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Building a team out of the Yankees’ ZiPS player comparisons

How might the player comparisons of the 2020 Yankees look if they played on one team?

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Back on Thursday, FanGraphs released its annual ZiPS Projections, which include player comparisons to give fans an idea how the player might perform. It is a useful tool both to make the comparisons more accessible for more average fans and to see how the game has evolved over the years. So of course, that lends the question: just how good would a team consisting of the 2020 Yankees’ player comparisons be?

Of course, this is more difficult than it sounds, for a number of reasons. For starters, the player comparisons come from a wide range of years, and oftentimes, the comparisons do not match the player’s role one-to-one (for example, Gleyber Torres, expected to play shortstop for the Yankees, finds third baseman Aramis Ramirez as his best comparison). Despite these difficulties, however, we can nonetheless put together a full team out of the Yankees’ player comparisons.

Note: players will be listed with their position, active years, and 162-game average stats line. This also includes backups.

Starting Lineup

  1. Pat Burrell, LF, 2000-2011 (.253/.361/.472, 29 HR, 96 RBI, 116 OPS+, 1.87 bWAR, 1.88 fWAR)
  2. Tim Salmon, RF, 1992-2006 (.282/.385/.498, 29 HR, 98 RBI, 128 OPS+, 3.93 bWAR, 3.43 fWAR)
  3. Tino Martinez, 1B, 1990-2005 (.271/.344/.471, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 112 OPS+, 2.32 bWAR, 2.30 fWAR)
  4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, 1998-2015 (.283/.341/.492, 29 HR, 105 RBI, 115 OPS+, 2.41 bWAR, 2.83 fWAR)
  5. Julio Franco, SS, 1982-2007 (.298/.365/.417, 11 HR, 77 RBI, 111 OPS+, 2.79 bWAR, 2.69 fWAR)
  6. Jeff Conine, DH, 1990-2007 (.285/.347/.443, 17 HR, 86 RBI, 107 OPS+, 1.56 bWAR, 1.77 fWAR)
  7. Steve Finley, CF, 1989-2007 (.271/.332/.442, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 104 OPS+, 2.79 bWAR, 2.53 fWAR)
  8. Del Crandall, C, 1949-1966 (.254/.312/.404, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 96 OPS+, 2.94 bWAR, 2.99 fWAR)
  9. Jorge Cantu, 2B, 2004-2011 (.271/.316/.439, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 97 OPS+, -0.02 bWAR, 0.52 fWAR)

Much like the real New York Yankees, the starting lineup of the Projection Team remains a strength, with only two below-average bats and only one player significantly below 2 WAR, a common baseline for league average. That, of course, would be Jorge Cantu, whose value is severely hampered by the fact that he is severely miscast as a second baseman, and starts there only because he’s the only remaining player with any significant time at the position.


  1. Bob Boone, C, 1972-1990 (.254/.315/.346, 8 HR, 59 RBI, 82 OPS+, 1.96 bWAR, 2.28 fWAR)
  2. Randy Winn, OF, 1998-2010 (.284/.343/.416, 10 HR, 68 RBI, 99 OPS+, 2.60 bWAR, 2.64 fWAR)
  3. Casey McGehee, 3B/1B, 2008-2016 (.258/.317/.384, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 91 OPS+, 0.29 bWAR, 0.76 fWAR)
  4. John Vander Wal, LF/RF/1B, 1991-2004 (.261/.357/.441, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 104 OPS+, 0.73 bWAR, 0.97 fWAR)

While it would be unfair to call our squad’s bench below-average, it’s definitely not the strength of this team. The Projection Team lacks a true backup infielder, and none of the bats would be used as a bat off the bench, perhaps with the exception of John Vander Wal. All in all, while none of these guys would be a problem as an injury replacement for a few days, relying on them for the long-term would be less than ideal—which is why they’re backups.

Starting Rotation

  1. Greg Maddux, 1986-2008 (16-10, 3.16 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 132 ERA+, 4.63 bWAR, 5.18 fWAR)
  2. Roy Halladay, 1998-2013 (17-9, 3.38 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 131 ERA+, 5.18 bWAR, 5.19 fWAR)
  3. Andy Pettitte, 1995-2013 (17-10, 3.85 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 117 ERA+, 3.77 bWAR, 4.24 fWAR)
  4. Dock Ellis, 1968-1979 (14-12, 3.41 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 104 ERA+, 3.77 bWAR, 2.93 fWAR)
  5. Tom Zachary, 1918-1936 (13-14, 3.73 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 107 ERA+, 2.33 bWAR, 1.99 fWAR)

One of these names is not like the others. Tom Zachary comes in as the oldest player on our Projection Team; in fact, he played on the Yankees from 1928-1930 alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He finds himself as the fifth starter in a rotation headed by two Hall of Famers who began their careers more than fifty years after his ended. Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay would easily be the best 1-2 top of the rotation in baseball (sorry, Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino), while Andy Pettitte would be in consider to head a number of rotations in baseball.


  1. Closer: Billy Wagner, 1995-2010 (34 saves, 2.31 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 187 ERA+, 2.22 bWAR, 1.91 fWAR)
  2. Reliever: Rollie Fingers, 1968-1985 (24 saves, 2.90 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 120 ERA+, 1.72 bWAR, 1.89 fWAR)
  3. Reliever: Jeff Nelson, 1992-2006 (3.41 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 133 ERA+, 1.25 bWAR, 0.79 fWAR)
  4. Reliever: Ryan Dempster, 1998-2013 (4.35 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 98 ERA+, 1.62 bWAR, 2.02 fWAR)
  5. Hal Woodeshick, 1956-1967 (3.56 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 103 ERA+, 1.48 bWAR, 0.89 fWAR)
  6. John Hope, 1993-1996 (5.99 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 71 ERA+, -1.56 bWAR, 0 fWAR)
  7. Early Wynn, 1939-1963 (3.54 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 107 ERA+, 2.69 bWAR, 3.05 fWAR)****
  8. Frank Lankford, 1998 (5.95 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 69 ERA+, -0.56 bWAR, -0.56 fWAR)

Billy Wagner and Rollie Fingers anchor a bullpen that is rather heavy at the back, and Jeff Nelson would be a rather formidable Hawkeye to their Thor and Captain Marvel. Hall of Famer Early Wynn, moreover, would likely see his stuff play up in the bullpen today (his stats are primarily as a starter), and would probably force his way into the rotation if given a chance (major props to Miguel Yajure, whose player comp was Wynn). Outside of these four, however, the rest of the bullpen is filled with question marks.

It’s hard to tell how good this team of player comparisons would do on the whole, considering how the game has changed over the years and the wide range of eras these players played in. However, there appears to be enough talent on this roster that, at the very least, this squad should be able to push for a playoff spot.