For those who don’t know already, fangraphs.com is one of the best sites on the web for baseball. Whether it’s advanced statistics or more old school counting stats, Fangraphs has it all.
Fangraphs also houses several projections systems, including the ZIPS projections created by ESPN’s Dan Syzmborski. Those ZIPS projections are released every year, team-by-team until every team has been covered. Well this last Friday, Fangraphs released the ZIPS projections for the 2016 San Diego Padres. You can view those at http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2016-zips-projections-san-diego-padres/.
Before we get into those projections, first a little background on how those projections are created by Dan. After first appearing on baseballthinkfactory.org, the ZIPS projections have appeared on Fangraphs the last several years. In the most basic form, ZIPS projections are computer based projections of performance for the upcoming season. These projections take into account past performance to get a player’s projected performance for the upcoming season.
However, there are a few caveats with Dan’s system. One, these projections do not account for injuries or predict playing time. Therefore some players may not see as many at bats as they are projected to have here, most likely due to being in the minor leagues. Also, the total WAR for each position are based on playing time, so simply adding up the WAR numbers of each player at a position will not get you the total for that position.
Second, the WAR values calculated do not add up to get a projected team WAR. The system is more for an evaluation of individual player performance than an assessment of the team’s total value on the field. Finally, since the WAR value calculated is slightly different from other systems it is given it’s own name: zWAR (for Szymborski).
With that description out of the way, it is time to look at a position-by-position breakdown of the Padres ZIPS projections and how the Padres stack up for next year. The names below at each position were decided on using a combination of both the Fangraphs depth charts as well as Dan Szymborski’s own evaluations.
Catcher – Total WAR = 4
Derek Norris = 2.9 zWAR
Christian Bethancourt = 1.9 zWAR
Austin Hedges = 1.1 zWAR
Of all the positions on the diamond, it appears catcher will be the Padres area of strength according to the ZIPS projections. Norris is projected for nearly three zWAR, the best of any Padre positional player, while Bethancourt adds almost two zWAR as well. This doesn’t even include Austin Hedges, who is projected for another 1.1 zWAR on his own. It appears that in sum the Padres could provide approximately six wins above replacement from the catcher’s position alone. No other position comes anywhere close to that projection.
1st Base – Total WAR = 2
Wil Myers = 1.6 zWAR
Brett Wallace = 0.4 zWAR
With the departure of Yonder Alonso via a trade, the Padres have a new first baseman set to take over for next year. After an injury riddled 2016, the projections are very cautious about Wil Myers for next season. Myers is given a WAR projection below that of a league average starter, likely due to the system being wary of his injury history. Myers is only projected for 443 plate appearances, which estimates him missing some significant playing time next year due to injury. Behind him is Brett Wallace, who provides just 0.4 WAR as a regular pinch hitter who should get some playing time at first base to spell Myers in case of injury.
2nd Base – Total WAR = 2
Cory Spangenberg = 1.7 zWAR
Jose Pirela = 1.0 zWAR
Carlos Asuaje = 0.4 zWAR
Most likely, with the trade of Jedd Gyorko earlier in the offseason, Cory Spangenberg will get the bulk of the playing time at second base for the Padres next season. Spagenberg profiles as slightly below average, but the combination of him and Pirela should put the Padres at or above average at second base for the season. Carlos Asuaje also figures to get some playing time at second base at the big league level, perhaps also getting some playing time at shortstop/third base.
3rd Base – Total WAR = 2
Yangervis Solarte = 2.0 zWAR
At third base, only one player is projected to get a bulk of the playing time. That would be Yangervis Solarte. After losing the starting job to Will Middlebrooks out of Spring Training last season, Solarte broke out in a big way in 2015, winning the starting job for the foreseeable future. Given that the average position player profiles at around 2 WAR, Solarte looks to be a roughly average player for the Padres at third base next season with some possibility for further growth above that threshold.
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