An outline of the Braves’ 2020 ZiPS projections

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On Tuesday, Dan Szymborski — a FanGraphs senior writer and creator of one of baseball’s most popular projection systems (ZiPS) — released his 2020 predictions for the Atlanta Braves… and boy do they look good. 

Here’s a bit of an outline, with my own commentary, regarding his report from Tuesday, which covers basically every Braves player we’ll see (so far) this coming season:

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This ballpark graphic was taken from Szymborski’s write-up and was created by Eephus League.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(NOTE: to see every Braves’ projection, check out Szymborski’s original write-up, here. The following outline is a bit long, but the first half covers all hitters and the last half all pitchers.)

 

Braves Hitters

Even skimming through his report, it’s quite obvious Szymborski and ZiPS are excited about the Braves’ two young stars, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. And while the projections have Acuna just short of a 40/40 season (40 HR / 40 SB) in 2020, Szymborski is a bit more optimistic, even stating in his write-up that he thinks Acuna will “get his 40/40 year in 2020.”

Between the two, Acuna and Albies are projected by ZiPS to tally 10+ WAR overall, with the former earning a comp of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and the latter a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, Adrian Beltre. Though as a bit of a surprise, Albies is projected for more WAR than his pal, Acuna:

 

Ozzie Albies, 2B

679 PA | .293/.345/.514 | 121 OPS+ | 27 HR | 86 RBI | 16 SB | 5.3 WAR

Ronald Acuna Jr.

695 PA | .286/.368/.534 | 133 OPS+ | 39 HR | 104 RBI | 35 SB | 5.1 WAR

 

And for those that are still reeling from the Braves not re-signing third baseman Josh Donaldson this offseason, these next couple of projections may make you feel a bit better. Apparently, ZiPS thinks a lot of Austin Riley and Johan Camargo, which makes sense if you look at the two players’ total body of work thus far, including Riley’s incredible start last season and Camargo’s impressive 2018. ZiPS sees both as above-average producers in 2020, though we’ll have to learn to accept Riley’s poor K-rate (he’s projected to strikeout 31.7% of the time in 2020). I think we can overlook the swing-and-miss if it comes with 30 home runs.

Oh, and just for perspective… I’ve also included Donaldson’s 2020 ZiPS projections (sorry).

 

Austin Riley, 3B/OF

517 PA | .252/.309/.499 | 107 OPS+ | 29 HR | 87 RBI | 1.9 WAR

Johan Camargo, INF

440 PA | .262/.315/.436 | 94 OPS+ | 14 HR | 59 RBI | 1.5 WAR

 

Josh Donaldson, 3B (MIN)

539 PA | .257/.373/.493 | 125 OPS+ | 27 HR | 79 RBI | 4 SB | 3.9 WAR

 

The Braves’ ZiPS projections came out on Tuesday morning, about 12 hours before the Braves and FA outfielder Marcell Ozuna agreed to a 1-year, $18 million deal for this coming season, so the projected numbers regarding Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall are now basically rendered obsolete. I would even suspect Duvall’s time as a Brave may be coming to a close, especially now that a platoon in left field is theoretically no longer needed; but just for fun, here are Duvall and Markakis’ 2020 projections as well as Ozuna’s 2020 Steamer numbers (the Cardinals’ ZiPS projections haven’t been released yet):

 

Adam Duvall, OF

534 PA | .234/.300/.463 | 96 OPS+ | 26 HR | 92 RBI | 1.7 WAR 

Nick Markakis, OF

531 PA | .275/.345/.396/ | 94 OPS+ | 9 HR | 67 RBI | 0.7 WAR

Marcell Ozuna, OF

STEAMER: 641 PA | .276/.344/.501 | 119 OPS+ | 33 HR | 102 RBI | 7 SB | 3.1 WAR

 

At first glance, it may seem that ZiPS is a bit low on shortstop Dansby Swanson, but the projection system sees him as the same guy he was in 2019: a player with decent power for a middle-infielder and a respectable slash-line. Honestly, if Dansby can continue to remain consistently dependable on defense, a .250 AVG with 15-18 homers is a great deal for the Braves:

 

