The 2020 ZiPS Projections are now available for the Cincinnati Reds. Dan Szymborski, who writes at both Fangraphs and ESPN, is the man behind the ZiPS projections and for nearly a decade running, has released them at Fangraphs team-by-team over the course of the offseason.
What we aren’t going to do is share all of the information or stats from ZiPS. Dan’s worked hard on his system over the years, and Fangraphs pays him to share all of that over there. So if you want to see the projections for the entire team, and heck even if you don’t you should still go to the link above and check it out. Fangraphs is great, and Dan is, too. Support them.
What we do want to do, though, is highlight a few of the standout projections for the 2020 Cincinnati Reds – both good and not-to-good. We’ll break them down below.
The Good Projections
One projection jumps out as a big rebound and it’s for Joey Votto. Last season the Reds first baseman hit .261/.357/.411 – which was pretty much league average. It was good for a 98 OPS+ and a 101 wRC+. Depending on which version of WAR you prefer, his season was worth either 1.6 WAR (Baseball Reference) or 0.7 WAR (Fangraphs). The league average starter, regardless of position (since positional values are factored into WAR) is 2.0 WAR. That means that Votto was a below-average player in 2019. He got on base at a good clip, but it’s far below what he’s accustomed to. And the power simply wasn’t there, especially after we factor in the baseball being juiced to the core.
In 2020 ZiPS projects a bit of a return for Votto at the plate. His projection sees a rebound of .273/.384/.434 with 26 doubles, a triple, and 16 home runs in 563 plate appearances. The power is up, but not by a lot. His isolated power jumps from .150 to .161. But there’s also a rebound in both his contact rate and his walk rate, which help boost his average and on-base percentage a little bit. That results in a jump in Fangraphs WAR from 0.7 to 2.5. But, if we use the depth chart for playing time that comes in the article, Votto’s WAR increases to 2.9 WAR due to more time on the field.
On the mound, depending on exactly how you feel about things, Trevor Bauer’s projection could come as a surprise. In his best season he posted a 5.8 WAR. That came in 2018 with Cleveland, and he posted a 2.21 ERA that year in 175.1 innings. Last season was a tale of two different pitchers, at least in some areas. His ERA with Cleveland in the first 24 starts of the year was 3.79. Then he was acquired by Cincinnati at the trade deadline and made 10 more starts. His ERA jumped up to 6.39 with the Reds. He allowed more hits, a home run rate that wound up being 50% higher with the Reds than it was in Cleveland, but also cut his walk rate and improved his strikeout rate. It was a weird split – but in the end resulted in a 4.48 ERA in 213.0 innings.
Pitching WAR can be very, very different depending on which version you want to look at. Baseball Reference assigned Trevor Bauer 1.4 WAR for his 2019 season. 1.9 of that came with Cleveland, while he got a -0.5 with Cincinnati. Fangraphs uses a very different model for pitching WAR and had Trevor Bauer at 3.3 WAR for the 2019 season, with a 0.6 credit as a Red. ZiPS projects Trevor Bauer to be the Reds second best pitcher in 2019 according to WAR. It’s projecting 190.1 innings with a 3.74 ERA, good for 3.6 WAR (3.8 WAR after the playing time adjustment mentioned above). That’s basically neck-and-neck with Luis Castillo. For Bauer, that would easily be the second best ERA that he’s ever posted. Only his 2018 season saw him under the 4.15 mark.
The Not-As-Good Projections
This offseason has seen the Reds rumored to be interested in at least three different shortstops – Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Didi Gregorius. Unless they can make an acquisition of someone else, they’ll head into 2020 with Freddy Galvis as their starting shortstop. Last season he hit .260/.296/.438 between his time in Toronto and Cincinnati. He was quite a bit better with the Blue Jays (115 games) than he was with the Reds (32 games). As we noted the other day, Galvis may very well be an elite level defender at shortstop. But, his bat has never been close to being league average. In 2019 he posted a 92 OPS+, which was the best of his career.
ZiPS doesn’t like his chances at repeating that kind of offensive performance. In fact, the system doesn’t like his chances of coming remotely near that level of offense. It projects a .254/.297/.400 line with 30 doubles, four triples, and 15 home runs. That works out to an 80 OPS+, which would be his worst mark in the category since 2016. Overall, because of his defense his line is worth 1.4 WAR on the season – but it’s a downgrade offensively from what he produced last season and in a big way.
On the pitching side of things that one that jumped out the most to me was Wade Miley, though he wasn’t the only one. Since he picked up the cutter in 2018 he’s posted ERA’s of 2.57 and 3.98 for Milwaukee and Houston over the last two seasons. The two years prior to that his ERA was 5.37 and 5.61. The Cincinnati Reds signed Miley to a 2-year deal with an option year for 2022 and they are clearly hoping for something a lot closer to the 2018-2019 version of Miley than the 2016-2017 version.
The ZiPS projection isn’t buying the 2018-2019 version of Wade Miley. It projects him for a 4.90 ERA in 132.1 innings pitched. That comes with 21 home runs allowed. His HR/9IP over the last two seasons was 0.9. ZiPS projects that number to jump up to 1.43 – a 50% increase in home runs over the previous two years.
Comparing the Reds to the Brewers
The Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers are the only two teams that have had their ZiPS projections published at the time of this article. Using the depth chart graphic, which doesn’t get fully into the bench but does include some expected players, the Reds are about 2.5 WAR behind the Brewers. Cincinnati has the advantage in the infield and the rotation. The Brewers have a big advantage in the outfield – hey there Christian Yelich – and a decent advantage in the bullpen. We’ll have to see how the rest of the division projects when their ZiPS projections come out – but right now the Reds and Brewers are pretty close.
Now go check out all of the Reds ZiPS projections over at Fangraphs. Does any particular projection jump out to you in one direction or the other?