FanGraphs’ 2020 ZiPS projections are out for the KC Royals. What looks good, what looks bad, and what should be changed for this season?
Now that KC Royals baseball is just a few weeks from being back, even if it’s just spring training, projections are being finalized for the season. Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs has one of the most popular systems out there. ZiPS, which you can read more about here, puts an emphasis on “establishing a baseline for a player, and estimating what their future looks like using that baseline.”
After a 2019 season which saw some decent individual successes — and a lot of failures — the ZiPS projections for the 2020 Royals are finally here. Feel free to take a closer look at them, then compare to both the 2020 previews we’ve already published and the ones that are coming soon. Here are some of my personal takeaways:
Some usual suspects
At the top, Whit Merrifield projects to be a consistent hitter once again. His line: .287/.334/.443. His presence at the top of the Royals’ lineup has turned him into one of the most well-respected players in the league after years of being an underdog.
ZiPS thinks Salvador Perez will pick up where he left off before missing the 2019 season with an elbow injury. It also took into account the increased amount of rest he’ll get as a form of preventative maintenance.
As far as the rotation goes, ZiPS is high on Brad Keller. The former Rule 5 selection has carved out a solid role in his young career as the Royals’ ace. That will likely change once some prospects are promoted and mature but for now, Keller’s relied upon to live up to his nickname, “Stellar Keller.” The projections also seem to respect Jakob Junis, who has his back up against the wall and may lose his starting job if he flops in 2020.
A few surprises
There were a few things that surprised me when looking at the list. First and foremost, Jorge Soler is projected to see his home run (48 to 33) and RBI (117 to 81) totals drop off a ton. He probably won’t be able to replicate his amazing 2019 run, but that level of regression is pretty steep. Adalberto Mondesi, viewed by many as the face of the franchise right now in terms of potential, figures to hit .249.
Perhaps the most surprising player in terms of numbers: Richard Lovelady. After battling injuries and immense struggles in 2019, ZiPS projects a 3.99 ERA in 2020. That would be a tremendous improvement from the 7.65 posted a year ago. Tyler Zuber ranks third on the list in terms of ERA, which would be a pleasant surprise in his rookie season.
As with any formula or set of expectations, ZiPS is far from perfect. It is, however, a heavily relied-upon and studied means of evaluating a player based on past performance and predicting future numbers. Take a look at FanGraphs’ article and let us know what you think in the comments!