It is projection season now and, though not all of the Reds projections have been posted yet (ZiPS is still missing), we’ve reached a point at which it’s interesting to look at what they say and what they can tell us.
The first thing to note is that projection systems all generally assume there will be regression to the mean. Take, for instance, Mike Trout. In five full seasons, he has posted only one season with less than 9 WAR. However, every projection system (including the FanGraphs Fans projection, which is the only one that uses crowdsourcing) has him posting a season below 9 WAR. This is regression. Similarly, players with especially poor seasons will often see their numbers projected to bounce back a bit. It’s also why, in team-wide projections, so few are projected to win more than 90 games.
The second thing to note is that projection systems aren’t much with prospects. While there are certainly broad averages, we simply aren’t very good at predicting what happens when a player finally makes the leap to the majors. Jay Bruce, for instance, was a significantly better hitter in the minors than Joey Votto.
Here, just to be thorough, is the complete list of Reds players who might see significant time in 2017, and whose projections you can correspondingly take with a handful of salt instead of the normal grain:
Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera, Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzon, Raisel Iglesias.
That’s a pretty good list. And then, of course, there are those still trying to return from injuries: Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco.
All together, that’s half a baseball team of players where, generally speaking, projections will be able to offer little more than a shoulder shrug.
All those caveats established, let’s take a look at what the projections broadly say:
- Don’t expect much offense. Aside from Joey Votto, the projection systems don’t generally expect anyone to be an above-average hitter. Schebler, Winker, Duvall, and Suarez seem to be the best candidates to help Votto score runs. But again, grains of salt all around.
- The pitching may be surprisingly okay. There seems to be a particular level of belief in the pitching prospects that leads to the Reds having something like an average – or even slightly above-average – starting rotation. Given the strengthening of the bullpen, we may be in for fewer painful blowouts this year.
- Joey Votto will be good (duh). The Fans projections place him second only to Mike Trout in WAR next year. If that isn’t encouraging, I don’t know what is.
Since it’s January and that is the time of universal optimism in baseball, I would encourage you to take a look at the FanGraphs Fan Projections. They represent an optimistic but not utterly absurd possibility for the Reds. If those were the performances that happened, the Reds would have a winning record this year and perhaps even be in the conversation for the wild card.