Someone anonymously commented on my last post, which compared the Giants 2018 value to the rest of the league, that I should use my calculations as a forecaster for 2019. It’s not something I had considered, but when I thought about the current temperature of the “hot stove” (is this thing on?), I figured it’d be a good time to see what the projections say about the Giants chances next season. I haven’t had enough time to chart the AL teams yet, but I think looking at the NL will give you a pretty good idea of where things stand right now.
A couple of things here. I used Steamer projections, which are sorted nicely over at Fangraphs, to get fWAR totals for this exercise. I’ve never really been a fan of projection models like this, as they’re usually very conservative, which kind of takes the fun out of making predictions. But I’ve also started to finally understand and appreciate the methodology behind such projection models, and I know that I’m not nearly smart enough to come up with a projection system with the depth and research behind it that Steamer and others have. But, I still find them all a bit bland.
The salary data comes from Spotrac, as well as MLB Trade Rumors for arbitration-eligible players. I used Roster Resource to get an idea of the current (pre-free agency and trades) projected 25-man rosters for each team, and Baseball Reference to log the 2019-season age for those players. When you’re toggling between four different websites to complete one spreadsheet, you can see how it might get a little time-consuming. But it’s a labor of love, and I wanted to make sure I credited those sites for the valuable information they provide.
Also worth noting: Fangraphs puts an $8M value on 1 WAR, while a team with exactly 0 WAR (a replacement-level team, as they say) is projected to win about 47 games.
Onto the projections…
2019 Giants fWAR and Net Value Projections
Infield Breakdown | Average Age = 29.1 | Projected fWAR = 14.5 | WAR Value = $116M | Salary = $73M | Projected Net Value = $43M
- Buster Posey = 4.4 fWAR | $13M Net Value
- Brandon Belt = 2.8 | $5M
- Joe Panik = 2.2 | $13M
- Brandon Crawford = 2.7 | $6M
- Evan Longoria = 2.2 | $5M
- Aramis Garcia = 0.2 | $1M
- Pablo Sandoval = -0.2 | -$2M
- Alen Hanson = 0.1 | $0
- Abiatal Avelino = 0.1 | $0
Thoughts: One of the reasons I don’t like projection systems is they consider just about every bench player and reliever worthless. The Giants bench is projected for nothing here, but it’s not just them. It’s nearly the same for every team. On the flip side, Steamer thinks the infield is going to have a nice bounceback, which is a possibility I suggested on Twitter a few weeks ago. For a group that was worth 8 fWAR and negative $11M in net value last year, this would constitute as a rebound campaign all right. The Giants would certainly take that kind of on-field production, but the issue here lies in the “value” of said production. The entire starting infield, including even Panik, will never again be considered bargain players. Each is paid very well, and it’s highly unlikely the Giants will ever see significant net value from them again. Again, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a contributing group, but to put it simply, last year’s production just won’t cut it.
Outfield Breakdown | Average Age = 27 | Projected fWAR = 1.4 | WAR Value = $11M | Salary = $3.6M | Projected Net Value = $8M
- Steven Duggar = 0.9 fWAR | $7M Net Value
- Austin Slater = 0.4 | $3M
- Gorkys Hernandez = 0.4 | $2M
- Chris Shaw = -0.1 | -$1M
- Mac Williamson = -0.2 | -$2M
Thoughts: The last time a Giants outfielder earned more than $5M net value in a season was 2015 when Gregor Blanco a whopping $13M on a 2 WAR performance. Well, the projections don’t think any of our current outfielders are even going to sniff that number in 2019. Ok, here’s where I think Steamer is off a bit. While I fully believe the Giants will acquire one, maybe two new corner outfielders this winter, I’m still frustrated with a couple of these projections. Duggar earned 0.7 WAR in exactly one/fourth of a season last year. Yeah, it’s probably foolish to think he’s going to be an All-Star in his first full year in the majors, but don’t you think he could earn at least 1 win on his defense alone? I’m taking the over on that total.
