Now that the calendar has flipped to 2022, projection season is upon us. And frankly, it’s a relief to have something to write about with the lockout still gumming everything up. FanGraphs published Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the Yankees two days ago, and today, I’ll discuss some of the more notable projections. But first, let’s take a look at the WAR graphic:
The graphic adds up to +46 WAR, which is something like a 94 to 96 win team provided that replacement level is 48 to 50 wins. Thats would be an improvement upon the 2021 squad, which won 92 games. In any event, team win projections aren’t as simple as adding up the WAR, but it’s a decent enough benchmark. ZiPS believes that the Yankees have a really good team as it stands, and that’s without any offseason activity to speak of.
Now, like last year and prior years, I’m going to insert my opinion on some of the player forecasts.
Betting the over
Hitter: There’s nothing bad about Giancarlo Stanton‘s projection — a 123 OPS+ and 30 homers across 530 plate appearances — but such a performance would be his lowest OPS+ since 2016. Szymborski does note that Stanton is a year older (32), which makes it fair to expect a decline. That said, I’m going to take the optimistic route. Stanton’s a lifetime 143 OPS+ hitter (134 with the Yankees), and last season was encouraging from a health and productivity standpoint.
Pitcher: I’ll pick Jonathan Loáisiga. ZiPS has him down for a 3.24 ERA (134 ERA+). That’s terrific, and the third-best mark behind Aroldis Chapman and Joely Rodríguez (?!) in the team’s bullpen. However, it’s well short of what the righty did in 2021 (2.17 ERA, 199 ERA+). I’m not shocked ZiPS isn’t expecting a repeat season because projections bake in plenty of regression, particularly after a breakout season that may look like an outlier. Additionally, I’m not saying I expect a redux of 2021 either. Nonetheless, I do think the young righty will be the team’s best reliever once again and outperform ZiPS’ expectations.
Betting the under
Hitter: It’s nice to see ZiPS betting on a Gio Urshela rebound, but I’m not sure I’m sold. The system foresees a 109 OPS+ on a .279/.318/.458 line, which would be a notable improvement from his .267/.301/.419 (96 OPS+) in 2021. I’m concerned about Urshela’s sharp increase in strikeout rate (24.7 percent, up from 14.4 percent in 2020) and power decline (.152 ISO, down from .192 in 2020).
Pitcher: ZiPS is too high on Aroldis Chapman for my taste. A 145 ERA+ projection is fantastic, but after what we watched last season (a good 128 ERA+ but wildly inconsistent) and the fact that he’ll be 34 next month, I’m not expecting a big recovery. I hope ZiPS is right, but I have my doubts.
Hitter: I picked Aaron Judge in this section last year, and I’m tempted to do so again with his 144 OPS+ forecast, but I want to mix it up a bit. Instead, I’ll go with Gleyber Torres, who ZiPS pegs for a .260/.332/.426 (106 OPS+) line. That’s essentially the same batting average and on base percentage as last season (.259/.331), but with a power improvement (up from .366). I think that’s a reasonable expectation, especially after he had a better second half of 2021 (.289/.338/.456).
Pitcher: Jordan Montgomery‘s projected 3.85 ERA (113 ERA+) in 27 starts (140.1 innings) seems right on the nose. He made three more starts and tossed ten more innings in 2021, but posted a 3.83 ERA (112 ERA+). I’ve long been a Monty fan and I think this is exactly the quality of pitcher he’ll remain for the next few seasons: a solidly above average starter who fits in the middle of the rotation. Of course, he’s lined up as the number two starter right now, pending any moves post-lockout.
Hitter: ZiPS adores Anthony Volpe already. On its face, a .228/.296/.419 (92 OPS+) isn’t impressive, but considering that he’s yet to play in Double-A, it’s quite the rosy forecast for 2021. I’m not complaining! I just didn’t expect such an output for a 20 year old yet to play in the upper minors. If it weren’t for a below average defensive projection (-3), his WAR projection (+1.4) wouldn’t trail Torres (+2.2) by much.
Pitcher: I thought that Gerrit Cole might take a hit, but ZiPS anticipates the opposite. The system projects a 2.82 ERA (154 ERA+) after his 3.23 (133 ERA+) mark in 2021. Keep in mind that ZiPS projected a 139 ERA+ for Cole last year, which means that even though Cole fell short of that forecast, it likes him even more for 2022. I’m not sure why that is, but considering how well we saw Cole adapt to the foreign substance ban (and before his hamstring injury), I still have high expectations for the righty anyway. I just didn’t expect this good of a baseline projection.
Hitter: I’m happy that ZiPS believes in Aaron Judge‘s strikeout rate improvement. The outfielder posted a career best 25.0 percent K-rate in 2021 (he had a career 31.4 percent rate beforehand), and for 2022, ZiPS estimates a 26.6 percent strikeout rate. Yes, that’s a regression vs. 2021, but it’s also a clear shift from past projections (31 percent in its 2021 projection). Oh, and ZiPS also forecasts a 144 OPS+ and nearly +6 WAR. Pretty, pretty good.
Pitcher: I’d go with Cole if I hadn’t already written about him, so instead, Jimmy Cordero. Who, you ask? The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal last month, and ZiPS thinks Cordero is in for a 3.74 ERA (116 ERA+) out of the bullpen in ’22. You can probably guess why the Yankees like him: he throws hard (97+MPH) and generates grounders (54.7 percent career). Cordero had a terrific 2019 in the White Sox bullpen (168 ERA+ in 36 innings), scuffled in 2020 (74 ERA+), and missed all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery. The Yankees clearly think they can make something of Cordero once his rehab is over, and so does ZiPS. Consider me excited given Cordero’s profile and what the Yankees did with ground ballers last season.