Dansby Swanson, SS

568 PA | .252/.323/.410 | 91 OPS+ | 15 HR | 69 RBI | 9 SB | 1.9 WAR

 

Then there’s center fielder Ender Inciarte, who when he wasn’t hurt, struggled last season to the tune of a career-low .246 AVG and 0.9 WAR, which perhaps isn’t all that bad considering he was limited to just 65 games. ZiPS foresees a respectable bounce-back for the Braves’ usually-consistent defensive leader in the outfield, though understandably not quite to the level of his glory days from 2016-18. A 2020 season for Inciarte that even comes within 80% of the projected numbers below should at least give the Braves options if the team does in fact look to trade the 29-year-old. Although, for $7 million it’s hard to complain too much about a 1.5-2 WAR season.

 

Ender Inciarte, OF

548 PA | .275/.337/.397 | 92 OPS+ | 9 HR | 47 RBI | 17 SB | 2.1 WAR

 

Regarding the catcher situation, ZiPS does seem a bit bearish on Tyler Flowers, but that’ll happen when you’re a right-handed hitter coming off a season in which you hit just .155 versus lefties and struck out nearly 34% of the time overall. We all know what Flowers’ strengths are, and illustrated by his still-solid 2.1 WAR in 2019 (despite a .229 AVG and 88 OPS+), those strengths show on the defensive side, as he was one of the best pitch-framers in baseball last year (again). 

As far as the team’s newest member of the yearly Braves’ catcher-duo — newly-signed Travis d’Arnaud — ZiPS has him comped as one of the Braves’ all-time greats at the position, comparing d’Arnaud to the .287 career-hitting Javy Lopez. Talk about receiving some love!

 

Tyler Flowers, C

302 PA | .225/.321/.378 | 83 OPS+ | 9 HR | 35 RBI | 1.2 WAR

Travis d’Arnaud, C

380 PA | .255/.313/.414 | 89 OPS+ | 13 HR | 63 RBI | 1.1 WAR

 

Finally, rounding out the regulars in the Braves’ 2020 lineup, ZiPS, of course, loves it some Freddie Freeman, who, since his first full season in 2011, has been a lock for a .290-.300 AVG, 25-30 homers, and 80-100 RBI. The projection system appears to predict more of the same from the Braves’ franchise player, even proposing the same on-base percentage as last year, though just a minor drop in home runs. Still, barring an injury, the 30-year-old will once again be a 4-5 WAR All-Star, with a possible MVP award by the end of the year.

 

Freddie Freeman, 1B

647 PA | .299/.389/.545 | 141 OPS+ | 31 HR | 108 RBI | 7 SB | 4.6 WAR

 

 

Braves’ bench & prospects

The cool thing about ZiPS is that it can even project prospects in its system, giving us an idea of what some of the organization’s most talented young players could produce if given playing time in the big leagues. Here are a few of the Braves’ part-time players’ projections, as well as some of the more notable position-player prospects:

(NOTE: prospect projections are based on what each player could potentially produce given the plate-appearances total listed for their respective projection.)

 

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

357 PA | .263/.303/.393 | 81 OPS+ | 7 HR | 39 RBI | 3 SB | 0.8 WAR

Yangervis Solarte, INF

408 PA | .253/.305/.405 | 84 OPS+ | 12 HR | 56 RBI | 0.6 WAR

Charlie Culberson, UTIL

298 PA | .240/.283/.387 | 73 OPS+ | 8 HR | 34 RBI | 0.1 WAR

 

Cristian Pache, OF

552 PA | .241/.289/.407 | 79 OPS+ | 14 HR | 59 RBI | 6 SB | 1.0 WAR

Comp: Chris James 

Drew Waters, OF

563 PA | .233/.281/.384 | 72 OPS+ | 11 HR | 52 RBI | 12 SB | 0.1 WAR

Comp: Devon White

Braden Shewmake, SS

477 PA | .241/.300/.353 | 71 OPS+ | 6 HR | 45 RBI | 15 SB | 0.6 WAR

Comp: Matt Franco

William Contreras, C

434 PA | .220/.272/.341 | 61 OPS+ | 10 HR | 38 RBI | -0.3 WAR

Comp: Michael McCormick

Trey Harris, OF

497 PA | .239/.298/.375 | 75 OPS+ | 10 HR | 49 RBI | 6 SB | 0.1 WAR

Comp: Luis Montanez

 

