FanGraphs Releases the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 ZiPS Projections

FanGraphs has released the 2015 ZiPS projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are a lot of projection systems out there, but ZiPS is one of the most popular ones, and also one of the better systems. For tonight’s First Pitch, I’ll be doing some analysis using these figures. For now, here is a quick rundown of what was said in the article.

**Andrew McCutchen is projected to be one of the best players in the game this year. Related story: the sky is blue.

**ZiPS has Jung Ho Kang projected for a 1.5 WAR over 502 PA. Jordy Mercer ranks higher at 1.9 WAR over 504 PA. The biggest projected issue for Kang is his potential strikeout rate, which actually rates worse than the projected rate for Pedro Alvarez.

**Carson Cistulli noted that the Pirates pitchers had the second lowest WAR in the majors last year, but that ZiPS projects a better outcome this year. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett are projected to combine for a WAR that would match the entire pitching staff last year.

**I thought it was interesting that Keon Broxton was projected for the best WAR (0.9 in 483 PA) of all rookie-eligible players, aside from Kang. He tied with Alen Hanson, although Hanson had more projected plate appearances to get his WAR. He was also ahead of Andrew Lambo, Jose Tabata, Corey Hart, Jaff Decker, Mel Rojas, and anyone else competing for the outfield bench role. I don’t necessarily agree with this, as we have Broxton ranked lower than most of these guys, including Rojas. I think he’s got a similar upside and similar tools to Rojas, which means he could be a bench outfielder in the majors. My guess is that he’s getting extra credit in these projections for posting great numbers in Double-A, and not being challenged by Triple-A like Rojas was for half a season.

**Speaking of the bench spot, ZiPS gave Travis Snider an 0.4 WAR with the Orioles. Lambo is at 0.5. So far, every projection system has them either the same, or Lambo ahead of Snider.

**ZiPS projects a combined 13.2 WAR for the Pirates’ starting outfielders (McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco). To put that in perspective, last year only five teams had a better WAR from all of their outfielders. The Pirates ranked second in the league last year, and first in the NL, so this projection shouldn’t be a surprise.

**This is the second year in a row that Starling Marte drew a Matt Kemp comparison. Meanwhile, Gregory Polanco went from Johnny Damon last year, to Milton Bradley this year. Josh Harrison got a Joe Randa comp, which means that years from now, Dave Littlefield will sign him in his final years to start over that year’s batting champ. Willy Garcia got a Rob Deer comp, which I think is the best-case scenario if he can improve his walks. Garcia has some of the best raw power in the system. On the pitching side, Gerrit Cole got a Kevin Millwood comp, and Tyler Glasnow got an A.J. Burnett comp.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Off topic here but I’ve been checking out the Australian series a little. Ex Pirates farmhand Stefan Welch playing great. Had a HR and a second double that should have been a HR if it wasn’t for the strange pole on the fence that I guess is in play. It’s an interesting league to watch. I am guessing this league is like high A or AA? There are two other Kenellys playing in this game besides Sam. Either a common name or great baseball family. Virgil Vasquez got the start. That guy always has great winters and never finds a full time job in the majors. He is truly a 4A guy. Nice to hear ex-big leaguer Dave Nilsson announcing. He was a nice player. I haven’t seen so many white guys on a field at one time since the last time I watched a Babe Ruth highlight.


The Kenellys are indeed a great Ausie Baseball family – if you do a bit of googling you should see a you tube version of an Australian TV special about them – as I recall Sam is the youngest and is generally seen as the most talented. Still very young [18] and played last year in the GCL. Will be interesting to see where the Bucs slot him this year – they will want to get Tucker enough ABs – but Kenelly has played second and third effectively.


Welch homered in game 1 also.

Lee Foo Young

I don’t like the Tyler = AJ comparison. I’m hoping for more than that!


AJ produced 12 WAR in his 6+ years as a Marlin before cashing in… not a bad return for a 8th round pick…. all the more impressie considering he missed basically all of 2003 with Tommy John.

I’d imagine that Pirates would be pleased with a similar return on a 5th round pick.

Lee Foo Young

He has morphed from a 5th to our Top prospect, so my expectations are higher. He has the potential to be a #1 starter.


Tim…..format better for I Pad….. But now the comments are in black…..on I phone also.



Lee Foo Young

Mac…same here!


-Broxton’s WAR projection being greater than the other outfielders Tim listed seems to be a function of him being classified as a CF while the others are corners. Willy Garcia, for instance, projects to hit better, field better, and get more PA yet is projected to be worth 0.8 less WAR.

-Interesting to see ZiPS believe Josh Harrison will keep almost all of the power gains last year. Most optimistic of all the systems so far.

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