With spring training beginning and warm temperatures
right around the round the corner somewhere off in the distant future, you can almost smell it in the air … projection season! And, I suppose, baseball season is quickly approaching as well, which is why it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at the latest projections that came from everyone’s favorite six-letter algorithm, PECOTA. Here’s a look at what Nate Silver’s system projected for the Minnesota Twins, as well as some analysis regarding the projections.
PECOTA Projected Standings
|Kansas City Royals||72||90|
|Chicago White Sox||70||92|
81 wins in the less-than-stellar AL Central isn’t what most of the Twins faithful is likely looking for, but I can’t say that I’m surprised that a projection system using past data is pegging the Twins for a .500 finish. While the Twins have added a few useful players in the offseason, none have moved the needle enough to expect the Twins to make a 10 or 15 game jump in wins or vault themselves into World Series conversation. While this still has the potential to change with impact players still out on the market, it seems likely that Falvine is willing to settle for somewhere around 81 wins this season and wait for the proverbial “window” to open.
PECOTA actually likes the Twins’ three main additions to their lineup, as they are projected to be Minnesota’s three highest producers in WARP. Nelson Cruz is projected to lead the team in the all-encompassing measure at 3.4, while Jonathan Schoop (2.3) and CJ Cron (2.1) are projected to rank second and third in the stat. PECOTA thinks that Cruz still has something left in the tank, and will slash .271/.361/.485 with 27 dingers. It also thinks that Cron will have a similar season to last year, albeit with a slight drop off in power numbers. PECOTA believes in a bit of a bounce-back season for Jonathan Schoop, as it projects the second baseman to improve his OPS by nearly 80 points (.682 in 2018, projected .761 in 2019).
The projections for the rest of the lineup are pretty tepid, which is why PECOTA’s projection of 81 wins has the potential to shoot up. It doesn’t believe in significant strides for Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, or Max Kepler, and even projects slight regression for Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario. Buxton is projected for season of struggles at the dish (sub-.700 OPS) while Sano is slated for an okay year with a .755 OPS and 23 bombs. It projects Rosario to have his first sub-.800 OPS season since 2016, and thinks Polanco will bat just .258 with 14 dingers.
While these projections are certainly fair, I think it is also reasonable to predict that at least two of these hitters could be significantly better in 2019. I believe that Polanco will outplay his projections next season, as he has been a hitter who has shown flashes of top-level productions for stretches. Polanco posted career bests in chase rate and barrel rate last season (per baseball savant) and I believe that he will be able to limit his bad stretches this season and be more consistent. The newly-inked shortstop finished 2018 with an .821 OPS in the last month of the year, a number I expect him to be near in 2019.
The other batter I expect to outperform projections is Sano. Though some might be concerned about the fact that he is already in a boot, it seems to be from a cut that hasn’t closed, and he will participate in most of spring training fully healthy. I believe that an offseason of Sano getting in shape and dedicating significant time to baseball will pay off, especially when compared to last winter — when he wasn’t able to do much of anything due to a titanium rod in his shin. With a new coaching staff that has already shown that they are willing to invest in his progress, I believe there is a decent chance that they are able to unlock some of his potential to the tune of a slash line around .260/.340/.480.
To finally relieve the stress of everyone reading this article, Willians Astudillo is projected to collect 190 total plate appearances this season according to PECOTA, with about half coming at third base and the other half coming at catcher. However, I’m sure Twins faithful would love to see more of La Tortuga, and he may deserve more plate appearances as well, a topic I plan to address in a future post.
Looking at PECOTA’s projections for the Twins’ pitching staff, the projection system expects Minnesota to be pretty mediocre on the bump. Jose Berrios is projected to lead the staff at 11-8 with a 3.67 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 180 innings. Kyle Gibson is next with a 4.15 ERA, and PECOTA actually projects Martin Perez to be the Twins third-best full-time starter with an ERA of 4.53. It is not a huge fan of either Jake Odorizzi (4.88 ERA) or Michael Pineda (4.91).
PECOTA isn’t high on the Twins’ bullpen, either. It expects Taylor Rodgers to be Minnesota’s best reliever, sporting a 3.25 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 57 innings. It although believes in similar numbers for Trevor May, it projects almost all of the rest of the bullpen to deliver ERA’s above four. One interesting note from the reliever projections is that PECOTA likes Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe, projecting him to have the lowest WHIP of all of Minnesota’s relief options, while also believing he’ll strikeout more than a batter an inning.
Similar to the batters, these projections seem pretty reasonable for the 2019 season and I would expect that they will be close to correct for the most part. The biggest wild card is Pineda, who could significantly perform expectations and tack on few more wins for the Minnesota nine. PECOTA doesn’t really believe in a comeback year for the former Yankee, but if Pineda was able to regain his former pitching acumen, he could deliver a sub-4.00 ERA and a K/9 that nears double digits.
While PECOTA’s projection of 81 wins is as average as they come, that projection comes without any big strides forward for any of the Twins younger “core” players. While I highlighted Polanco, Sano, and Pineda as players who could outperform their projection, there are more than few other young players who could blossom and take a big step forward. That is what will (hopefully) make this Twins season very watchable - there potential breakout candidates up and down the roster.
Obviously I’m a bit more optimistic than PECOTA on the Twins’ chances this season, but I do think that most of PECOTA’s projections are in line with what a majority of Minnesota’s players will produce. My projection for this year’s Twins: 86-76.
How many wins do you think the Twins will have this season?
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