 

Braves’ Pitchers

ZiPS is buying into the hype surrounding 22-year-old Mike Soroka and 26-year old Max Fried, as the usually-conservative projection system has both maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA as well as a low homer-rate, suggesting both pitchers’ improvements last year were legit (which is nice because we Braves’ fans are already plenty aware). As leaders of the Braves’ rotation, essentially 7 WAR between the two would be a sign of a great 2020 season for the team:

 

Mike Soroka, RHP

176 IP | 31 starts | 11-6 | 3.32 ERA | 3.44 FIP | 7.9 K/9 | 2.0 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 4.0 WAR

Max Fried, LHP

155 IP | 28 starts | 13-9 | 3.72 ERA | 3.55 FIP | 9.1 K/9 | 3.1 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 2.9 WAR

 

What’s even better to see, though, is that this years dropoff from Soroka/Fried to the team’s No. 3 starter should be minimal if any, as a still-strong Cole Hamels enters the fray, along with a hopefully re-inspired Mike Foltynewicz, who’s coming off a rough 2019 season. If ZiPS is right, the Braves could wield one of its deepest starting rotations in awhile. As you can see, four-fifths of the starting staff is projected to post at least 2 WAR:

 

Cole Hamels, LHP

140.7 IP | 26 starts | 8-6 | 4.03 ERA | 4.19 FIP | 8.4 K/9 | 3.4 BB/9 | 1.2 HR/9 | 2.2 WAR

Mike Foltynewicz, RHP

156.3 IP | 29 starts | 11-9 | 4.26 ERA | 4.17 FIP | 8.3 K/9 | 3.3 BB/9 | 1.2 HR/9 | 2.0 WAR

Sean Newcomb, LHP

124 IP | 24 app | 19 starts | 9-8 | 4.28 ERA | 4.37 FIP | 8.8 K/9 | 4.1 BB/9 | 1.2 HR/9 | 1.4 WAR

 

The Braves signed 34-year-old Felix Hernandez just in time for his inclusion on this list, though understandably, his numbers are quite grim. Regardless, for $1 million he’s a low-risk investment that could pay dividends.

 

Felix Hernandez, RHP

98.3 IP, 20 starts, 6-7, 5.31 ERA, 5.13 FIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.6 HR/9, 0.2 WAR

 

Despite Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson receiving several positive remarks in FanGraphs’ recent Braves’ Top-27 Prospects report (released on Monday), ZiPS doesn’t seem too excited about the two; though, any bit of improvement is better than what both pitchers’ produced in the majors last season, and would serve as a source of depth for the Braves’ rotation in 2020.

 

Kyle Wright, RHP

130.3 IP | 25 starts | 4 app | 9-9 | 4.56 ERA | 4.32 FIP | 8.6 K/9 | 3.7 BB/9 | 1.2 HR/9 | 1.2 WAR

Bryse Wilson, RHP

142.7 IP | 26 starts | 2 app | 10-9 | 4.42 ERA | 4.20 FIP | 8.5 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 1.4 HR/9 | 1.6 WAR

 

Moving on to the Braves’ bullpen, an aspect of the team that GM Alex Anthopoulos invested heavily in at the very beginning of this current offseason — signing reliever Will Smith to a 3-year, $39 million contract, as well as re-signing Darren O’Day to a 1-year, $2.25 million deal and Chris Martin a 2-year, $14 million pact — the projections look mighty promising for the Braves. Going by early reports and how the bullpen was utilized in 2019, here are the predictions for the team’s high-leverage guys:

(To put these numbers in a bit of perspective, a top-10 reliever in all of the majors last season posted around 1.5 WAR.)

