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ZiPS and the 2020 Milwaukee Brewers

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How does the computer-based projection system think our local big league nine with perform?

Wild Card Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Throughout the winter, Fangraphs has been releasing ZiPS projections for each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams for the 2020 season. Developed by Dan Szymborski, ZiPS is a computer-based projection system that predicts a player’s rate and advanced stats. The system doesn’t necessarily project accurate playing time, however, instead generally forecasting each player for a full-time or heavily-used bench role, including prospects that we know won’t even sniff the big leagues this year.

The latest ZiPS post takes a shot at projecting our Milwaukee Brewers for 2020. Despite a lack of big-name players and an offseason more focused on stockpiling buy-low depth than surround Christian Yelich with a star-studded supporting cast, ZiPS views the Brewers as a talented club that projects for a win total in the mid-80s who should be competitive for the postseason.

Here’s how ZiPS thinks the current in-house position player group will do:

2020 ZiPS — Hitters

Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR
Christian Yelich 0.302 0.394 0.57 149 0.267 0.344 9.1 1 5.4
Keston Hiura 0.271 0.336 0.497 115 0.227 0.333 6.2 -6 2.8
Luis Urias 0.251 0.339 0.407 95 0.156 0.308 5 3 2.6
Lorenzo Cain 0.276 0.342 0.389 92 0.114 0.323 5.1 9 2.5
Avisail Garcia 0.279 0.328 0.473 107 0.194 0.331 5.8 -1 1.6
Jedd Gyorko 0.248 0.323 0.441 98 0.193 0.288 5.2 2 1.5
Justin Smoak 0.234 0.349 0.441 106 0.207 0.273 5.4 0 1.5
Omar Narvaez 0.27 0.351 0.441 106 0.17 0.3 5.7 -10 1.3
Ryan Braun 0.27 0.327 0.477 107 0.207 0.305 5.8 0 1.3
Logan Morrison 0.245 0.322 0.493 109 0.248 0.268 5.6 0 1.2
Eric Sogard 0.256 0.331 0.372 85 0.117 0.29 4.6 2 1
Manny Pina 0.239 0.301 0.381 78 0.142 0.297 4.1 5 0.9
David Freitas 0.259 0.329 0.382 86 0.123 0.306 4.6 -3 0.8
Jace Peterson 0.243 0.326 0.377 84 0.134 0.293 4.5 0 0.8
Tyrone Taylor 0.235 0.291 0.403 80 0.167 0.278 4.2 7 0.7
Ryon Healy 0.262 0.303 0.475 100 0.213 0.293 5.3 -3 0.7
Orlando Arcia 0.246 0.299 0.371 75 0.126 0.292 4 2 0.7
Ronny Rodriguez 0.245 0.274 0.427 80 0.182 0.293 4.2 1 0.6
Ben Gamel 0.253 0.326 0.384 86 0.131 0.332 4.5 -1 0.2

ZiPS believes that five of the players who are ticketed for regular playing time — Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, Ryan Braun, Avisail Garcia, Omar Narveaz, and Justin Smoak — should post better-than-average offensive lines by OPS. Interestingly enough, the only two other players projected by ZiPS to be average or better by OPS+ are Logan Morrison and Ryon Healy, who are both viewed more as depth pieces at this point. Yelich (34), Hiura (27), Smoak (22), and Garcia (21) should mash 20+ dingers, and so too would Healy (23) and LoMo (21) if they were to receive enough playing time. Luis Urias is seen as a legitimate starter at shortstop (2.6 WAR) while Orlando Arcia continues to flounder (75 OPS+, 0.7 WAR). In fact, ZiPS likes Ronny Rodriguez — who was claimed off waivers from one of baseball’s worst teams, the Tigers — even better than Arcia.

Now, here is how the system sees some of Milwaukee’s prospects performing:

