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Reviewing the Yankees’ 2021 Projections: PECOTA

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Baseball Prospectus unveiled its PECOTA projections for the 2021 season yesterday. As such, it’s time to take a dive into this system similar to what I did with ZiPS a few months ago.

Overall, PECOTA projects the Yankees to rack up 42.6 WARP, second-most in MLB behind the Dodgers (50.6). The next closest team in the American League is Houston at 40.0. In the division, Tampa Bay projects for 32.8, Toronto 29.6, Boston 28.2, and Baltimore 12.7. The Yankees are the clear AL East favorites, to no surprise.

Of the Yankees’ 42.6 WARP, 26.8 come from positional players and 15.8 come from the pitching staff. That position player total ranks third in the league behind the Dodgers (33.3) and Astros (28.0). The Yankees’ projection on the mound is fifth-best in MLB, trailing the Padres (19.9), Dodgers (17.4), Brewers (17.0), and Mets (16.2).

With that out of the way, I’m going to highlight some notable projections on the Yankees. Let’s get to it.

Betting the over

Hitters: I usually pick one hitter and one pitcher in each category, but I’m going to cheat here and choose two: Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela:

PlayerPABA/OBP/SLGDRC+HRWARP
Stanton515.235/.337/.468117271.8
Urshela584.265/.315/.426102191.5

I think Stanton’s projected batting average and power output is bearish. That .235 batting average forecast seems to drag down his line as a whole, and considering that he’s a lifetime .268 hitter (.266 with the Yankees), I’d expect something a bit higher. Meanwhile, PECOTA projects just a homer every 19 plate appearances, more than his career mark of one per every 16. I just find it hard to believe he finishes with just 27 homers if he accumulates over 500 plate appearances.

Next, PECOTA clearly isn’t ready to buy into Urshela’s bat. This, in spite of Urshela posting 121 and 125 DRC+ marks in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Maybe there’s some regression coming, but Gio surely looks for real.

Pitcher:

PlayerIPERAFIPDRADRA-WARP
Clarke Schmidt594.965.115.431110.0

BP just ranked Schmidt 96th on its Top 101 Prospects list, but PECOTA doesn’t see him as a big contributor this season. We’ve heard a tad about Schmidt having some control issues at times, so it’s not a total surprise that the system spits out a 10 percent forecasted walk rate in 2021. The righty did post a 9 percent walk rate in the minors in 2019 and gave free passes to 5 out of 33 batters faced in 2020. That said, we know he’s got nasty stuff and that he’s very motivated to improve. I like his odds at a breakout this year.

Betting the under

Hitter: I’m going with backup catcher Kyle Higashioka. He has an exciting projection, but that it’s better than Gary Sánchez seems too rosy to me. Let’s compare:

PlayerPABA/OBP/SLGDRC+HRDEFWARP
Higashioka206.230/.289/.4589811+91.6
Sánchez481.220/.305/.45310327-11.8

PECOTA has Higgy racking up just 0.2 WARP short of Sánchez in less than half the playing time. That’s a pace over a full season that’s way ahead of what the system thinks Gary will do. Most of that is tied up in the defensive projection, which makes some sense. But at the same time, the two’s hitting projection is nearly equal. I know Gary was awful in 2020, but I simply do not think Higashioka’s offensive talent is that of (or close to) Sánchez’s. So, I anticipate Higgy to fall short of that offensive forecast.

Pitcher:

PlayerIPERAFIPDRADRA-WARP
Michael King353.974.504.62960.2

King was not good in 26.2 innings during 2020. He posted a 7.76 ERA and 5.44 DRA, but clearly, that didn’t scare off PECOTA. I know the righty has posted some strong minor league numbers and has a pretty nasty sinker, but I’m very skeptical of this projection. There’s definitely upside in King’s profile, but I want to see him have some success again before believing once more. Remember, he missed most of 2019 due to a stress reaction in his pitching elbow. It’s been a while since he’s had some sustained success.

Push

Hitter

PlayerPABA/OBP/SLGDRC+HRWARP
Luke Voit584.270/.351/.526135363.5

PECOTA has liked Voit for a while now. It liked him after his torrent albeit brief run post-acquisition in 2018. It likes him even more now. In fact, by DRC+, it thinks he’ll hit better than he did in 2020 (133 DRC+). Can’t say I disagree.

Pitcher:

PlayerIPERAFIPDRADRA-WARP
Jordan Montgomery1153.874.294.52921.3

I think I’m the blog’s biggest Monty fan, even after an up-and-down 2020. In spite of lackluster results, the lefty added velocity, limited hard contact, and had really good peripherals. Some better luck is in order for Montgomery, and PECOTA seems to agree.

