teams from scoring, since both have an ERA- projection of at least 110. ZiPS is especially down on Vargas, who is pegged to have a 4.71 ERA in 2014. I’m not particularly bullish on Vargas, but that number seems way too high. On Guthrie, he’s only projected for 166 innings, which also seems off to me, although I understand his age plays into that.
– Six Royals relievers are projected to strike out over a batter per inning. This should come as no surprise.
– Overall, the pitching projections suggest what many people – myself included – have been saying: the Royals still need another starter.
As always, projection systems are not perfect, and these numbers may end up being far different from what the Royals actually produce this season. However, it’s more information to digest when looking ahead to the season, and offers us a few more things to talk about with a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.