 

Mark Melancon, RHP

55.3 IP | 3.74 ERA | 3.56 FIP | 8.3 K/9 | 2.4 BB/9 | 1.0 HR/9 | 0.5 WAR

Will Smith, LHP

56.7 IP | 3.18 ERA | 3.22 FIP | 12.9 K/9 | 3.2 BB/9 | 1.3 HR/9 | 1.1 WAR

Shane Greene, RHP

58.3 IP | 3.70 ERA | 3.64 FIP | 9.6 K/9 | 3.1 BB/9 | 1.1 HR/9 | 0.6 WAR

Chris Martin, RHP

48 IP | 3.19 ERA | 2.99 FIP | 9.2 K/9 | 1.5 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 0.8 WAR

Luke Jackson, RHP

71.7 IP | 3.52 ERA | 3.22 FIP | 11.6 K/9 | 4.0 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 1.0 WAR

 

After those top-5 guys at the back end of the ‘pen, the other lower-leverage type arms are still arms that both throw hard and strike batters out, and ZiPS projects a rather formidable group to handle the middle-innings for the Braves. Even more, you could perhaps consider another four or five pitchers available at various times during the season, being that only one of Newcomb, Hernandez, Wright or Wilson can earn that fifth and final spot in the starting rotation; not to mention guys like Touki Toussaint and A.J. Minter, who could turn things around this season.

 

Jeremy Walker, RHP

112.7 IP | 4.55 ERA | 4.25 FIP | 6.8 K/9 | 2.9 BB/9 | 1.1 HR/9 | 0.9 WAR

A.J. Minter, LHP

56 IP | 3.86 ERA | 3.50 FIP | 10.6 K/9 | 3.9 BB/9 | 1.0 HR/9 | 0.5 WAR

Chad Sobotka, RHP

56 IP | 4.18 ERA | 3.93 FIP | 11.1 K/9 | 5.5 BB/9 | 1.0 HR/9 | 0.2 WAR

Jacob Webb, RHP

48.3 IP | 4.66 ERA | 4.79 FIP | 9.3 K/9 | 5.4 BB/9 | 1.3 HR/9 | 0.0 WAR

Grant Dayton, LHP

38 IP | 3.55 ERA | 3.63 FIP | 11.8 K/9 | 3.1 BB/9 | 1.4 HR/9 | 0.4 WAR

Touki Toussaint, RHP

116.7 IP | 4.47 ERA | 4.32 FIP | 9.6 K/9 | 5.2 BB/9 | 1.1 HR/9 | 1.1 WAR

 

 

Braves’ prospect pitchers

Just like with the position-player prospects above, there are a few Braves’ prospect pitchers that could probably hold their own in the big leagues and may get a chance this coming season. However, most of these guys are still at least a year or two away. It’s still fun to see what the projections say, though:

 

Ian Anderson, RHP

127.3 IP | 26 starts | 4.59 ERA | 4.59 FIP | 9.8 K/9 | 4.9 BB/9 | 1.3 HR/9 | 1.2 WAR

Tucker Davidson, LHP

115.7 IP | 25 starts | 4.67 ERA | 4.43 FIP | 8.1 K/9 | 5.4 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 1.0 WAR

Kyle Muller, RHP

105 IP | 23 starts | 4.89 ERA | 4.68 FIP | 8.7 K/9 | 6.2 BB/9 | 0.9 HR/9 | 0.7 WAR

Huascar Ynoa, RHP

104 IP | 19 starts | 8 app | 5.11 ERA | 4.91 FIP | 9.0 K/9 | 5.2 BB/9 | 1.4 HR/9 | 0.4 WAR

Philip Pfeifer, LHP

111.7 IP | 16 starts | 15 app | 5.08 ERA | 5.01 FIP | 8.9 K/9 | 4.8 BB/9 | 1.5 HR/9 | 0.4 WAR

Corbin Clouse, LHP

47 IP | 35 app | 2 starts | 4.02 ERA | 3.97 FIP | 10.1 K/9 | 5.0 BB/9 | 1.0 HR/9 | 0.4 WAR

 

 

 

 

 

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1 thought on “An outline of the Braves’ 2020 ZiPS projections”

  1. Interesting. They project an end to Swanson’s trend of increasing home runs each season (perhaps because of a correction to last year’s baseballs?). I don’t share your opinion that Duvall’s days in Atlanta are numbered. If he seems to be doing as well in ST as he did during the season in 2019, I suspect he will play well off the bench or in a platoon, depending on how Inciarte hits and if Riley and Camargo both make the squad.

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