Friday Rockpile: Projecting the 2013 Rockies with ZiPS

Who should be the Rockies 3B? According to ZiPS, neither of these guys. ZiPS has THREE third basemen projected higher than BOTH. - Doug Pensinger

Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections give us a chance to look at the 2013 roster statistically.

It is that time of year where projected rosters are starting to become clearer and fans enter endless debates about what to expect in the upcoming season. It is difficult to find objectivity in these discussions, as fandom naturally gets in the way. That is one reason why the demand exists for objective statistical projections. By no means are they significantly accurate, but they get us closer than our feelings most of the time.

Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections are the best of the widely available projections, and those ZiPS projections were released yesterday for the Rockies. There were many Rockpile comments on this yesterday after the release, but here's a chance for a further look. As a reminder, projected playing time for prospects assumes they are given a full shot in the majors (most won't). Playing time for MLB players gets limited by past injuries, regardless of whether they are "fully healthy" now.

Some observations:

  • ZiPS is not high Tyler Colvin. Colvin hit .150 over 80 games in 2011, so that season continues to pull down his expected numbers.
  • The pitching staff is projected to be a disaster again. The 2012 ZiPS was pessimistic towards the staff, yet they projected far better than what occurred. Jhoulys Chacin is projected as the team's best starting pitcher at league average, followed by Juan Nicasio and Drew Pomeranz
  • Daniel Rosenbaum is projected as the Rockies' 4th best starting pitcher. If ZiPS knows anything, he may have been a nice Rule 5 pick.
  • The Rockies' best third baseman, according to ZiPS, is Nolan Arenado - and by a large margin. Despite his less-than-impressive AA season in 2012, he's actually projected as the Rockies' fifth best position player overall. Regardless, he has an uphill climb to earn a roster spot this spring.
  • Some prospects blossom and have surprisingly valuable rookie seasons, like Josh Rutledge in 2012 (0.8 fWAR last year in 73 games). Because of the wide range of possibilities for prospects and relatively high ceilings that remain, their projected WAR can be higher than low ceiling veterans. That gives us Cristhian Adames and Kyle Parker (who have never played above A-ball) with higher projected WARs than Ramon Hernandez, Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera.
  • The player comps are always fun to pore through for many reasons. There are comps that make you smile and nod (Troy Tulowitzki -> Cal Ripken Jr), comps that make you shriek with excitement (Dexter Fowler -> Carlos Beltran), comps that drain your face of all blood (Carlos Gonzalez -> Al Martin), amusing comps (Jason Giambi -> Matt Stairs) and comps that bring back memories of former Rockies (Rob Scahill -> Kevin Ritz, Corey Dickerson -> Edgard Clemente).
If we were to construct the best roster possible using only ZiPS, we would have:
CF Dexter Fowler 2.4 620 15 .272 .364 .456 .352
2B Josh Rutledge 2.4 670 16 .280 .316 .445 .330
LF Carlos Gonzalez 4.0 629 29 .297 .360 .531 .373
SS Troy Tulowitzki 4.6 461 23 .294 .362 .535 .378
C Wilin Rosario 1.5 462 22 .263 .301 .470 .327
1B Michael Cuddyer 1.3 509 21 .284 .340 .499 .358
3B Nolan Arenado 1.6 644 17 .280 .319 .433 .320
RF Eric Young 1.2 377 4 .265 .339 .373 .321

(Best in bold, worst in italics)

Ryan Wheeler or Todd Helton could be moved to 1B, with Cuddyer moving to right field. This is a more likely scenario, and the lineup WAR would not decrease much.

The rotation:

Jhoulys Chacin 2.8 25 25 136.3 4.42 4.42 105 100 100 7.26 4.03 1.06
Drew Pomeranz 1.9 30 30 134.3 4.96 4.56 94 112 103 7.51 4.36 1.07
Juan Nicasio 1.8 16 16 90.3 4.48 3.8 104 101 86 7.97 2.69 1.1
Daniel Rosenbaum 1.4 26 25 140.3 5.26 4.63 88 119 105 5.20 3.46 0.96
Jeff Francis 1.3 27 27 143.3 5.34 4.63 87 121 105 5.34 2.26 1.32
Jorge de la Rosa 1.0 12 12 70.7 4.97 4.65 94 112 105 7.13 4.33 1.15

Jorge de la Rosa's playing time projection is hurt by the last two seasons. A full season of him at near that production would be near 3.0 WAR level. Rosenbaum looks nice, but his projection has the benefit of not having any numbers from Colorado Springs or Coors Field, or suppressed innings by Project 5183.

There are currently only five guaranteed relievers for the bullpen:

Matt Belisle 1.5 71 0 73.3 3.93 3.23 118 89 73 7.74 1.96 0.86
Rex Brothers 1.4 74 0 68.7 3.93 3.56 118 89 80 11.14 5.24 0.92
Rafael Betancourt 1.3 55 0 49.7 3.44 3.01 135 78 68 9.6 1.81 1.09
Wilton Lopez 1.3 67 0 65.7 3.97 3.48 117 90 78 6.99 1.64 0.96
Adam Ottavino 1.3 65 0 96.3 4.48 3.89 104 101 88 8.88 3.93 1.12

Holy jumanji. Betancourt isn't the lowest walk pitcher in the bullpen. Seriously bonkers. The remaining spots in the bullpen will be filled by some wild combo of Josh Outman, Christian Friedrich, Tyler Chatwood, Will Harris, Edgmer Escalona, Mike McClendon, Manuel Corpas, and others.



World Baseball Classic will have Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, Ramon Hernandez in play - The Denver Post - This will be a good place for Hernandez to test out his catching (he did not catch this winter), but if Gonzalez gets hurt...


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