The other guy I’m perplexed by is Mac. I’m not sure how Zaidi plans to use him, or if he’ll be with the team in spring camp (I hope so). But right now he’s projected as a starter, and Steamer has him earning negative WAR while hitting 16 HR next year. Yeah, not buying that. If Mac does get a starting job and hit 15+ HR, he won’t be in the negatives. You can book that.
Anyway, the Giants had the worst outfield value in MLB last year, and even with Pence’s salary coming off the books, things don’t look much better for 2019. Zaidi has some work to do here.
Rotation Breakdown | Average Age = 29.5 | Projected fWAR = 6.8 | WAR Value = $54M | Salary = $54M | Projected Net Value = $0M
- Andrew Suarez = 1.6 fWAR | $12M Net Value
- Dereck Rodriguez = 0.8 | $6M
- Madison Bumgarner = 2.1 | $5M
- Chris Stratton = 0.7 | $5M
- Jeff Samardzija = 1.6 | -$7M
- Johnny Cueto = 0 | -$21M
Thoughts: Maybe you want to stop reading now? We all know the Giants offense has been a major downer lately, but the projections for the rotation are downright depressing from where I’m standing. I mean, take Cueto and his $21M negative value out of the equation and you’ve still got 5 healthy starters projected for a total south of 7 WAR. Yes, these are just projections, and yes, that’s a total slap in the face to Rodriguez, who earned nearly 2 WAR last year. Still, it’s not a very pretty picture. And as much as I’d like to argue over the Bumgarner total, consider that he’s combined for exactly $0 in net value over the past two seasons. That 5-win, $29M value performance in 2016 seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?
There are a lot of people out there who believe the Giants can (and should) just roll into the season with the current rotation. If nothing else, this provides a pretty good argument against that thought process. Zaidi likely has to make some additions to this group, even if it amounts to just a couple of low-risk signings like Derek Holland’s last year.
Bullpen Breakdown | Average Age = 30.1 | Projected fWAR = 2.5 | WAR Value = $20M | Salary = $36M | Projected Net Value = -$16M
- Will Smith = 0.9 fWAR | $3M Net Value
- Reyes Moronta = 0.4 | $3M
- Ray Black = 0.3 | $2M
- Ty Blach = 0.2 | $1M
- Tony Watson = 0.3 | -$1M
- Hunter Strickland = -0.1 | -$3M
- Sam Dyson = 0.2 | -$4M
- Mark Melancon = 0.3 | -$17M
Thoughts: As I said earlier, Steamer assigns almost no value to relievers (even the really good ones). The Giants are one of 8 NL teams projected to get negative value from their bullpen next season, so I don’t really think this forecast is really that indicative of anything major here. I do think Zaidi should and will try to get out from under Melancon’s remaining contract. I also think Melvin Adon, who isn’t listed here, is a guy who the new regime could push quickly to the majors next spring. Adon, Black, and Moronta could team up to bring some major, major heat in the late innings. Regardless of the projections, I still think this is an exciting group, and an area of strength on the roster. They posted 6 WAR as a group this season, and I expect similar production next year.
2019 Season Outlook
Projected Record = 72-90 | Projected Standing = 5th in division; 14th in NL | Projected Net Value = $34M
Final Thoughts: Here’s the good news. The Giants are projected for a positive net value next year, some $57M higher than their 2018 total. The infield is projected to have a pretty big bounceback. That’s about it. The bad news: their net value still projects to be the worst in the league. In other words, the projections don’t like the Giants. To make things worse, Steamer LOVES the Dodgers. It’s very early, but the outlook isn’t a pretty one right now. If I had to guess, I’d say Zaidi and his group are looking at this picture, and are preparing to make some significant changes to the roster. Don’t worry, I’ll continue to update the forecaster as the hot stove season kicks up.
Thanks for reading, happy Sunday, and happy Thanksgiving!