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2018 Twins ZiPS Projections: Batters slightly worse, pitching still needs help

Dan Szymborski’s projections for the 2018 Twins are out, and they’re a bit underwhelming.

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Indians Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Every offseason, baseball analyst Dan Szymborski releases his ZiPS projections, which our own Randball’s Stu have described as “a cornerstone of the baseball analytics community.” The projections are just predicts of what numbers each player will put up the following season based on a special formula and/or computer programs and/or Ouija board type contraption created by Szymborski — hence the name, ZiPS, which is supposed to stand for for “sZymborski Projection System”.

Today, Fangraph’s released Szymborski’s projections for the 2018 Minnesota Twins. You can check out the full tables with all of the glorious numbers here.

Don’t feel like staring at tables of numbers? Here’s a general little overview for you.

2018 Twins ZiPS Batting

ZiPS doesn’t appear to think the Twins offense will be as strong in 2018 as they were in 2017. The top six offensive players in fWAR for the Twins in 2017 — Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, and Jorge Polanco — all project to earn less WAR in 2018. Combined, those players earned 17.2 fWAR in 2017, but project for only 13.9 WAR in 2018 under ZiPS.

It’s not all bad, though! Max Kepler is projected to do slightly better in 2018 (1.2 fWAR in 2017 versus 1.4 WAR in 2018), and Jason Castro is projected to stay the same at 1.6 fWAR. ZiPS also predicts Mitch Garver to be more on a contributor, projecting 1.3 WAR for him in 2018 (compared to the -0.1 fWAR he put up in his brief time playing in the majors in 2017). But, yeah... overall, I’m not seeing a whole lot here to get excited about.

Also worth noting — these projections don’t take into account injuries or potential suspensions that might limit a player’s playing time in the coming year... cough cough Miguel Sano.

2018 Twins ZiPS Pitching

We all know pitching was more of the Twins’ weak spot in 2017 (and 2016, 2015, 2014, etc.). ZiPS knows this too, and since the Twins still haven’t signed Yu Darvish yet, things are still looking pretty ugly.

The fun thing, I suppose, is that ZiPS projects Jose Berrios to be the Twins’ top starting pitcher with 3.3 WAR in 2018. That’s not entirely unsurprising, given Berrios is only 23 years old and still improving. After Berrios, ZiPS projects Ervin Santana at 2.5 WAR and Kyle Gibson at 1.9 WAR for 2018.

Then things get weird. The next highest projected pitcher is... Michael Pineda with 1.4 WAR. ZiPS projects him pitching 103.0 innings in 2018, which is not going to happen because Pineda just got Tommy John surgery! There’s a good chance he doesn’t even pitch at all in 2018. As I mentioned earlier, ZiPS is not perfect. Clearly.

When it comes to relief, ZiPS projects Fernando Rodney — who the Twins have already said will be their closer — to be worse than basically every other arm in the bullpen. So that will be fun.

Other ZiPS Observations

  • ZiPS only projects Trevor May to earn 0.6 WAR in 2018, which is the same as Fernando Rodney. That number is most likely low for May, considering he did not pitch at all in 2017 due to injury. As pointed out earlier, ZiPS doesn’t account for injuries very well.
  • ByungHo Park is projected for 0.6 WAR in 2018, because ZiPS also doesn’t account for moving back to South Korea very well.
  • I think Byron Buxton will be worth more than 3.2 WAR in 2018. Remember how slow of a start he got off to last year? I’m thinking that was more of a fluke and not something he’ll repeat again every year. Hopefully.
  • Willians Astudillo, the super strange all-contact hitter the Twins signed to a minor league contract recently, is projected to earn 0.6 WAR in the majors in 2018, which will truly be a sight to behold.

How accurate do you think the Twins’ 2018 ZiPS projects are? What do you think they got right? What do you think they got wrong?