For anyone who enjoys offseason projections, seeing that little chart with ZiPS numbers teasing Dan Szymborski’s latest projections are like a mini holiday every winter. Normally Indians fans have to wait until mid-January or later, but this time around FanGraphs started their team-by-team breakdown with none other than our own Cleveland Indians.
If you want to see the full breakdown from Dan himself, including that wonderful little chart, you can read it straight from the source on FanGraphs. If that’s all your doing, feel free to skip to the comments to give your thoughts on the latest projections.
Here are mine.
As Dan notes in his breakdown, ZiPS sure does love it some Shane Bieber. It projects him as a 2.7 WAR player based on FanGraphs’ playing time estimates — actually 0.1 lower than his final WAR last season, but with an ERA at 3.71 over a full 32-game season. It projects him to walk 30 batters over 187.0 innings for a BB/9 of 1.44, even better than his impressive 1.81 BB/9 last season. It does have his K/9 dropping to 7.5, which seems weirdly conservative for ZiPS, given that he’s never had a K/9 lower than 8.12 since he reached Double-A in the minors.
The projections are also understandably optimistic about Trevor Bauer, putting him at 4.7 WAR on the season (up from the 2.7 WAR projection for 2018). Even Corey Kluber gets a little bump to 5.7 WAR compared to 5.5 for 2018. Overall, it looks like another summer of pitching for the Indians if they don’t deal anyone away. Even if they do, there’s still plenty of arms to go around and the spectre of a healthy Danny Salazar lurking.
The offense is... not great. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez both receive promising projections at 6.5 and 6.4 WAR , respectively. Always the pessimist, though, ZiPS projects Ramirez’s power to come slightly back down to earth with 29 home runs (down from 39 in 2019) and only a team-leading .535 slugging percentage (down from .552). Basically a terrible year for the GOAT.
Bradley Zimmer is projected to be absolutely abysmal in the outfield with a .219/.298/.359 slash (and that includes a team-best .350 BABIP) — if he can beat out projected starter Leonys Martin, who is earmarked for a .246/.300/.396 slash. Not a whole lot better.
Jordan Luplow (don’t feel bad if you already forgot about him, I had to Google to remember that the Indians traded Erik Gonzalez to the Pirates for him) is projected to be better than both of them, offensively, with a 92 OPS+. In fact, he’s the highest rated “true” outfielder not named Jason Kipnis. All you dedicated Luplowheads out there already know that he has a really solid track record in the minors already with a walk rate in the low double-digits and a strikeout rate that’s always been under 20 percent. It’s a combination that has led to him consistently putting up good seasons for the Pirates’ farm system, and now it’s his turn to give it a shot in Cleveland. If ZiPS is right in its projections, he should probably get that shot sooner than later.
Some of the Indians’ other fringey acquisitions over the last year look like contributors more than everyday players, but the plan seems to be to hope at least one of them pops off for a season or two or seven and the team gets an All-Star at a steep, steep discount. Here’s how they look according to ZiPS:
- Max Moroff: .207/.317/.343, 75 OPS+
- Trayce Tompson: .190/.247/.340, 53 OPS+
- Oscar Mercado: .243/.305/.345, 72 OPS+
- Daniel Johnson: .238/.286/.379, 74 OPS+
Roberto Perez — the assumed starting catcher going forward — is projected to finish with a WAR of 0.3, almost entirely carried by his defense. But on the bright side, Eric Haase is expected to have 16 home runs. That’s cool.
One of my favorite things about these pieces that FanGraphs puts together every year are the comparisons. Francisco Lindor receives a kind of terrifying comp to Troy Tulowitzi, Jose Ramirez is anointed the next Chipper Jones, and Yandy Diaz is the legendary Al Gallagher, who played in four seasons for the early-70s Giants and finished his career with 11 home runs and an unreported number of 100-mph balls shot straight into the dirt.