After going back and forth about the format of this article, I’ve settled on giving you five takeaways from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the New York Yankees. Some will surprise you, and others won’t. It really all depends on your expectation. If you’re interested in reading the projections yourself and going by line by line trying to memorize them, you can do that here.
My overall interpretation from this is Syzmborski’s opening line from his hitter analysis:
Yeah, that makes sense. This is the kind way of saying this team’s success relies on Aaron Judge being Aaron Judge. The talent fallout after him on the offensive end is steep. In fact, I’m curious if another contending team has a similar drop from their projected most valuable player. Either way, if you’re to rely on one player on offense, the one who just swatted 62 home runs is a good bet. Now, let’s get going. With each takeaway I will try my best to give you some insight into how I like to apply these projections into my overall evaluation of a team.
Aaron Judge’s Median Projection
I’ve been waiting to see what projections systems would have to say about Judge after his record breaking season, and well, I was not disappointed. His 50th percentile projection expects him to produce a .280/.386/.578 slash line. That’s good for a 164 OPS+ and 7.4 WAR when adding in his above average defense in right field. That is hilariously good! Heading into 2022, this number was in the 5-win range. Instead of just being a perennial MVP candidate, he has leapt to an MVP front runner. He will carry this team. Hopefully he gets help along the way, but if one thing is for certain, he drastically raises the floor of this team, as well as its ceiling.
Harrison Bader’s Bat Might Surprise Us
Bader’s acquisition last summer left many befuddled, but he won over Yankees universe very quickly with a historic playoff performance. One thing I preached after the trade was what Bader could be in 2023. If they get health out of him, he could have early/mid career Brett Gardner type impact. His around average offensive projection and 80-grade fielding gives him a 3.7-win projection in 395 plate appearances. I know this can’t be assumed, but if the team can get a near full healthy season from him, he could end up being the second most valuable position player on the team. Bader’s 80th percentile projection is surprising too. I thought a 122 OPS+ was more of a 99th percentile projection for him, but ZiPS is more confident in the profile than I am, and that’s encouraging!
The Pitching Projection
There isn’t much to be said here other than that this team’s strength will be its its pitching until more offensive reinforcements come. The ceiling and floor are both held high by Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón. That pair combines for an over 8-win projection, with 177 innings pitched coming from Cole and 160 from Rodón.
I’m excited to see who edges the other in terms of total WAR. If not for Cole’s volume, my bet would be on Rodón. That’s not a knock on either. I just think both are top-tier pitchers whose raw skills put them in a similar territory for 2023.
The backend of the rotation in Luis Severino and Frankie Montas will swing on health and volume. I’m a huge fan of Severino, and think he has ace stuff, but at this point, a median projection of 104.3 innings is fair. He could bring this rotation from great to historic if he shows the health we saw earlier in his career. Lastly, the bullpen is highlighted by Jonathan Loáisiga and Ron Marinaccio. Those two have outlier pitches that make them easier to bet on than most relievers.
The Anthony Volpe Hype Train Continues On
Well, this certainly helps us see why the Yankees’ have held on tight to Volpe in the last season or two. Despite being a rookie with little experience in Triple-A, Volpe is projected to be an average hitter and fielder as soon as he enters the big leagues. This is exciting, but also scary. There’s almost no question this team will rely on Volpe in the second half. Where there are questions is when Volpe will get the call. I think it’d be smart for the team to let him work through struggles as much as he needs to at the big league level so he is settled in come playoff time, and I think that’s realistic. After some inevitable service time manipulation, I think the team will hand him a full-time role, no matter who else is on the roster.
Clayton Better You Say?
Clayton Beeter is not likely to impact the 2023 team as he works on honing his command and pitch repertoire. However, ZiPS loves his strikeout numbers and underlying statistics, giving him an intriguing long-term outlook. With a prospect like this, it’s important to watch him and understand why the Yankees targeted him. He make hitters uncomfortable and showed a huge improvement after his arrival to the organization. I covered him in my assessment of who I thought could be the next Yankees’ relief ace, and this projection reinforces that thought. That said, it’s hard to ignore his current mechanics when considering his overall profile. Not many major leaguers throw like him and have sustained long-term success. He’ll have to clean up some movements if he wants to be an impact starter.
So, there you have it! A combination of Judge and non-Judge takeaways! Above all else, this team is projected to be very strong and is in a good position to improve the roster mid-season. You should have high expectations for this team. Their floor is raised by Judge and the pitching, and if health improves relative to last year, the ceiling is that of the best team in baseball.