As spring training nears, projection season is upon us. Today, we start a series examining the various projection systems’ outlooks for the Yankees in 2020. Today, we cover Steamer, currently available on Fangraphs. We’ll get to others like PECOTA and ZiPS once they are publicly available.
We’re not going to go player-by-player as we review each system’s output. Rather, we’ll call out a few projections that caught our eyes. With that, let’s get to what Steamer says about the Yankees’ fortune.
Betting the over
Hitter: It’s going to be difficult for DJ LeMahieu to match or top his production in 2019, but Steamer calls for a pretty significant drop off. After LeMahieu hit .327/.375/.518 (136 wRC+) last season, the system projects a .285/.345/.434 (107 wRC+) line. That’s way to low on the Yankees’ second baseman.
Pitcher: Steamer is bizarrely down on Luis Severino. It projects a 3.98 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 168 innings. I know his shoulder injury was scary, but he came back and looked sharp by the end of 2019. Moreover, he’s been dominant since 2017. In just under 400 innings from 2017 through last season, Sevy owns a 3.13 ERA and 2.99 FIP. Pitchers have down years from time to time, but I just can’t fathom Severino’s marks hovering around 4 in 2020. Gerrit Cole is the ace of the staff, but there’s no reason to sleep on Severino.
Betting the under
Hitter: I hate that I’m about to say this, but I could see Miguel Andújar falling short on expectations this season. Steamer says he’ll hit .270/.312/.474 (104 wRC+), which is already a far cry from his brilliant rookie season in 2018. I’m not taking the under here because I think Miggy is bad, but rather, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take him to get acclimated after missing most of 2019. Labrum tears are no joke and it could take him a little bit longer to approach his 2018 form.
Pitcher: This is a bit of a cop out, but I’m going with JA Happ, who Steamer says will have a 4.64 ERA and 4.78 FIP in 105 innings. That’s an improvement over last season, but I’m not confident in Happ rebounding. Maybe he won’t be as bad as 2019, and he did pitch well in September, but a 37 year-old fastball-reliant pitcher with diminished velocity? Count me out.
Hitter: At some point, 36 year-old Brett Gardner’s production is going to taper off. I thought that was the case after the second half of 2018, but he rebounded with a terrific 2019. Now, Steamer expects Gardy to still be a solid player, but experience some decline. It calls for 1.8 WAR in 509 plate appearances, 17 home runs, and a .246/.327/.422 (98 wRC+) batting line. The batting average and on-base percentage are basically in line with 2019, but there’s a stark drop in power. I think that’s pretty reasonable to expect.
Pitcher: Steamer slates James Paxton for a 3.85 ERA and 3.96 FIP in 183 innings this year. That’s virtually a carbon copy of Paxton’s performance in 2019 and slightly worse than 2018. I can see a case for the projection being low, especially after watching the lefty’s dominant second half of 2019. That said, this seems to be a pretty safe expectation and a solid season for The Big Maple.
Hitter: Steamer thinks Mike Ford (115 wRC+) is a better hitter than Luke Voit (108 wRC+). I like Ford quite a bit, perhaps more than most, but I’m skeptical of any forecast saying he’s better than Voit. As Bobby put it in his season review of Voit, Luke carried the offense before he got hurt last summer. Ford was great in his stead, but Voit has a longer track record of success at the big league level.
Pitcher: Steamer is down on Adam Ottavino. The system calls for a 4.36 ERA and 4.43 FIP in 68 innings this year, which would be a major disappointment. I imagine Ottavino’s high walk totals (14.1 percent in 2019) put some fear into the projections, but he’s been effectively wild for a few years running now. I suppose there’s concern that another 2017 is plausible, when Otto had a 5.06 ERA and 5.16 FIP. But that looks more like an anomaly around dominant 2016, 2018, and 2019 campaigns.
Hitter: I’m here for a monster season from Giancarlo Stanton, and that’s just what Steamer has ordered. Look at this thing of beauty: in 143 games and 627 plate appearances, Stanton is projected to hit a league-leading 49 homers. He’s also projected to be the Yankees’ best hitter (143 wRC+), a few ticks ahead of Aaron Judge. 2019 was a lost season for Stanton, but Steamer is still a big believer.
Pitcher: I think Steamer may be a little bit low on Gerrit Cole, but regardless, his projection is great. His forecast calls for a 3.25 ERA and 3.15 FIP in 202 innings along with a remarkable 280 strikeouts. And per WAR (6.1), Steamer thinks he’ll tie Jacob deGrom for most in the league.