Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon

FanGraphs Releases the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 ZiPS Projections

FanGraphs has released the 2014 ZiPS projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are a lot of projection systems out there, but ZiPS is one of the most popular ones, and also one of the better systems. As I mentioned last night, I’ll be doing some analysis using these figures, and that analysis will come later tonight. For now, here is a quick rundown of what was said in the article.

**Talking about the first base position, Carson Cistulli said that someone like Andrew Lambo paired with Gaby Sanchez in a platoon could result in average production at first base.

**Jameson Taillon would rank third among Pirates starters on the depth chart if he was opening the season in Pittsburgh. I don’t think this means he should start the season in Pittsburgh, but it does give a good indication of the type of boost he could provide mid-June. He’s projected for a 1.5 WAR over a full season.

**Cistulli mentioned the Gregory Polanco/David Price trade discussions (there weren’t any discussions between the teams, just online trade ideas from ESPN). He notes that Polanco has the opportunity to approach, within a win, Price’s full value in 2014. That would be if Polanco would open the season in Pittsburgh. Just like Taillon, I don’t think that means he should open the season in Pittsburgh (I’m assuming both cases assume the player will be ready when they’re in the majors). It does show another big boost the team could receive. Polanco is projected for a 3.2 WAR over a full season, and that’s with ZiPS typically being conservative on prospects.

**The player comps are always fun to look at. Starling Marte drew a Matt Kemp comparison, while Polanco drew a Johnny Damon comparison. The Kemp comparison is interesting for Marte, mostly because I’ve noticed several comments on the site from people who would easily trade Marte.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • marty

    I think these are pretty spot on. Batting average/OBP too low on Cutch, not enough HRs for Marte, but that’s really about it.

    • Jordy Hall

      Probably a little low on the innings pitched totals for Cole and Morton as well. I would hope we’re getting more than 163 and 121 out of them.

    • Stephen Stasa

      According to the WAR calculator, the Pirates got about 1.2 WAR in 660 PAs from the 1B position last year (I gave defense a score of 5 and running 4). This says they project to have about 1.3 WAR in 907 PAs between the two in 2014, so that’s about 1.0 adjusted for a realistic PA number.

      Do those numbers take into account they’re likely to have the vast majority if their PAs against pitchers of opposite handedness? Is it reasonable to say Lambo is more likely to outperform his projection by 0.5+ WAR than he is to under perform at all, since his 2011 numbers were so far below his 2012 and 13 numbers (OPSs of .683, .905, and .922) and his rookie status is taken into account with his projection? I just don’t want to think we’re going to be getting worse (even if average) production from 1B than we had last year.

      • Stephen Stasa

        Oops. Didn’t mean to post that as a reply.

  • Scott Skink

    So Marte’s #1 comp is Kemp. Was that for a healthy season or an injured one? They’ve got Cutch’s comp as Amos Otis and Tabata’s as Matt Stairs of all people. If you can make sense out of that you’re a better baseball mind than I.

    Seems they’re assuming Wandy is #3. Also Barmes and Harrison are getting an awful lot of PAs in their projections.

    In short, I find this meaningless.

    • Cato the Elder

      In what way are they assuming Wandy is #3 and how does that matter exactly? They have him pitching 119 innings, which seems like a reasonable estimate, but also less than Morton and Locke and Volquez (and Taillon, Gomez, Kingham, Cumpton: note the playing time disclaimer).

      Also, how do player comps discredit the methodology? They are silliest and most fun part of these projection! Amos Otis, I had a blast looking back on Amos Otis’ career #s after that comp.

      In short, projections are meaningless because at the end of the day they are trumped by actuality, but it is of interest to see how teams stack up against one another and what various simulations have to say about different players, e.g. ZiPS being so bullish on Taillon and Polanco is interesting when you consider how it is generally conservative w/r/t. It is January, and we are all board.

      • Scott Skink

        I don’t disagree than a rotation number is fairly meaningless (e.g. Wandy #3), but I think ANY projection of IP in his case is something pulled out of an orifice. If he’s capable of pitching 119 major league innings in the rest of his career, I’ll be impressed.

        I’ll gladly eat my words if Wandy can actually be a competitive MLB pitcher again. But if he’s got arthritis, it’s going to hurt. A lot. And given he didn’t come back late last year to toss a few innings when the Bucs needed it, I’m dubious he comes back at anything like the Wandy we thought we acquired.

        • Cato the Elder

          Maybe you can explain this to me, cause I am not sure I understand the rampant pessimism surrounding Wandy. Not just you, but many seem to think that his career is more or less finished. That is certainly is possible, but in know way does that strike me as the most likely scenario. I realize last year was a disappointment, but he didn’t require surgery and now has had almost a full year to rest his arm. Prior to last year he had very little in the way of an injury history. The only reports I have heard so far are encouraging. Moreover, he has never been a pitcher that relies on velocity. So while I would not bet the farm that he will be a 200 inning workhorse next season, I think it is a little premature to shovel dirt on the grave of his career just yet. No? I think 119 innings is a reasonable estimate for next year, largely because you have to account for the possbility of a really low #. In other words, if he pitches 100 then he is almost as likely to pitch 150-175. If he gets hurt, I expect he/they/we will know early on that something isn’t right.

