Earlier today, Fangraphs uploaded the first batch of 2016 projections via the Steamer projection system. They can be accessed here for hitters and here for pitchers (links go to Braves-specific projection pages). These are fun to look at while the postseason takes a brief hiatus today (or if you just want something to take your mind off of the fact that the Mets are in the World Series), but I'd advise taking them with a few grains of salt for a few reasons:
- These are the very first projections and will likely be updated in many ways before anything like an "official" pre-season projection will be available, even if individual players don't change much throughout this update process.
- It's often hard to read projections without context, such as other projection systems or even arcs of player performance. So the numbers here are really a starting point in any case, without more wallpaper and window dressing around them.
- They're still projections, and projections are very weak where the inputs they rely on don't exist. For example, as I'll discuss briefly below, Freddie Freeman's projected 3.7 fWAR per 600 PAs is probably something to be much more confident in than Hector Olivera's projected 1.3 fWAR over 600 PAs, which looks a lot like his sliver of 2015 with heavily regressed defensive value.
- The position players are super-gruesome. Even on a per-600 PAs basis, this cut of Steamer expects only two players, Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, to be above average. The third-best projected player is Ryan Lavarnway, who was scooped up as a free agent (i.e., he was released) in May of last season.
- Three starters are projected to be worth below 1 fWAR for the season, including Nick Markakis, who gets some Steamer-flavored haterade directed at him (he's projected to be worth just half a win).
- Steamer is also not positive about prospects like Mallex Smith, who is also projected to be worth half a win. Amusingly, these initial rankings indicate that the Braves' best prospect in terms of projected 2016 performance, as well as the team's second-best hitter overall, will be Ernesto Mejia, who isn't even with the team anymore. Heh.
- The pitching side is also pretty silly. Some guy named David Bromberg, who didn't make it out of Mississippi in 2014 and didn't even pitch last season is expected to be the Braves' best pitcher. Which, y'know, I'll take bets on that all day. Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran are basically expected to post identical FIPs in the low 4.00s, with Teheran having an edge in the run prevention race. They both clock in as average starters, but Steamer has been notoriously pessimistic about Teheran in general, so this isn't super-surprising, except maybe for discounting Miller's success last season.
- Ryan Weber, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Minor, and some guy named Joe Gardner (who?) are also projected to be average-ish starters, a bit worse than Teheran/Miller. Meanwhile, Matt Wisler is projected to be a pretty poor contributor, with overall success about the same as if Lucas SIms were promoted to the big leagues and pitched a full 2016 season with the Braves. So, y'know, projections.
- Reliever projections are pretty much not worth discussing, but unsurprisingly, this Steamer release has Jason Grilli and Arodys Vizcaino as the two best pitchers in the bullpen, followed by Shae Simmons.