FanGraphs has released Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for eight years, and the 2020 rendering of the Rockies is here. It offers slight optimism, slight pessimism, and a slight urge for the statistically-savvy fan to go full detective.
Despite all of this projection work (and highly thought-out work that deserves applause), it seems obscure and perhaps odd to project a team that has seen both sides of the team success spectrum over the last two years. It’s like if you drain a half court basketball shot on your first attempt, and the next one goes over the shot clock; anything could happen with the third.
Nonetheless, it deserves recognition, even if it just be our way of getting our baseball fix in December as we long for the gates at Salt River Fields to open this spring.
Here’s the breakdown:
A graphic on the FanGraphs profile shows a projected starting lineup, pitching rotation and bullpen arms with supplemental WAR statistics from the FanGraphs playing time depth chart:
2020 ZiPS Projections: Colorado Rockies https://t.co/HXKPom1n2X— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) December 6, 2019
The projections feature little surprise with Arenado, Blackmon and Story as top offensive performers. German Marquez and Jon Gray are identified as the clear-cut 1 and 2 of the rotation.
The Winter Meetings kick off this Monday, and it was timely for this projection to be released this week as conversation is sure to pick up among team representatives. The projections do a good job of identifying the potential holes in the Rockies lineup and how they may be addressed. FanGraphs has several different projection methods for WAR, so it can get a bit confusing between looking at their graphics, tables and individual player cards. Simply put, the ZiPS projections on the Rockies support what many have already been presumed, but certain specifics of the projections may be better or worse than some of those presumptions.
Szymborski writes how the projections for Ryan McMahon and David Dahl can be widely underwhelming. He cites “hard to forget” factors among the two; he recognizes Dahl’s injury-prone history and McMahon’s moving to and from the minors amidst “prime development years.” It furthers an interesting forecast and suggests that projections of the two could be much more uncertain than many players with more concrete sample sizes.
Sam Hilliard has a -0.4 WAR on the graphic based on the depth chart figures, and a -0.2 based on Steamer projections. Hilliard’s wRC+ reasons him as an above-average hitter throughout nearly all of his professional career, so Rockies fans are left to hope that an underwhelming projection is based primarily upon his small sample size of MLB service time.
Unlike Hilliard, the ZiPS projection for German Marquez can appear pretty overzealous. Marquez sported a 4.76 ERA in 2019, but supplemental statistics defend his high projective regard. His FIP in 2019 was 4.06, besting his ERA by 0.70; his xFIP was 3.54, reasoning he pitched much better than his ERA would suggest. Projections that account for FIP or xFIP would understandably value Marquez higher.
Szymborski says that it “appears unlikely that the Rockies are going to open up their wallets this winter to fix the offense or the back of the rotation,” while the Denver Post says the Rockies, despite roster needs, “consider themselves a playoff contender in 2020.”
With the Winter Meetings beginning this Monday, we may get some answers as to whether the wallet will, in fact, be opened.
Further details are written about Ian Desmond, and how he turned down seven years and $105 million from Washington to come to Colorado. While the world was left to wonder what Bryce Harper felt this October as an onlooker to his old team, the same thoughts apply to Desmond—if he wore a Nationals uniform instead of a Rockies one these last few years, would they have still won the Series?
The FanGraphs depth chart graphic goes along nicely with what the Post says the Rockies’ needs are: a right-handed-hitting catcher, and help with pitching. The graphic shows a 1.0 WAR behind the plate as of right now, and a risky drop-off beyond Gray and Marquez in the starting rotation. Kyle Freeland dons a 1.9 WAR projection (1.7’s on his FanGraphs profile), but his 2018 successes and 2019 woes make any projection on Freeland a difficult task to pinpoint.
Roberto Ramos was a first baseman in Albuquerque this past year, and is now eligible for the Rule 5 draft on December 12 after not being placed on Colorado’s 40-man roster. Three pitchers were added to the 40-man in November and subsequently protected from this draft—Ben Bowden, Ashton Goudeau and Antonio Santos—and this decision makes it safe to assume that avenging the National League’s worst ERA is more of a priority than whoever is at first base. Only 50 or so players are selected in this draft per year, and if Ramos isn’t selected, he will remain in the Rockies organization.