Biggest Surprises

PlayerPABA/OBP/SLGDRC+HRWARP
Gleyber Torres584.248/.331/.435110242.7

This one caught me off guard. Torres was pretty bad defensively last year, and yet, PECOTA pegs Gleyber as a +3 defender. That props his overall WARP because the offensive projection isn’t terribly exciting itself. For me, I’d expect things to be the other way around. Below average defense (but better than 2020!) along with a much better offensive performance than this.

PlayerIPERAFIPDRADRA-WARP
Corey Kluber1383.674.194.33881.9

This is a really good projection for someone who’s barely pitched over the last two years. Now, it’s a far cry from peak Kluber, who posted DRA- numbers as low as 49 and no higher than 74 from 2014 through 2018. Still, if this is the type of performance the Klubot delivers in pinstripes, this is a great signing.

Personal Favorites

Hitter:

PlayerPABA/OBP/SLGDRC+HRWARP
DJ LeMahieu584.307/.370/.464129186.0

Say hello to PECOTA’s third-best player in MLB. That’s right, only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts possess higher WARP projections than LeMahieu.

Pitcher:

PlayerIPERAFIPDRADRA-WARP
Jameson Taillon1033.543.964.23861.5

Like Kluber, this outcome would be a very good result for the Yankees. Taillon hasn’t pitched in a game since the beginning of 2019, and yet, PECOTA isn’t deterred. Taillon brings a career 82 DRA- to New York, so seeing a 4 point dip in spite of a long layoff is encouraging. What’s more: Taillon’s top player comp is — you guessed it — teammate Gerrit Cole. What’s not to like?

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6 Comments

  1. I’m ambivalent about the rotation. On one hand, they have only 1 pitcher guaranteed to pitch well the whole season (Cole), as all the others have health/effectiveness question marks. On the other hand I can see Cole having a positive influence on Tallion and Kluber, leading to them pitching like a true #2 and 3. If that happens, and Sevy returns to his All-Star form, we might reach the WS.

  2. Mungo

    Projection systems are often a bit disappointing when you look at individual player numbers. All the systems are conservative, squeezing stats, regressing to the mean. I find them more valuable stepping up a level and viewing how teams compare to each other.

    My personal prediction, certainly not a projection system, is that the Yankees are the class of the ALE, with the Rays remaining the biggest threat. The Blue Jays overperformed last year in the shortened season, but they’ve made moves this year that will make them legitimately good, but I believe they’re going to be the popular choice to challenge the Yankees and Rays, but they will overall disappoint. In fact, their biggest threat will be the the Red Sox, who will be much stronger than people are expecting. The Jays will have their hands full battling the Red Sox for 3rd place.

    Higgy? Way overrated with the bat, and in fact he’s not going to have a good year. The dude hasn’t walked since August 2018 and I don’t believe pitchers took his power seriously enough in his short appearances so far. That won’t happen in 2021. They will make him fish, and Higgy is going to have to show patience. I’m not optimistic. He’ll still run into a few pitches, but the overall hitting numbers will not be pretty.

    I’ll take the over on Stanton, Gary and Urshela. 500+ PAs for Stanton? The power is real. The skills are real. Health is the challenge. 500 PAs he’s probably approaching 40 HRs and, yeah, the BA is higher.

    Cashman’s strategy with the starters is purely high end. He likely believes the Yankees hitters can slug them into the postseason if his high-risk strategy doesn’t work, but if it does, the Yankees are positioned to go for #28. He’s rolling the dice a bit with Hal restricting the payroll. He’s not going for mediocrity. He’s shooting for a championship with the restrictions given, hence why Taillon over an innings-eater like Quintana. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to watch.

  3. DanGer

    I was surprised by Stanton’s HR total too but 515 PA is only ~120 games so that jives.

    The 3 closest comps are 27 HR in 470 PA (2016), 37 in 501 (2012), and 24 in 504 (2013).

    It speaks more to the fact that the last 2 years he’s only played in 18.5% of possible games.

  4. Mississippi Doc

    I don’t think the ALE is the problem, especially since both Boston and Tampa have self-destructed. (I still cannot believe a rational baseball team would actually trade away Mookie Betts for anyone not named Mike Trout.) The problem has been the postseason where we have repeatedly failed. Hopefully, we have enough starting pitching, and they stay healthy, to survive the postseason.

    • DanGer

      Tampa’s not going anywhere. It’s just what they do.

      Patino and McClanahan will outpitch Snell in 2020

      Arozarena will mash the Yankees but have 84 wRC+ against the rest of MLB

      Rays will sign Franco to a 6 year/ $24M deal (with $19.2M backloaded)

      Baz will somehow throw from 5 different arms angles on the same pitch, causing Fox graphics department to explode

  5. arthur zion

    Sign me up for 500+ PA for Stanton & those projections on Taillon and Klobot. If those 3 stay healthy we win the AL East in a runaway.

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