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Get the calculators out, you nerds.
Baseball Prospectus has released their 2020 PECOTA player projections with projected standings to come on Monday. BP has revamped PECOTA this year, adding “uncertainty estimates” to let you know how uncertain PECOTA is that the player will hit the projected numbers, more percentile projections, and a new aging curve for ten-year player projections. You can read more about the changes here.
The Royals are coming off a 103-loss season, but as David Lesky pointed out there are some bright spots, particularly among the hitters. I chose a few of the more interesting projections, would you take the over or under on these number coming to fruition?
Jorge Soler – 37 home runs
You might expect some regression from Jorge Soler after a career season where he led the league in home runs with 48. But while PECOTA doesn’t project him to match that number, it still projects the power hitter to put up strong numbers with a line of .261/.349/.531 and 37 home runs in 595 plate appearances. Craig Goldstein writes that Soler is a “hitter on the rise”.
After belting a franchise-record 48 homers in 2019, PECOTA likes Soler to give us another strong campaign in 2020. Projected for 37 homers and a 134 DRC+, Soler comes back to earth a touch, but still looks miles better than any other prior season. He’s forecasted for a step back in all three slash stats, but power remains the carrying tool based on his projected .270 ISO.
His top comp is fellow Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig with sluggers like Jay Bruce and Josh Reddick also listed. PECOTA doesn’t project injuries, which should still be a concern for Soler even though he appeared in all 162 games last year. But if he stays healthy, he should still be one of the most feared bats in the league.
Ryan McBroom – 102 DRC+
Baseball Prospectus uses Deserved Runs Created Plus (DRC+) rather than Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), and while the formula differs a bit, they both measure the effectiveness of a hitter compared to the league, in the context of their home park. Baseball Prospectus is projecting first baseman/outfielder Ryan McBroom as a league-average hitter with a line of .254/.321/.437.
The Royals picked up McBroom late last year in a minor trade, and he played well in a small sample size, hitting .293/.361/.360 in 23 games. If he becomes a league-average hitter, that will be a boon for the Royals, particularly if Ryan O’Hearn hits his projection of .232/.309/.444 with defense that drags him below replacement level.
Hunter Dozier – .767 OPS
Hunter Dozier was a breakout star of the 2020 season for the Royals, hitting .279/.348/.522 with the 26th-best OPS in the American League. PECOTA projects some regression from Dozier, although it still expects him to be league-average with a 101 DRC+. PECOTA projects a line of .248/.317/.450 with 24 home runs. The power is still there, but PECOTA is a bit skeptical of his .339 BABIP last year, which probably accounts for the 30 point drop in batting average and on-base percentage.
Salvador Perez – 28 home runs
PECOTA expects Salvy to bounce back from a year off to slam 28 home runs this year, which would be a career high. Salvy has never seen his home run total go down in a season – it has gone up or stayed the same each year in his career, so to go up from 27 in 2018 to 28 next year shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. PECOTA projects Salvy to hit .256/.292/.481, which would be one of the best seasons of his career. The projection rests on the assumption Salvy will have 525 plate appearances, which could happen if the Royals rest Salvy at first base and DH on occasion. There may be some concerns about catchers bouncing back from Tommy John surgery, but PECOTA doesn’t seem to have those concerns.
Nicky Lopez – 81 DRC+
Lopez seemed a bit overwhelmed by Major League pitching in his rookie season, hitting just .240/.276/.325 in 103 games for a 59 wRC+. PECOTA factors in minor league performance however, and sees an improvement for Lopez in year two with a projected line of .266/.322/.381 for a DRC+ of 81. The line isn’t great, but it could be passable when combined with Lopez’s speed and defense. That combination leads to a projection of Lopez being a 1.6 WARP player (WARP being a somewhat equivalent metric to WAR although there are some differences in how it is tabulated). Lopez’s top comp is Mike Richardt, a light-hitting 80s infielder who didn’t last long, but among his comparables are Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve, both of whom won MVPs.
Brett Phillips – .741 OPS
PECOTA is pretty bullish on the 25-year old, projecting a line of .228/.323/.418. Phillips has struggled in parts of three seasons in the big leagues with a line of .203/.280/.339 in 118 games with a 36 percent strikeout rate. PECOTA doesn’t have that whiff rate improving much, but still figures Phillips makes enough contact to be near league-average at the plate with a 94 DRC+. PECOTA only projects him to be in a reserve role due to the return of Alex Gordon, which limits his WARP, and it seems the projection may be undervaluing his defense a bit. If he is close to league average to the bat, that,combined with his defense will make him a very valuable player.
Danny Duffy – 4.38 ERA
Danny Duffy projects to be the best Royals pitcher at just 0.7 WARP. PECOTA projects his strikeout rate and walk rate to go up a bit, and a 4.38 ERA would be right around his 4.34 ERA from last year. The Royals are not projected to have a single starting pitcher with an ERA under 4, with Duffy joined by Brad Keller (4.85), Jakob Junis (4.89), Mike Montgomery (5.12) and a question mark in the fifth spot.
Scott Barlow – 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings
PECOTA sees Scott Barlow putting up mixed results with a 4.35 ERA but 11.3 strikeouts-per nine innings. Those numbers are around what he put up last year, when he had a 4.22 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings in 70 1⁄3 innings. Barlow will likely begin the year as the setup man for Ian Kennedy, but could slide into the closer’s role if Kennedy is dealt mid-season.
The 2018 draft class pitching prospects
PECOTA seems to like Kris Bubic and Zach Haake the most out of the Royals’ vaunted pitching prospects, Bubic is projected to have 4.05 ERA/3.82 FIP with 10.1 strikeouts-per nine innings, although in just 35 innings out of the bullpen. The model also likes underrated 2018 draft pick Zach Haake, who pitched for Lexington last year, projecting him to have a 4.16 ERA in 35 relief innings with 8.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings. PECOTA likes Daniel Lynch and Jonathan Bowlan next with an ERA around 4.50 and Jackson Kowar at a 4.93 ERA as a reliever, but is less bullish on Brady Singer, probably because it projects him as a starter. In five starts, PECOTA has him with a 5.06 ERA.