          Look, I know that “arthritis” was attached to Wandy’s condition, and regular people have arthritis so it is something they can relate to, but isn’t that (i.e. arthritis) essentially the same thing every pitcher has when the undergo Tommy John surgery (It is according to Dr. Jobe who invented the procedure and says that it could have been Sandy Koufax surgery had he invented it 10 years earlier). And not to compare Wandy to Koufax, but Koufax’s 2 best seasons ’65 &’66 came after he first developed arthritic pain in his elbow in ’64. So again, not to suggest that Wandy will have a career year, let alone put up 10+ WAR, but I expect him to pitch this year and it is not unreasonable to expect him to pitch well.

  • piraterican21

    I’m one of, if not the main person that suggest a Marte trade, I must admit that one of the reason I do it if to get a rise out of those bloggers that get down right nasty when someone thinks different than them, , but the main reason, I’m not sold on him, his best asset IMO is sb prowess, I’m don’t like his hitting as much as some, his war value comes mostly from his defense and speed, something thatncouldmbe replaced by Polonco. Kemp is quite the comp, in my mind someone like Nyjer Morgan with 12-14 hr power is a better comp
    …..ready for the abuse!

    • rsborelli

      Actually, I don’t disagree with you! Marte’s ceiling is immense. He can be freakishly good. But after watching him last season, I have some concerns about his approach at the plate. The lack of walks are really alarming to me. I know he’s still very inexperienced and lost development time in minors due to injuries, but I am very anxious to see how he goes out and performs this season. He hit .250 in second half and his strikeouts really piled up. Some of that can be attributed to the hand injury, but I also wonder how much of that is the league adjusting. In my opinion, he has to get a better handle on pitch recognition. Really hoping we will see improvements with experience, but I have my reservations.

      • TNBucs

        What’s interesting is how views of Marte might change if we think of health as a skill.

    • TNBucs

      At another site I suggested a trade built around Marte and Belt. It’s not that I don’t really like Marte (though his K rate and frequent injuries (due to how he plays) still concern me) but that you have to trade quality to get quality and we have a weakness at 1B and depth in the OF. In the Marte/Belt example the years of control and projected WAR match up pretty well, and could be balanced by each team exchanging prospects.

      • Stephen Stasa

        The Giants signed Moorse to take over LF and have Pagan and Pence in CF and RF. Why would they want Marte? They have nothing behind Belt at 1B so why would they dig themselves into a hole there for a position they don’t really need? And even if they did need a LF with a glut at 1B, why would they trade guy who has consistently improved since being called up and had an .841 OPS last year for a guy coming off an injury plagued season were he had an .784 OPS with similar ceilings. You’d have to add some top prospects for this to make sense for SF. I mean, you’d really have to blow them away.

        • wtm1613

          Read the first 8 words of your comment….that’s why they’d want Marte.

          Morse was signed on a 1-yr deal and is no way, shape or form even a serviceable OF.

          • Stephen Stasa

            They still have Blanco so they must like Morse to sign him to a $6M deal. You’re not going to make a trade to replace a guy on a one year deal worth that much, even if you are a team like SF. Yeah, he’s coming off a bad year, but he was good with Washington. But that’s still all secondary to why they would give up Belt. Again, you’d have to blow them away with prospects to make that happen.

        • stickyweb

          Sure the Giants won’t make the trade and nobody actually affiliated with either team has talked about it, but you miss the point. It’s an opportunity for everyone to exaggerate their love (or rarely concerns) about Marte (apparently he’s a lock to finish his career with exactly 3,000 hits and make the HOF) while simultaneously belittling a very good player from another team for no good reason.

          • Cato the Elder

            “…apparently he’s a lock to finish his career with exactly 3,000 hits and make the HOF…”

            Really, I thought it was apparent that he was going struggle to hit .250 while spending the majority of his career on the DL. You know: like Nyjer Morgan with 12-14 hr power.

          • Stephen Stasa

            Of course they haven’t talked about it because it’s not a reasonable trade. My point is that one should not try to argue for a trade when the return is unreasonable.

            I don’t know anybody who says he’s a lock for anything but the idea that he can be so easily replaced, or that the Pirates don’t need him is ridiculous.

    • Cato the Elder

      “I’m one of, if not the main person that suggest a Marte trade, I must admit that one of the reason I do it if to get a rise out of those bloggers that get down right nasty when someone thinks different than them”

      Oh, aren’t you cute!

      Adios, chico

    • Jared

      Except that Nyjer Morgan’s defense is bad in comparison to Marte and those extra 10-12 HRs from Marte are worth about 60-80 points in SLG.