2019 ZiPS — Hitting Prospects

Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR
Mark Mathias 0.228 0.302 0.361 73 0.132 0.291 4 5 0.9
Max McDowell 0.194 0.283 0.275 48 0.081 0.258 2.6 7 0.2
Mario Feliciano 0.212 0.26 0.387 67 0.175 0.313 3.4 0 0.2
Alexander Palma 0.24 0.281 0.402 77 0.162 0.284 4.1 1 0
Luis Castro 0.214 0.309 0.373 78 0.159 0.29 4 1 0
Brice Turang 0.215 0.301 0.293 57 0.078 0.29 3.2 0 -0.2
Lucas Erceg 0.219 0.278 0.358 65 0.139 0.274 3.4 2 -0.2
Tuffy Gosewisch 0.186 0.258 0.289 44 0.103 0.246 2.4 2 -0.3
Blake Allemand 0.223 0.288 0.352 67 0.129 0.281 3.4 -2 -0.3
Cooper Hummel 0.201 0.319 0.345 75 0.144 0.288 3.6 -2 -0.3
Jacob Nottingham 0.201 0.274 0.34 60 0.139 0.291 3.1 -4 -0.4
C.J. Hinojosa 0.231 0.286 0.338 64 0.107 0.269 3.3 -2 -0.6
Payton Henry 0.188 0.252 0.318 48 0.129 0.285 2.6 1 -0.8
Corey Ray 0.192 0.262 0.343 57 0.152 0.306 3 -1 -0.8
Pat McInerney 0.165 0.259 0.313 49 0.148 0.268 2.6 2 -1.1
Dillon Thomas 0.205 0.272 0.326 56 0.121 0.32 3 2 -1.1
Joantgel Segovia 0.234 0.285 0.323 60 0.089 0.283 3.1 2 -1.2
Ryan Aguilar 0.182 0.279 0.287 49 0.104 0.294 2.7 4 -1.3
Chad Spanberger 0.205 0.263 0.366 63 0.16 0.276 3.3 -2 -1.3
Tristen Lutz 0.191 0.258 0.346 57 0.156 0.288 2.9 -6 -1.4
Jake Gatewood 0.184 0.239 0.333 48 0.148 0.294 2.7 -5 -1.7

Milwaukee’s farm system is routinely rated as one of the worst in baseball these days, and that shows through in these ZiPS projections, at least on the hitting side of things. Only Mark Mathias is projected to be even moderately useful by WAR, and that number is buoyed in large part by his defensive projections; he’s only forecasted for a meager 73 OPS+. The only other two prospects projected to be above replacement level are a pair of catchers — Max McDowell and Mario Feliciano. Top prospect Brice Turang may be a pretty good big leaguer someday, but ZiPS thinks that if he were to get regular MLB at-bats in 2020, he’d post and OPS below .600 and a negative wins above replacement.

Here are how things look on the pitching side:

2020 ZiPS — Pitchers

Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR
Brandon Woodruff 9.9 2.9 1.1 7.60% 26.20% 0.297 116 86 2.3
Josh Hader 16.3 3.4 1.1 9.70% 46.00% 0.276 176 57 2.2
Adrian Houser 8.9 3 1.2 7.90% 23.00% 0.298 106 94 1.8
Brent Suter 8.5 1.7 1.4 4.70% 22.90% 0.291 115 87 1.7
Josh Lindblom 8.5 2.6 1.5 6.90% 22.10% 0.3 97 103 1.6
Corbin Burnes 9.9 3.4 1.1 8.80% 25.70% 0.303 107 94 1.3
Eric Lauer 8.7 3.3 1.5 8.30% 22.00% 0.304 93 107 1.3
Brett Anderson 5 2.5 1.2 6.40% 12.80% 0.298 92 108 1.2
Freddy Peralta 10.6 4.2 1.3 10.80% 27.30% 0.291 99 101 1.2
Corey Knebel 13.4 4.4 1 11.70% 35.50% 0.289 141 71 0.9
Alex Claudio 6 2.5 0.6 6.60% 15.90% 0.291 123 81 0.8
Deolis Guerra 10.4 2.6 1.4 7.00% 27.90% 0.293 113 89 0.6
Eric Yardley 6.4 2.7 1 7.10% 16.60% 0.296 102 98 0.3
J.P. Feyereisen 11.1 5.2 1.1 13.00% 28.10% 0.295 106 94 0.3
Jake Faria 8.8 4.5 1.6 11.30% 21.90% 0.294 84 119 0.2
Ray Black 13.4 5.9 1.3 14.80% 33.90% 0.292 103 97 0.2
Taylor Williams 9.1 4.2 1.3 10.50% 22.80% 0.303 94 107 0
Bobby Wahl 11.9 6 1.4 14.70% 29.40% 0.301 95 105 0
Devin Williams 11.3 6.4 1.3 15.60% 27.40% 0.298 95 106 0
Justin Grimm 11.1 5.2 1.4 12.90% 27.80% 0.293 93 108 -0.1

