One of my favorite parts of every offseason is the release of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections. The 2022 ZiPS projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates were released today at FanGraphs.
Every projection system is for the entertainment value of setting some type of expectation that is stripped of bias. ZiPS happens to be my favorite system, in part due to the analysis that Szymborski provides in his writeups.
ZiPS is low on the Pirates, making it just like every single person who looks at the team. Szymborski notes that the highlight are three players on the offense: Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Oneil Cruz.
**I liked the writeup on Reynolds, with the look at historical comparisons. The disclaimer provided is that Reynolds might not repeat his 5 WAR season. In fact, according to Szymborski’s historical numbers, he’s got about a 33% chance of following up with another 5+ WAR season.
**The projections for Ke’Bryan Hayes are lower due to the uncertainty of how much his injury impacted his power. Szymborski said he would take the over on the 2.5 WAR projection.
**Szymborski thinks Oneil Cruz could be the best of the three long-term, and has him projected for a 2.5 WAR in 2022 in about 60% of a season’s playing time. That’s certainly cause for excitement. Cruz will definitely be the biggest highlight of 2022.
**ZiPS doesn’t like the pitching staff, but Szymborski notes how many 1+ WAR range guys the Pirates have, including former top prospect Mitch Keller and new addition Zach Thompson. In fact, all of these starters have an 0.8 WAR projection or better: JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Cody Bolton, Bryse Wilson, Max Kranick, Jose Quintana, Zach Thompson. My guess is the Pirates will hope someone from this group will emerge as more than a 1-2 WAR pitcher. My second guess is the Pirates hope more than one pitcher makes that breakthrough.
**I thought the writeup of the rest of the bullpen, beyond David Bednar, was insightful. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone take that stance on what Ben Cherington is doing.
**Szymborski feels the Pirates will end up better off with Roberto Perez and Zach Thompson over just Jacob Stallings. My thought is that this is a benefit that only really bad teams can claim. If this team had a better pitching staff, I’m not sure you’d make that switch. But, they don’t. So, Thompson gets added to the 1+ WAR Wildcards, while Perez fills the role of Stallings.