Projections, by their nature, are conservative.
They focus on what’s most likely to happen, not necessarily what will happen, and for that reason the numbers various projection systems spit out can seem low.
Even with that in mind, the new PECOTA projections that Baseball Prospectus released today are not very encouraging, to say the least.
While there are some positives — Brandon Woodruff is projected to be one of the Top 20 pitchers in all of baseball by WARP and Luis Urias projecting for nearly 2 WARP, for example — they’re largely outweighed by some fairly disappointing numbers.
Most disappointing of all may be the projection for one of the bats the Brewers are likely counting on in 2020 — Keston Hiura.
With the caveat that PECOTA wasn’t a fan of Hiura last year, either, and part of that is due to his high-strikeout profile and poor defense, if the projection is correct (or close to correct), we could be headed toward a disappointing sophomore slump.
PECOTA’s projection on Hiura gives him one of the lowest WARPs among Brewers regulars — an even 1.0 — with a line of .254/.317/.448, 22 home runs and 73 RBI in 560 plate appearances. That’s enough to land Hiura on BP’s “Hitters Most Likely to Disappoint” list for the upcoming season.
Jonathan Judge, who helped develop the new form of PECOTA, has an explanation on Hiura — including the possibility that he may just be the type of player that consistently outperforms his projections.
The question is what happens with that strikeout rate. 30% is . . . a lot. If it goes down to something closer to league average, he will be fantastic; if not, he's going to have to be a bit of a unicorn.— Jonathan Judge (@bachlaw) February 6, 2020
Offensively, the Brewers are projected to only have two players with 2 or more WARP — Christian Yelich (4.7, good for 9th overall in the league) and Lorenzo Cain (2.2).
Urias’ 1.7 WARP (.256/.341/.412 with 11 HR in 420 PA) is the team’s third-highest projected total, followed by another new addition in Avisail Garcia (1.4 WARP, .274/.327/.466 with 16 HR in 392 PA) and Ryan Braun (1.4 WARP, .262/.323/.475 with 24 HR in 518 PA).
PECOTA still believes in Eric Sogard, with a projected 1.3 WARP and 11 HR on a .261/.335/.399 line in 497 PA. Omar Narvaez also figures to be an offensive asset (.272/.347/.437, 16 HR) but predictably sees his defensive deficiencies drag down his overall value.
The pitching side delivers even less good news behind Woodruff. Freddy Peralta surprisingly ranks just behind Cole Hamels in projected WARP, but is only projected for 97 innings as his role for 2020 is still not set it stone (although most would take the 116 strikeouts-in-97 innings rate, and the 4.08 projected ERA would be an improvement).
If you don’t count Peralta as a starter, Eric Lauer becomes your second-highest projected member of the rotation — with a WARP of only 1.06 and a 4.46 ERA/4.41 FIP/5.14 DRA in 137 innings. If it’s any source of comfort, that’s roughly even with the 4.44 ERA/4.74 FIP/5.11 DRA and 1.01 WARP projected for Zach Davies, even with a switch to San Diego.
Especially concerning — but also potentially way off, considering playing overseas can make it hard on projections — is what’s being expected of Josh Lindblom. The Brewers are likely counting on him to be a sneaky-good signing for the rotation, but PECOTA doesn’t necessarily buy it. While they expect the strikeout rate to be strong, with 137 in 135 projected innings, that’s about the only thing pleasant about a projection that also includes a 5.03 ERA/4.54 FIP/5.87 DRA and a negative WARP at -0.02.
You can get numbers for all of the Brewers — including minor leaguers who might be able to contribute in 2020 — if you can stomach them with a BP subscription.
Overall team projections don’t come out until Monday, but judging by the individual results, it seems as though BP will have the Brewers lower — potentially much lower — than the 85 or so wins they’ve been projected for in other sources. It’s worth noting they hit the nail on the head with the 2019 team, projecting them for 89 wins before last season.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus