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PECOTA and the 2018 White Sox

Wednesday was PECOTA Day at the Baseball Prospectus, the day when our projection system spits out how it thinks the new season will unfold.

You can view the full projections over at Baseball Prospectus, and the work that goes into them always make it worth your while, but let’s dive into some of the more noteworthy projections PECOTA has for the team in 2018.

The Record

PECOTA projects the White Sox will win 73 games in 2018, a reasonable estimation that would represent a six-win jump from a year ago. There’s been a decent amount of “can the White Sox be the surprise team of 2018?” buzz over the last few weeks, and while that’s far from an absurd notion, a modest improvement seems more reasonable.

The Players: Good

The White Sox Team Audit page is worth a gander, and when looking at playing time and statistical projections throughout the roster, it’s easy for certain things to jump out.

Jose Abreu (.289/.348/.504, 3.1 WARP) projects to be the White Sox most valuable player, which is far from surprising. Still, as he enters his early 30s, the fact that regression isn’t expected is a positive sign.

Carlos Rodon (131 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 145 K, 51 BB, 2.3 WARP) is No. 2 to Abreu, which is logical until you factor in the injury concerns. Rodon was on a lot of “breakout star” lists pre-2017, and while the injuries remain a concern entering 2018, when he’s been on the mound, he’s been good, and PECOTA sees that. 131 innings would be double his 2017 total, but still lower than anyone would like. You can fill a many large, leather-bound books with names of pitchers whose downfalls were entirely related to their inability to stay healthy, but with Rodon, the fact remains that when he’s healthy, he’s continued to show the ability to reach his heights as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Nicky Delmonico (.246/.323/.434, 1.6 WARP) is perhaps still graded on a curve based on where he was a year ago (he wasn’t mentioned even once among the several hundred reviewed in the 2017 Baseball Prospectus Annual) and that makes these somewhat modest projections pleasing. Sure, the triple slash doesn’t match up with his surprising 43-game sample a year ago, but those numbers are more than acceptable from a four-corners player picked up off the trash heap.

Tim Anderson (.265/.289/.408, 0.4 WARP) had a dreadful 2017, both on and off the field, and while these projections don’t exactly have you jumping for joy, all three numbers represent a modest jump in his numbers. And, at the very least, PECOTA believes the power is real, which isn’t nothing for a middle infielder.

The Players: Bad

PECOTA is basically the numerical representation of every one of us throughout 2017 in saying “Prove It Again” to Avisail Garcia (.275/.329/.427, 1.6 WARP). The projection for Garcia is a far cry from the .886 OPS and 3.7 WARP he put up a year ago, but it’s easy to see why. The .392 BABIP in 2017 and more than 1,500 below-average plate appearances prior to last season bring plenty of room for pessimism he can keep it up for a second year in a row. Regression is expected, whether or not it will be as much as PECOTA says is to be determined.

Leury Garcia (.248/.292/.374, 0.0 WARP) is a personal favorite of yours truly (as well as my co-EIC Nick Beeps) so while his projecting as nothing more than a replacement-level player is disheartening, if not understandable. Garcia played like an first division starting center fielder for the first half of 2017, but injuries and poor play zapped a lot of that optimism down the stretch. Garcia is versatile enough to be given a chance as a utility player, if not a starter, and like his surname counterpart in right field, he’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to “prove it” again in 2018.

It’s hardly worth mentioning James Shields (189 IP, 5.42 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 159 K, 86 BB, -0.7 WARP) or Miguel Gonzalez (137 IP, 5.39 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 99 K, 53 BB, -0.4 WARP) as their jobs are simply to eat innings between the ones that are going to the interesting long-term pieces. Still, it would be preferable if one or both is competent enough to be able to run out there every fifth day.

Oh yeah, the young guys!

Yoan Moncada (.233/.330/.410, 2.1 WARP)
Lucas Giolito (160 IP, 4.47 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 163 K, 67 BB, 1.3 WARP)
Reynaldo Lopez (108 IP, 4.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 109 K, 43 BB, 0.3 WARP)

Players like these three are complicated in how PECOTA views them. All three are somewhat underwhelming but also not altogether disappointing. But it’s important to remember that what they’ve done during their limited time in the majors has at least some impact on how they are viewed. PECOTA doesn’t know that Moncada is a mega-super-ultra stud prospect whose built like a middle linebacker. It knows that Moncada hit only .231 a year ago despite a .325 BABIP. It doesn’t know that Giolito got an OFP of 8 from our prospect team once upon a time, it knows that he flashed good but inconsistent over the last year, and it doesn’t know that, in 2017, Lopez … well, I don’t really know how to describe what we saw from Lopez last year, either.

So while these numbers may be a bit disheartening when you consider that they’re the three Opening Day players most important to the White Sox future, these 50th percentile projections are not necessarily doom-and-gloom, and if they outpace them in 2018, it just spells better things to come in the future.

Lead Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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