Red Sox 91-71Now, you might wonder what that all means (which we kind of covered a couple years back). In rough terms, those numbers show the typical result given the projected talent level of the rosters. These projection models perform roughly the same and we should think of the 77-85 figure as a 50th percentile outcome. If we go out to one standard deviation (68% of all possible outcomes), then we are looking at 68-86 wins. Therefore, we are looking at about a 16% chance at the team being Wild Card or better competitive and about 7% chance for a strong placement into the post season.
Blue Jays 84-78
That said, I think there are a couple problems with the depth chart that FanGraphs is using. The first issue is obvious: Hyun Soo Kim is not on the board. The second is slightly less obvious, but still notable: they have the Orioles as insisting upon using Jimmy Paredes at DH even though he is below replacement value there. I doubt Duquette has much loyalty to Paredes. In fact, I would be surprised if he winds up on the club on Opening Day. Anyway, I will wander down the list and note where I think there might be a noticeable issue. Then we will put it all together and see if our future might be brighter than it originally seems and perhaps where the couple may still be able to improve.
Here are the projections for each position for FanGraphs:
Catcher 3 WARAs I mentioned above, left field looks to be an issue. The current iteration has the following:
First Base 3.4
Second Base 1.4
Third Base 5.3
Left Field 0.6
Center Field 3.1
Right Field 1.0
Designated Hitter -0.5
Starting Pitcher 8.8 (w/3 +1.5)
Relief Pitcher 3.7
Nolan Reimold 385 PA 0.2 WARIt is a glaring absence with Kim not being on that list. If we take ZiPS' Kim rating of 1.1 WAR over roughly 550 PA and then add in 150 PA from Reimold and Rickard, a final position WAR comes in at 1.4. That is a 0.8 win increase and every little bit helps.
Mark Trumbo 140 PA 0.3 WAR
Henry Urrutia 105 PA 0.2 WAR
LJ Hoes 63 PA 0.0 WAR
Joey Rickard 7 PA 0.0 WAR
Right field has issues related to the left field situation plus a peculiar selection at designated hitter. As it stands, the suggested depth chart reports:
Mark Trumbo 350 PA 0.6 WARAlthough I would want him out there as little as possible, I could see Trumbo finding himself with 30-40 games in right field. It would be similar to a Nelson Cruz situation where the club gives Trumbo an occasional start in the outfield, but then finds him there a little more often than planned. In the end, I could see Trumbo having about 150 PA in RF with Reimold and Alvarez filling out the rest of the 550 PA. I do not see the new arrangement meaningfully pushing the needle here.
LJ Hoes 210 PA 0.1 WAR
Henry Urrutia 70 PA 0.1 WAR
Dariel Alvarez 70 PA 0.1 WAR
Designated hitter is the other major head-scratcher simply because the depth chart suggests that the club will repeatedly send Jimmy Paredes to the position even though it projects him to fail grandly at playing the position.
Jimmy Paredes 385 AP -0.7 WARTrumbo will likely see around 400 PA at designated hitter. He alone should see around a 1.0 WAR. Other position players pulling in a few plate appearances here should add another 3 or 4 runs to the mix. Overall, the -0.5 WAR should actually be about a 1.5 WAR. This, alone, is a two win increase.
Christian Walker 245 PA 0.1 WAR
Mark Trumbo 70 PA 0.1 WAR
As it stands, the above corrections push the club to the 80 win mark. However, there is considerable weakness in the starting rotation with only three starters projected above a 1.5 WAR and slightly weak performances from the corner outfield, designated hitter, and second base. With perhaps at most 15 MM available in the budget, player acquisition might be a troublesome issue.
Carlos Gonzalez (1.7 WAR over 525 PA)
As was written a few days ago, Gonzalez is a fringe first division outfielder. He has the ability to play a respectable, but not thrilling, right field. His inclusion would raise the positional projection from about 1.0 WAR to 2.0 WAR (overall wins to 81). At 17 MM in 2016 and 20 MM in 2017, Gonzalez will be difficult to fit under the payroll. Perhaps, the Rockies would be willing to swallow 2-10 MM for 2016 with the Orioles shouldering the full contract in 2017. The Orioles may be able to include a player like Vance Worley or Miguel Gonzalez to help reduce salary obligations as well. It may enable the Orioles to also go after a pitcher such as Mat Latos or Yovani Gallardo who would increase a win as well (82 total).
Free Agency, Losing a Pick or Two
Howie Kendrick (2.4 WAR over 545 PA)
This is a bit of a curveball suggestion. As it is, STEAMER doubts Jonathan Schoop will build off of his offensive breakout last year and instead will produce a .307 wOBA. Kendrick would add another win to the projection. Schoop would then be shifted out to Right Field. He has the arm for the position, but he has never played there and his range in questionable. Kendrick would also provide the club the flexibility to put Schoop at third base if Manny Machado has to replace J.J. Hardy at Shortstop.
Kendrick will require the club to lose a draft pick as he has a qualifying offer on him, so a three- or four-year deal may be preferable. Kendrick has experience at first base, second base, and a tad bit in left field, so he may give some flexibility in the coming years depending on the team needs. A multi-year deal could potentially be back-loaded to provide more flexibility to 2016 in order to fit a pitcher like Latos or Gallardo onto the roster. This is another option that tacks on a couple wins.
Free Agency, Keeping the Picks
The only big moves that can be accomplished without losing draft picks would be to go in deep with bounceback candidates in the starting rotation. In this scenario, the club would sign Doug Fister to a back-loaded two-year contract and Mat Latos to a one-year deal. Bumping Miguel Gonzalez, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright to another team, Norfolk, or the bullpen would give the club a couple projected wins as well.
What Does 82 Wins Get You?
Moving from 79 to 82 projected wins does not seem like much of an increase, but it pushes the needle from about a 7% sure appearance in the playoffs to about 16% (again, this is based on past projections and where clubs wound up). It also pushes meaningful late September baseball from around 16% to 35%. Those are rather considerable jumps. The question then becomes which route is best? Losing a mid-level prospect and shouldering a major cost in 2017 to get Carlos Gonzalez. Or, maybe, punting important picks in the draft to secure a "proven" veteran like Howie Kendrick or Yovani Gallardo. Or, perhaps, rolling the dice on bounceback starting pitchers with hope that there still is something left in the tank or that makeup issues are overblown.