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November 29, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Projections and the Nats’ outlook for 2016

The first part of assessing the Nats’ needs for this winter is assessing where they currently stand. The Fangraphs site has posted projections and depth charts from Steamer; presumably other projections, such as ZIPS, will be coming later. These depth charts, of course, only include current rosters, so the numbers will change as free agents are signed and trades are made. But at this early stage, the Nats look pretty good—they show the Nationals with 42.6 WAR, which is third in MLB (behind the Dodgers and Cubs) and slightly ahead of the Mets, who are projected with 40.6 WAR.

Let’s take a look at how the relative rankings and projected WAR shake out by position. In this table, each entry represents the team’s relative ranking among the 30 MLB  teams (for example, the Nats’ catchers rank # 20), along with the total projected WAR at the position in parentheses (2.2 for the Nats’ catchers):

Depth Chart

Position Nats Mets Marlins
C # 20 (2.2) # 7 (3.1) # 24 (2.0)
1B # 18 (1.5) # 13 (1.9) # 28 (0.4)
2B # 21 (1.4) # 8 (2.7) # 15 (2.0)
SS # 12 (2.1) # 19 (1.8) # 30 (0.7)
3B # 6 (3.8) # 13 (3.1) # 21 (2.2)
LF # 14 (1.7) # 8 (2.1) # 4 (2.4)
CF # 24 (1.3) # 16 (2.0) # 10 (3.0)
RF # 1 (6.9) # 10 (2.1) # 2 (5.6)
SP # 1 (18.0) # 2 (17.9) # 20 (10.5)
RP # 18 (2.8) # 17 (2.8) # 8 (3.4)
Total WAR 42.6 40.6 32.9

The depth charts assume that Yunel Escobar will play second base, Trea Turner will be the main shortstop (with Danny Espinosa backing him up), and that Anthony Rendon will play third.

A few notes on these projections:

  1. For the first time in several years, the Nats project to be below average at several positions: catcher (Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton), first base (Ryan Zimmerman), second base (Escobar), center field (Michael A. Taylor), and relief pitcher. In contrast, the unique characteristic of the Nationals going into the last three seasons is that they were projected to be at least average at almost every position. It didn’t always work out that way in practice, but at least on paper their lineup and pitching looked great, which is why they were usually picked as pre-season favorites.
  2. The expensive contracts due to Jayson Werth and Zimmerman make it challenging to improve at those two positions. Even though their performance may be slipping below average, it hasn’t collapsed to the point where the Nats are likely to want to try to dump their contracts.
  3. The sole reason that the Nats are still slightly favored over the Nats is one player, Bryce Harper. Outside of Harper, the Mets and Nats are remarkably closely matched, with the edge going to the Mets at several positions (especially second base).
  4. I was a bit surprised that the Nats’ starting pitching is still (slightly) favored over the Mets, but Steamer projects Max Scherzer as the # 3 pitcher in baseball next season, and Stephen Strasburg as # 10. In contrast, Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard are projected as # 12, 13, and 20.
  5. The projections really like two Nationals rookies—Trea Turner (1.7 WAR in 455 projected PA) and Lucas Giolito (1.2 WAR in 83 projected IP).
  6. Where do the projections suggest the Nats need to improve? Center field looks like a primary target. The projections just don’t see Taylor hitting well enough to be more than a fourth outfielder. In a follow-up post, I’ll look more closely at Taylor and the Nats’ free agent and trade options for center field.

 

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