Posted December 10, 2013 12:05 pm

Braves ZiPS projections released

ZiPS is a respected projection system developed by Dan Szymborski, who writes for ESPN. It projects numbers for each player for the upcoming season. The Braves projections were released today.


Click the link to get stats on every player, as well as a disclaimer at the bottom for the system, but I'll list a few notable names.


Offensively, one of the big questions coming into spring is the second base situation. The Braves haven't committed to Dan Uggla as the starting second baseman yet, but ZiPS projects a line that is more favorable to Uggla than his real results lately. His projected line is .218/.321/.407/.320 wOBA with a 12.1 walk percentage. This is more in line with his 2012 season than 2013, when he fell off a cliff by hitting .179/.309/.362/.303 wOBA with a 14.3 walk percentage. As he enters his age 34 season, one shouldn't expect a turnaround from Uggla, but it's not unreasonable to think he could at least slightly improve on last season.


However, ZiPS projects a better option at second base in the form of Tommy La Stella. The soon-to-be 25-year-old projects at .275/.340/.411/.331 wOBA with a 7.7 walk percentage. La Stella's walk rate would likely be much lower than Uggla's, but La Stella's bat would likely make up for the difference. La Stella has hit well at every extended minor league stay and is at the age where there's not much left to offer in the minors, so the Braves should give him a look at second base this spring. If ZiPS is correct, he could be a better fit than Uggla.


The corner outfield of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward project for nearly identical seasons, both of which sit a touch below their career averages, but not enough to make it a big deal. ZiPS projects a better season for B.J. Upton to the tune of .231/.304/.413/.315 wOBA with a 9.3 walk percentage. Anything in this area would be a step in the right direction for Upton.


One disappointment among the projections is Christian Bethancourt, who is being slapped with a line of .260/.282/.398/.291 wOBA and 2.8 walk percentage. It's probably a realistic projection for the catching prospect and shows Bethancourt needs adjustment time in the majors, something I touched on here.


The expected starting catcher, Evan Gattis, is projected to hit .251/.301/.472/.329 wOBA and 5.4 walk percentage, all of which sound reasonable.


Home run totals for notable hitters are Heyward (20), Freddie Freeman (25), Justin Upton (24), Gattis (19), B.J. Upton (19), Uggla (23).


The five expected starting pitchers have projected ERAs ranging from 3.29 to 3.76, all of which are reasonable to expect. The lines worth mentioning are those expected to be rotation depth, which the Braves currently lack. David Hale's projected line is 5.08 ERA/5.07 FIP and 13.5 strikeout percentage/10.7 walk percentage. Aaron Northcraft's is 4.41 ERA/4.36 FIP and 15.8 strikeout percentage/10.8 walk percentage. Cody Martin is similar, Freddy Garcia - if brought back - is similar. None of these are attractive options if a Braves starter goes down for an extended period of time.


Braves general manager Frank Wren listed one of his priorities as starting pitching depth, so it's obvious this is a need. ZiPS only confirms this by its projections.


The bullpen is never easy to project, and you basically hope for the best with relievers. But the usual suspects (Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, Jonny Venters, Luis Avilan) have normal projections. Avilan and Venters have ERAs that are a bit high for my taste, but splits tend to work this out.


Overall, ZiPS seems to favor the Braves pretty well. The rotation is projected to be steady but not flashy, as expected. The lineup has its usual thumpers with no flashy bats, as expected. Second base looks better than expected with La Stella and Uggla's projections, and B.J. Upton is expected to see a bit of a turnaround by the system's calculations.