      So if you’re trying to say that Marte will be a .280/330/440 lifetime hitter with gold-glove caliber (he should have won the gold glove this year) defense and 30+SB every year….then I am telling you that you’re describing a player that is as good or better than Jay Bruce (.260/330/480 with not great defense and no stolen base prowess).

      If you don’t want that on your team…then I don’t know what you could want.

  • TNBucs

    I can understand ZIPS projection for Morton, but he’s a case where I think projection systems tend to fail. I expect much more from him.

  • jaygray007

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm Gregory Polanco

  • Bruce Humbert

    So I tried to summarize the three NLC teams that have ZIPS projections here…

    Feel free to correct any mistakes you see.

    It looks like the Pirates are third in WAR behind the Cards and Reds – the difference is in the VERY LOW pitching projections.

    Some surprises – Latos projects higher than Wainwright?
    Cole is seen as only the 11 best pitcher off the three teams – Liriano 6th best

    • The Masked robshelb


      Very low pitching projections AND too many batters who can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag.

      Nobody projects to have a batting average over .300

      Only one guy (McCutchen) projected to have a BA over .275

      I hope the ZIPS guys are wrong this year on both pitching *and* hitting.

      And I don’t have a lot of faith in team WAR projections, as WAR (of course) is in part PA dependent. For example, between them, Lambo and Sanchez will not get a combined 888 plate appearances if they’re platooned at 1B.

      Moreover, when it comes to pitching, I seriously doubt Nick Kingham is going to pitch 133 innings this year for the Big Club. Nor that James McDonald will give us 115 innings on the mound this year, either.

      Bottom line, it seems to me a lot better job could have been done putting together a realistic set of aggregate data.

      • Cato the Elder

        “Disclaimer: ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2014. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.”

    • Andrew

      I agree with robshell’s second point, I think we have to wait until Fangraphs puts the ZiPS in their depth charts because, those projections come to Pirates with 90 wins, the Reds and Cardinals with 94, that is just too high, I assume there are too many PAs and innings in there.

      However the comparisons is interesting, Steamer is less bullish on Reds, but has a similar 4 WAR gap between the Pirates and Cardinals.

      Robshell you are aware that offensive is fairly depressed, league average hitter hit .257 last year with a .318 wOBA, which is tied for the second lowest since 1969.

      • The Masked robshelb



        Wasn’t aware of those depressed numbers. Good man. Thanks for the heads-up !!

        Overall, however, a rather confused and confusing article by Mr. Cistulli (imo). Maybe he just banged it out too quickly to get it into electronic print. Here’s one part that had me scratching my head —

        “Per ZiPS, Andrew McCutchen is a candidate to win the 2014 MVP award after winning it in real life this last season. Beyond him is a collection of average-or-better players and also Gaby Sanchez. Combining the latter with Andrew Lambo (or maybe Jaff Decker or maybe Travis Snider) in a platoon might even render the club’s first-base position as average.” (Italics added.)

        I suppose here the phrase ‘and also Gaby Sanchez’ means he’s considered better than merely better, or worse than average.

        And Decker/Snider should also be considered as possible 1B platoon options ??

        I guess I’m merely echoing what others have said in this thread. Who plays where and how often (a) makes a big difference, and (b) in this article doesn’t seem to have been adequately taken into account.

        Projections of what each individual player might do (given the opportunity) seem fairly reasonable. How the *team* might do, however, cannot be aggregated by adding up player-by-player potential performance (again, imo). Not without better estimates of how much playing time different players will get.


        • The Masked robshelb


          I also don’t see at how some individual numbers were arrived at. One example. Jordy Mercer !!, projected to hit 9 HR’s in 494 PA’s.

          Yet last year he hit 8 HR’s in only 365 PA’s.

          So roughly 33% more plate appearances in 2014, but only one additional home run ???

          Then again, Andrew, maybe that’s part and parcel of the depressed offensive numbers you were talking about.



  • PiratesForever

    I would never trade Marte not even for a David Price he is too valuable to the Pirates

  • Bruce Humbert

    So if my calculations are right, one way the Pirates could “close the gap” between the Cards and Reds might be to bring up Tailon and Polanco earlier in the year.

    Polanco projects as a 3.2 for the full season – I used a half a season in the table – so there is a 1.6 WAR out there for the taking if he starts well in AAA
    Tailon projcets as 1.5 – I used 1.0 but there is another .5 WAR available.

    So good spring training – good starts by both would make it tempting to grab the roughly 2 wins above replacement…

  • peanutbutterguts

    Maybe I’m confused but are they projecting Alen Hanson to get same amount of PA’s as Polanco and hit 10hr’s? Where’s the discussion on that? Like I said, I might be out of my element but I don’t think I have ever read anything that suggests that Hanson will be in the majors this year, let alone get 500+ PA’s at age 21. Please correct me.

  • Roberrto21

    I doubt that anyone in the Pirates FO has given one second’s worth of thought to trading Marte.

    Maybe if the Dodgers were to offer Kershaw and eat about $180 m of his salary (haha!)

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