No surprise here — Brandon Woodruff is projected to be the “ace” of the Milwaukee Nine in 2020, striking out nearly 10 batters per nine while posting a far better than average ERA and an even better 3.52 FIP. The one concern about Woody may be his durability as ZiPS projects him to toss only 122.2 innings. Worth keeping in mind that he’s suffered oblique injuries now in two of the last three seasons. Adrian Houser is the only other starter who the computer predicts to post a better-than-average earned run average, while import Josh Lindblom, trade pickup Eric Lauer, and free agent signee Brett Anderson should all be somewhere within shouting distance of the league midpoint. ZiPS believes that Josh Hader will continue his dominance, and that Corey Knebel will resume his role as late-inning stopper as he returns from Tommy John surgery. In fact, ZiPS thinks pretty highly of Milwaukee’s bullpen group, with Brent Suter, Alex Claudio, and even Deolis Guerra all projected to be 13+% better than league average. Corbin Burnes should bounce back, Freddy Peralta should be a fine swingman, and Eric Yardley, JP Feyereisen, and Ray Black should all be solid.

Now, for the pitching prospects:

2020 ZiPS — Pitching Prospects

Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR
Alec Bettinger 8.7 3 1.6 7.70% 22.20% 0.3 92 109 1.1
Jesus Castillo 5.9 3 1 7.60% 15.00% 0.296 97 103 1
Thomas Jankins 6.4 2.6 1.5 6.60% 16.20% 0.3 86 117 0.7
Drew Rasmussen 10.8 5 1.5 12.60% 27.10% 0.289 93 108 0.7
Bowden Francis 8.6 4.3 1.5 10.70% 21.30% 0.303 85 118 0.6
Dylan File 7.1 2.1 1.8 5.40% 18.10% 0.301 85 118 0.6
Aaron Wilkerson 8.7 3.6 1.6 9.10% 22.10% 0.298 88 114 0.5
Trey Supak 7.1 3 1.7 7.50% 18.10% 0.292 82 122 0.4
Angel Perdomo 11 6.6 1.2 16.00% 26.60% 0.297 89 112 0.3
Clayton Andrews 11 4.7 1.4 12.00% 27.80% 0.298 103 97 0.2
Luke Barker 9.2 3.3 1.6 8.50% 23.70% 0.293 96 104 0.1
Tyler Spurlin 8 5.5 0.8 13.50% 19.60% 0.298 96 104 0.1
Miguel Sanchez 9.7 4.1 1.5 10.50% 24.40% 0.297 91 110 0.1
Chris Lee 6.8 4.5 1.1 11.10% 16.70% 0.296 85 117 0.1
Jon Olczak 8.5 3.6 1.4 9.10% 21.50% 0.298 93 108 0
Quintin Torres-Costa 11.2 6.2 1.3 15.10% 27.60% 0.294 96 105 0
Zack Brown 7.3 4.6 1.7 11.10% 17.80% 0.297 78 129 -0.1
Bubba Derby 7.8 4.2 1.9 10.20% 19.10% 0.299 77 130 -0.2
Anthony Bender 6.2 4.3 1.5 10.40% 15.10% 0.295 79 126 -0.2
Daniel Brown 7.9 7.6 0.7 17.60% 18.40% 0.301 86 117 -0.2
Braden Webb 8.4 8.2 1.5 18.50% 18.80% 0.3 69 145 -0.6

Unlike their position players, Milwaukee’s collection of pitching prospects look pretty solid. Alec Bettinger and recent minor league signee Jesus Castillo could both be back-end starters right now. Clayton Andrews projects to be a better-than-average reliever by ERA even though he’s a soft-tossing lefty without much Double-A experience, and he has the added bonus of being a legitimate two-way prospect who has so far posted a .391 OBP with plus defense in center field in 69 plate appearances. Luke Barker, Tyler Spurlin, Miguel Sanchez, Jon Olczak, and Drew Rasmussen would all be within range of league average run prevention as full-time relievers too, if ZiPS is to be believed.

When you put it all together and apply the unified replacement level theory, these projections should add up to something in the range of 85-88 victories for the Brew Crew in 2020. This team is built much like pretty much every David Stearns squad so far — the pitching is made up of some solid starting arms backed up by an outstanding bullpen that figures to be relied upon quite heavily. Christian Yelich should have some help on offense from Keston Hiura as well as a host of useful depth and bit players. ZiPS believes that the Milwaukee Brewers should be legitimate contenders once again during the coming season. And there is still another month or so left for Slingin’ Stearns to work his magic and add more upside to the roster before Spring Training begins in Arizona.